University of Zambia Lecturers and Researchers Union (UNZALARU) general secretary Dr Kelvin Mambwe has appealed to President Edgar Lungu not allow Professor Nkandu Luo to abolish meal allowances for students.

Meanwhile, UNZASU president Warran Hamusunga says the Higher Education Minister has assured them that payment of meal allowances shall continue.

Last week, a named student from CBU phoned Prof Luo to follow up on the delayed meal allowances for university students and whilst she assured him that the allowances would be paid soon, she informed the student that government would abolish meal allowances in January so that students could fend for themselves.

But in an interview, Dr Mambwe wondered why Prof Luo wanted to abolish meal allowances when it was not something government was giving for free.

“We have received that news with a sense of shock because the meal allowance that students are getting is part of the loan that government gives them, meaning that this is money that they will be able to pay back. So it’s not like government is doing them a favour by giving them that money. So am wondering how and where the advice is coming from that the minister would even think of removing an allowance which helps a lot of our students. These students that we are talking about, three quarters of these students, the minister knows very well that they are coming from very rural areas and from very vulnerable backgrounds. We interact with these students almost every day and we know that most of our students cannot afford, their parents cannot afford even a K200 per month to support their studies,” Dr Mambwe said.

He explained that the meal allowances helped a lot of students in sustaining themselves while in school.

“It’s not an allowance that is given for leisure, this is money that supports the day to day lives of these students. Government stopped a long time ago to support dining halls so I think sometime we should go back into history to find out how some of these allowances were introduced. Meal allowance was introduced when government was failing to run dining halls in these higher learning institutions, that’s hoe they introduced an allowance which students could use to buy their own meals and buy their own small groceries in order to support their learning process. these are public institutions, public institutions are open to everyone and three quarters of these students are coming from humble backgrounds. So we are so disappointed as a union and we hope that government will rescind it’s decision to remove this allowance,” Dr Mambwe said.

Dr Mambwe called on President Lungu to prevent Prof Luo from succeeding in abolishing meal allowances.

“It’s unfortunate that our leaders sometimes forget where they are coming from and they also forget about the plight of their own constituency. If you look at the level of poverty in our country, it’s very high that a normal leader cannot think about abolishing an allowance that is given to students in order to alleviate their challenges. So we are very disappointed, we only hope that the powers that be, the Head of State can come in and stop this minister from going ahead and removing this allowance. I think we will need to engage the ministry itself and maybe the wider community in order to see how best this issue can be resolved,” said Dr Mambwe.

“It’s unfortunate that the minister thinks that meal allowances is a source of confusion in higher learning institutions, that’s just not true. I think the cause of confusion is usually the delay in remitting these allowances tot the students. So to give that reason as the basis for removing the allowances is something that we can’t understand. So we are just appealing to the President and the entire cabinet that they should not allow the minister to even present this to cabinet.”

Meanwhile, after holding a meeting with Prof Luo on Monday, Hamusunga stated that the minister had assured students that payment of meal allowances would continue.

“With reference to the allegations circulating on social media over abolishment of meal allowances at higher learning institutions. We The University of Zambia Students Union (UNZASU) thought it wise to seek immediate audience with the Higher Education Minister Prof Nkandu Luo for clarification. In this quest, we managed to have a successful dialogue with the Minister and we can confirm that student concerns have been heard for both UNZA and CBU. Moving forward we can also confirm that the allocation of meal allowances will continue as it has been in the past,” stated Hamusunga.