EDUCATION Minister Douglas Syakalima says government is indirectly empowering households through the abolishing of tuition fees, Parent Teacher Association (PTA) fees and examination fees for all secondary school pupils in public schools.

Addressing the media, Thursday, Syakalima said parents would now be able to use the monies they intended to use on school fees to grow their businesses.

“The biggest thing that Zambians must be educating themselves is that government is actually indirectly empowering households. If that household did not have a K3,000 or K1,000 or a K600 to pay tuition fees, if they were ordering tomatoes at K100, because there are people who do that, they sell K20 per day as profit. So if they have a thousand or K600 to go and order, it means that every day they will be making a profit of K50. So what has government done? it has empowered households indirectly without the social cash transfer, which [is] very little money if you analyze. So the target is not about free education, the target is about empowering. Whilst that is actually entailed, empowering households that ordinarily could not afford but then they have been empowered instead of looking for money,” Syakalima said.

“If they have sold so many goats, those so many goats that they have sold they can venture into business, into something else. So government is taking part of that burden in order to help the parents to do other things, and that is actually part of empowering. How much do they get in the [social] cash transfer? It’s 200 and something. So the burden of 600 something or 700 or is it 3,000 or whatever, the government is taking that. So what it entails is that parents indirectly are going to be receiving social cash transfer. So you are empowering so many Zambians out of that. And many people do not see it this way. Indirectly, they will just say the government has removed tuition fees. It’s the burden which has been removed from those parents. And the tuition fees across the board.”

Syakalima said government would continue sending grants to schools to ensure school operations run normally.

“What that entails is that the parents would not have an excuse of [not] sending their children to school because of tuition fees. So for them to go and learn, it is free and government will pay the school directly. The grants for the other issues which were being sent to schools will equally be sent. So unless the issue was about ‘are we going to release those monies’? We will struggle to release those monies so that pupils learn. Without that money, pupils won’t learn. We do not want headteachers for example to have an excuse. The way they have been having excuses, the way they have been demanding a lot from parents,” he said.

Syakalima further said only parents who were incapable of sending their children to school should benefit from the government bursaries.

“Only boarding fees are applicable, which again government is saying ‘go and select in the ward’, they know each other ‘who are incapable of sending their children to school’. So it will not be done from here, where we give bursaries to people we don’t even know. Perhaps because you find that mine is appearing there, you think that is my child then you give them a bursary, no! So a person of my nature will not be given a bursary, my child will not be given a bursary and we have to lead by example. Me my children go to school, I pay. They are in ZICAS, I pay. They are in university, I pay. So when I pay it means that there’s one person who is coming from Shang’ombo and a remote area who has benefited. So that will target the bursary part of it,” said Syakalima.

“Those who cannot afford, they will be in boarding because where they come from they have recommended that this one must be given a bursary to go boarding school. Those who can afford like myself, I will pay money although the tuition part of it has been catered for by government.”