THE Government is in the process of transforming the Bursaries Committee into a Loans Board to help generate revolving funds for the continued support of university students.
Education Minister John Phiri told Parliament yesterday that the Government had realised that it was not sustainable for it to sponsor all the students who got enrolled into universities.
Dr Phiri said his ministry had since embarked on a programme to transform the bursary support to a loan scheme by transforming the Bursaries Committee into a Loans Board which would oversee the revolving fund.
The minister was responding to a question from Choma Central UPND MP Cornelius Mweetwa, who wanted to find out what led to the death of a first-year student at the University of Zambia (UNZA) on Tuesday this week.
He said that on average, the Government was spending K25,833.00 per year on each sponsored university student on accommodation, meal, tuition fees and book allowances.
Dr Phiri said K154 million would be required to meet the bursaries for the 6,000 UNZA students this year.
He explained that this year, the bursary allocation to students at UNZA was K91,161,997 and received a supplementary allocation of K57,700,000 due to inadequate funds and that the amount was still not enough to meet the requirements of all the students.
Dr Phiri said this year’s Budget did not envisage an increase in the number of first-year students to be sponsored from 2,420 to 6,000 arising from the introduction of new programmes and increased enrolment at UNZA.
The Government is also considering expanding distance, evening and parallel classes to sustain public universities.
Plans are also underway to develop partnerships to set up assistance to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The Government is further planning to increase budgetary allocation to the education sector and increase admission for private/self-sponsored students.
Dr Phiri said universities would be required to scale up income generating activities and that counseling services had been enhanced at the Ministry of Education and the public universities.
He appealed to students to remain calm, as the issue of bursaries was being considered.
Dr Phiri said that for this year, the Government would revisit the provisional list of students to see whether it could accommodate more on bursaries.
The minister regretted the death of the first-year UNZA student, who is said to have committed suicide because of being denied a bursary.
He described the incident as sad and a wakeup call to both the ministry and the Government regarding the student bursary scheme.
Dr Phiri said reports indicated that the student had applied for a bursary and upon inquiring from the Bursaries committee was told that her name was not approved for the bursary and she had no patience to pursue the issue further and decided to take her own life.
Dr Phiri advised opposition political parties not to use the UNZA incident as a campaign strategy.
Times of Zambia