Two major universities in Zambia have been shut down indefinitely following continued riots over delayed meal allowances.
Students at the University of Zambia, Great East Road Campus and the Copperbelt University in Kitwe have been protesting the delay in paying meal allowance.
The Minister of Higher Education Dr. Michael Kaingu said the decision was arrive at because “the situation has deteriorated to levels of posing threat to life and property”.
All students are expected to leave the two university campuses by midnight tonight
Briefing the press, Dr. Kaingu said the behaviour by some students forced government to take “decisive steps to restore law and order”.
“All students are expected to leave the two university campuses by midnight tonight,” Dr. Kaingu said.
The Zambian government pays tuition allowances at the begining of every academic year to the schools but meal allowances are paid directly to students at the begining of each term.
Dozens of student have been arrested following the violent protest.
Below is the statement form the Ministry of Education.
PRESS STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER OF HIGHER EDUCATION, HONOURABLE DR. MICHAEL L. KAINGU ON THE OCCURRENCES AT THE COPPERBELT UNIVERSITY AND THE UNIVERSITY OF ZAMBIAGood afternoon friends from the media The situation at the University of Zambia Great East Road Campus and the Copperbelt University in Kitwe has deteriorated to levels posing a threat to life and property. The criminal behaviour by students and known opposition activists has forced Government to take decisive steps to restore law and order. Two opposition leaders were spotted distributing t-shirts and pamphlets at several higher learning institutions including the two universities in recent weeks. At Luanshya Trades Institute, known lecturers are actively distributing inflammatory literature and engaging in conduct inimical to the wellbeing of the academic life at the college. These and many other actions threatening law and order at higher learning institutions cannot be tolerated any longer. As you may all be aware by now, there have been some disturbances at our two public universities, namely the Copper belt University and the University of Zambia purportedly emanating from delayed payment of meal allowances. As a matter of background, you may wish to note that as a way of promoting access to university education, the Government provides support to vulnerable students in form of payment of the following: Tuition and accommodation fees;Accommodation refunds for students not accommodated by the universities;Meal allowances;Book allowances; andProject allowances.Modes of Payment Tuition and accommodation fees are paid to the universities at the beginning of every academic year while other allowances are paid directly to the students. Meal allowances are paid to the students at the beginning of every term. Book allowances are paid to students at the beginning of every academic year. Project and accommodation refunds are paid to entitled students upon receipt of information from the universities. Payments to Students at the Copperbelt University The Copperbelt University students were paid book and term one meal allowances on 10th June 2015 (at beginning of term one); term 2 allowances were paid on 9th November 2015 while project and accommodation refunds were paid on 18th January 2016. Part of the term 3 meal allowances were paid yesterday on 2nd February 2016. The allowance paid was K1, 317.50 per student. This is meal allowance for 59 days out of the 97 days for term 3. Payments to students at the University of Zambia The University of Zambia students were paid book and term one meal allowances on 18th November 2015 (at beginning of term one), while part of the term 2 meal allowances were paid yesterday on 2nd February 2016. The allowance paid was K1,192.50 per student. This is meal allowance for 53 days out of the 90 days for term 2. On Friday 29th January 2016, students at the University of Zambia protested against delayed term 2 meal allowances for the 2015/2016 academic year. On Monday 1st February 2016, students at the Copperbelt University also protested against delayed term 3 meal allowances for the 2015/2016 academic year. It is important to note that so far all allowances have been paid. The only allowance that was delayed was the meal allowance. Despite assurances that students would be paid the meal allowance as soon as the Ministry of Finance releases funds for that purpose, students chose to take to the streets to disturb the general public and destroy property. The delayed allowances were paid yesterday but the students have chosen to continue with their violent protests. I am extremely saddened to note that students who are supposed to be vulnerable and are receiving this government support as a privilege have chosen to behave like thugs. Due to the lack of a conducive environment for learning at the two public universities, it has been decided that the two universities close indefinitely. All students are expected to leave the two main campuses, namely CBU and UNZA by midnight tonight. Regrettably, the disturbances at the two universities have been driven by known opposition elements seeking to extract perceived political gain out of the ongoing chaos. A real and eminent danger to life and property now exists at the two universities and surrounding areas and, therefore, government has decided to act to prevent possible loss of life. Police will take necessary steps to restore law and order. At CBU, the nation may wish to know that ten of the offenders arrested on campus who appeared in court yesterday are in fact not students but opposition activists. We question the involvement of these people in protests for students’ meal allowances. The only students exempted from this closure are those from the school of medicine Ridgeway and Ndola campuses, graduate schools, evening, distance and parallel programmes. Lastly, I wish to reiterate that Government will not tolerate rogue behaviour among university students. The nation looks up to university students as future leaders and it is unacceptable to see them behave like criminals. I thank you.