Former Copperbelt University Students’ Union (COBUSU) president Gershom Phiri says scrapping off of students’ meal allowances is wickedness meant to sentence students to maximum starvation.

Many stakeholders have condemned the move by the PF government to abolish students’ meal allowances, saying it was against the law.

Commenting on the move, Phiri charged that Higher Education Minister Professor Nkandu Luo was trying to oppress poor with bad education policies.

Phiri, who is now a Copperbelt-based Human Rights and Good Governance activist said the PF administration has collected more taxes than any government in history, and wondered why it was failing to channel part of the money towards increasing students’ meal and book allowances.

“PF Government should instead introduce meal allowances and book allowances in other Universities and not scrapping it off from UNZA and CBU. Government has the capacity to do so. Scraping meal allowances is a highest level of wickedness which is meant to sentence students to maximum starvation. The Bible as in Proverbs 14:21 says “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt to the Lord which is exactly what Nkandu Luo is doing,” Phiri said.

“The justification that government wants other Zambians to benefit does not make any sense because if anything government has been collecting loan repayments from other students who were previously on bursaries, collecting money from Tollgates, getting other Taxes from citizens which no government from UNIP till now has ever collected. Go and tell madam Nkandu Luo that most of these students are vulnerable and use the very meal allowances to pay their accommodation fees in boarding houses, and to pay for other fees that not covered by the Loan.”

Phiri said government had many options as it could use money collected from toll gates to help the students.

“The other way to increase funding to public Universities is to work on cost exaggeration on Public funded projects like that Michael Chilufya Sata tollgate. Let government demand the correct amount of that tollgate and channel the money to student allowances. Let them also tell Ministers who remained in office to pay the money back and help the poor students. We can channel it to meal allowances and we must also maximise the taxes from the mining sector so that we pay these students’ meal allowances,” Phiri said.

“I wonder what some of these Ministers like Nkandu Luo tell the President during Cabinet meetings…. When President Micheal Sata was campaigning he promised students at Freedom park that once the PF forms government he would increase the students allowances and his Excellency (Edgar Lungu) further told them that I will follow Sata’s vision. But alas! The last increment they had was given to them by president Rupiah Banda.”

Phiri further guided students to use the right channels when speaking.

“Students should not be known for riots, but their addition to good Governance even on issues that do not directly affect them, these are custodians of public interests who should not be breaking other people’s vehicles. We need society to appreciate them,” said Phiri.