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Scraping student meal allowances is wickedness, says Phiri

THE PF administration has collected more taxes than any government, so let them channel some money to increase student meal and book allowances, says former Copperbelt University Students Think-Tank chairperson Gershom Phiri.

Phiri, a human rights and good governance activist, said the recent scraping of meal allowances was wickedness meant to sentence students to maximum starvation.

In an interview, he said higher education minister Professor Nkandu Luo had committed contempt to the Lord by oppressing the poor students.

“PF government should instead introduce meal allowances and book allowances in other universities and not scrap meal allowances from UNZA and CBU. Government has the capacity to do so. Because scraping meal allowances is a highest level of wickedness which is meant to sentence students to maximum starvation and it’s against the Bible as in Proverbs 14 v 21 ‘whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt to the Lord’, which is exactly what Nkandu Luo is doing,” Phiri said.

He said the PF had collected enough taxes that could be channeled to help poor students.

“The justification that government want 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 toll gates, getting other taxes from citizens which no government from UNIP till now has ever collected,” Phiri said. “Go and tell madam Nkandu Luo that most of these students are vulnerable students who use the very meal allowances to pay their accommodation fees in boarding houses to pay for other fees not covered by the loan. And besides remind the minister that these students, their parents can’t even manage to buy a bag of mealie-meal unlike the minister who is paid more than the services she provides to government.”

Phiri said the 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 Michael Sata was campaigning, he promised students at Freedom Park that once the PF forms government he will 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 RB [Rupiah Banda], so I’m meant to believe that his Excellency is not aware.”

Phiri further urged students to use the right channels when speaking out on issues concerning them.

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