The situation at The University of Zambia is very, very unfortunate and could have been avoided.
To expect students to pay 100 per cent of their tuition fees before they can be allowed to sit for examinations is unreasonable and unacceptable under COVID-19 financial and economic difficulties the great majority of our people are enduring.
And even without COVID-19 challenges, the great majority of our people are very poor to afford fees for the education of their children. How can our people in Western, Luapula and Northern provinces where the poverty levels are 82.2 per cent, 81.1 per cent and 79.7 per cent respectively afford such high tuition fees? Rural poverty is today 76.6 per cent. How can one really reasonably expect these people to pay such fees? Education should be treated as a right, not a privilege.
Today 66 per cent of our country’s population comprises of young people below the age of 25. People in this age group are supposed to be in nursery, primary school, secondary school, college or university. What are the national budgetary implications of this? Not less 25 per cent of our national budget should be allocated and disbursed to education. Failure to that we will many of our people not attending school, college or university as is the case today. And when this happens you have all sorts of challenges we are having with young people today. Under the Education 2030 Framework, Zambia committed to allocate at least 20 per cent of its budget to the education sector. However, under this government this has consistently declined from 20.2 per cent in 2015 to 12.4 per cent in 2020 and further reduced to 11.5 per cent in 2021.
The Socialist Party in government next year will make education totally free from nursery to university and compulsory from nursery to grade 12.
This government has made our young people victims of every kind of injustice imaginable. And when they explode, they want them to explode politely! Why, they are dealing with the wrong young people at the wrong time in the wrong way.
Let’s not forget that all over the world, it is young people who are actually involving themselves in the struggle to eliminate oppression, exploitation and humiliation. They are the ones who most quickly identify with the struggle and the necessity to eliminate the unacceptable conditions that exist.
But no grievances can justify atrocious acts such as the harming or injuring of people, burning and destruction of property. No crime can be committed in the name of legitimate grievances.
We urge our students to put forward their grievances in a very firm but peaceful manner.
Issued by Fred M’membe on behalf of the Politburo of the Socialist Party Garden Compound, Lusaka.