Government has officially abolished meal allowances for University of Zambia and Copperbelt University students.

Higher Education Minister Professor Nkandu Luo announced this at a media briefing, Wednesday, saying government had instead added more public universities to the loan scheme.

In December 2018, Prof Luo told a CBU representative who had called her to enquire on delayed allowances that government would no longer pay meal allowances UNZA and CBU students because delayed payments were the main source of unrest at institutions of higher learning.

But after News Diggers! published the story, UNZASU met with Prof Luo and issued a statement saying 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 UNZASU president Warren Hamusunga.

Prof Luo, however, told journalists that students who are beginning their first year in 2019 would be the first to get loans without meal allowances whilst those who were already on the loan scheme would not be affected.

“Now, we do follow an Act, that is the Higher Education Loans and Scholarship Board Act number 31 of 2016 and these are the ones who determine how these scholarships and loans will be disbursed to the other institutions. Given the fact that, we have extended support to the other institutions, what will happen is that we will ask the students to sign for the amounts of money that will be decided and we are going to strictly restrict our support to tuition fees, accommodation and these will be paid directly to the institutions where the students are going to be studying so that we don’t have a situation where people are not able to pay for their tuition and their accommodation,” Prof Luo said.

“Then the money to do with their books and projects is what will be paid directly to the students. So the new support that is going to start this year will not include pocket money popularly known as BC. This way, we will have a shared responsibility between us and the parents of these children. And the students who will benefit from these loans will actually come and sign for this process. This will not affect the students that are already on scholarships. The way we disbursed the previous scholarships will continue and it will phase out as the students graduate so that we introduce the new system. And it must be noted that any amounts granted as loans shall be recovered accordingly. So the students will not pay any more. That’s what they would have signed for at the beginning of the loan schemes. And I want to emphasize that what I have announced will not affect the previous system of disbursement that we have had in the past.”

She said the bursaries’ support had been extended to five other public universities.

“And as you very well know that in the past, scholarships and loans were only restricted to two institutions namely the University of Zambia and the Copperbelt University. We as a government through the Ministry of Higher Education feel that it’s unfair to only provide support to students at two institutions while the others are struggling to educate themselves. So the ministry through the Higher Education Scholarships and Loans Board decided that we expand the support to other institutions. So to start with today I want to announce that support will be given to all Public Universities for the students that are studying now in the first year because it will be easier for us to start with students that are starting now namely, apart from the University of Zambia and the Copperbelt University, now Kwame Nkrumah University, Chalimbana University, Mukuba University, Kapasa Makasa University, Mulungushi University and Palabana University students will be eligible to financial support for their education. And I think that is a fair distribution so that all students in public universities are able to be supported by government,” Prof Luo said.

Meanwhile Prof Luo said 30 per cent of the loans would be reserved for rural areas, 30 percent for girls, 10 percent to those with disabilities while the rest of the students would compete for the remaining 30 per cent.

“UNZA and CBU are obviously getting the chunk because their numbers are higher in terms of admissions, so between them they have been allocated 1, 900 scholarships each and the additional universities are going to share 1,000 because some of them don’t have so much students because some of them like Kapasa Makasa we have 201 students. So we are allocating them according to their admissions that they have taken this year. And they will increase with time and we also recover more money,” said Prof Luo.