Students demand for loan schemes

STUDENTS from the country’s main universities and colleges are disappointed with the manner the Patriotic Front (PF) government is administering the bursary scheme that has currently left out more than 4000 students resulting into one female prospective student committing suicide.

And the Bursaries Committee must publish the names of all first year students at University of Zambia on bursary and explain the criteria used to pick them, says political activist Dante Saunders.

The students from the University of Zambia (UNZA), Copperbelt University (CBU), Mulungushi University, Mukuba University, Evelyn Hone College and Chainama College met in Kitwe yesterday and resolved to meet President Michael Sata and Justice Minister Edgar Lungu over the lack of transparency in the management of the bursary scheme.

The students said it was the responsibility of government to ensure that higher education was made universally accessible to all including the under-privileged who were often the hardest hit by the levels of inequalities in society.

The students, who gathered at the Copperbelt University, complained that it was not fair for government to deny more than 4000 students the bursary scheme and called on the PF government to be level headed in handling the bursary fiasco.

They said they were saddened that for a long time, the bursary scheme had remained a contentious issue purely because of lack of transparency and goodwill on the part of government.

The students have asked government to immediately create a revolving fund that would help the majority of students regardless of their status and provide equal opportunities to all.

The students said the  the revolving fund would ease pressure on the bursary scheme which currently was being managed with discrimination adding that the loan system would be more sustainable and effective than the current system. The students proposed that an autonomous body be created to administer the new loan scheme in a transparent, accountable and honest manner and that a mechanism for the recovery of the loan should be adopted by the tertiary education loan authority.

“It is therefore imperative for the government to recognize the role that education plays in the development of the country. We are appealing to government to quickly implement the students’ loan scheme to all the universities and colleges represented here. As student bodies, we have resolved to meet President Sata for guidance on how best to resolve the impasse,” the students said in their communiqué.

And Mr Saunders said there was no way the government would try to jeopardize all the institutions that were key to the country’s development.

Mr Saunders said an investigation should be instituted to establish whether the awarding of bursaries was corrupt-free to restore confidence in the system.  He said it was not fair that the rich were the ones who were benefiting at the expense of the vulnerable adding that most of the poor students were the ones with good and genuine results.

“Surely does this government want to see the rich getting richer and the poor becoming poorer? We are therefore requesting them to publish the names and the results of those students that have been selected for a bursary scheme to restore confidence in the system, otherwise we will conclude the Bursaries Committee is corrupt,” Mr Saunders said.

He said it made sad reading that one of the University of Zambia first-year students; Musanka Mukwamba committed suicide after she was denied a bursary.