Editor's Comment

Resolve students’ meal allowance delays

THE Ministry of Education, Science, Vocational Training and Early Education should find a lasting solution to the perennial delays in the payment of students’ meal allowances to avoid protests at public universities.
Protests by students over unpaid meal and project allowances have almost become a permanent occurrence every semester.
The latest protest by Copperbelt University students on Monday who were demanding the payment of their meal allowances could have been avoided.
We commend the police for their swift action, which prevented the unruly students from destroying public and private property.
As usual the students blocked Jambo Drive with rocks and burnt tyres on the road to express their displeasure.
Copperbelt Students Union president Gerald Chiluba was at pains to pacify the students, who were in an uncompromising mood.
After failing to persuade them to use peaceful means of expressing their displeasure, Mr Chiluba and his executive committee did not have a choice but to allow them to have their way.
Mr Chiluba complained that the students staged a class boycott because the government had not paid them their meal allowances.
He said students could not attend classes on empty tummies and appealed to the government to pay them as soon as possible.
We understand that government has some challenges in the disbursement of students’ allowances.
But we have in the past said there is need for adequate communication between the university’s management and the students through their representatives.
When there is a delay the engagement should be as frequent as possible.
If possible the two parties should meet every day so that management can update the students on the progress being made in the preparation of their payments.
At the same meetings the management can also explain any challenges that may be causing the delay.
As long as the students are constantly updated on the efforts being made to address their problem, such communication helps to pacify the affected party while the contentious issue is being attended to.
We believe poor communication has somehow been contributing to the unrest at the public universities.
Also, we urge the students to refrain from taking the law into their own hands every time their demands are not met at the time they expect them to be.
No one is above the law, and we are sure the students are aware of this reality.
Those who have been arrested should not expect to get away with it just because they are students.
They should know that society has high expectations from them, especially that the money they are receiving is taxpayers’.
Should the police take the suspects to court they will only be enforcing the law.
Breaking the law is not the best way of convincing the government to meet the students’ demands.
The students should always bear in mind that their parents and guardians look to them.
They expect them to work hard and graduate with good results.
The least these people expect from the students is disrupting the academic calendar and destroying public and private property.
While we appreciate that the students have a genuine grievance, we don’t support the methods they are using to communicate it to decision-makers.
The police should ensure that those found wanting face the full weight of the law like other citizens. It is unfair to prosecute other citizens for committing similar offences and leaving students scot-free as if they are a special people.
Where there is a misunderstanding it is always wise to sit down and talk over it with a view to finding a solution.
Protests may bring unexpected results, as those who have been arrested have realised.

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