The University of Zambia Lecturers and Researchers’ Union (UNZALARU) says the 2024 budgetary allocation to infrastructure development for universities is too low to guarantee the completion of students hostels and other learning facilities.
Under the 2024 national budget, government increased allocation for infrastructure development to universities from K99.9 million in 2023 to K256 million.
UNZALARU President, Andrew Phiri, in a statement issued in Lusaka on Wednesday stated that there was a number of incomplete infrastructure across all the public universities.
Phiri said the amount can not facilitate the infrastructure that would accommodate the envisaged number of students that the government wished to have in the institutions.
“This means that the increased accessibility to higher education through increased student loans is likely to aggravate the existing limited teaching, learning and accommodation spaces in the universities,” he said.
Phiri said this in turn would compromise the quality of higher education that the citizens are to access.
He said while the union appreciated the efforts that the government was making to promote primary and secondary education it is concerned with the minimal attention that higher education continued to receive.
Phiri said this could be noted from the 8.67 percent allocation, yet the many students that are enrolled in the secondary schools would have to go to higher education institutions upon completion of their secondary education.
“The major concern arises from continued underfunding of University Education, particularly, UNZA,” he said.
Phiri said funding to UNZA had been reduced in the 2024 budget from K230,328,480.00 in 2023 to K230 million in 2024.
He said this meant that UNZA would continue to be constrained with regard to funding research, infrastructure development and general operational costs which were often borne, with serious difficulty, by internally generated resources.
“These funds fall short in meeting the main statutory obligations which include Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA), National Pension Scheme Authority (NAPSA) and National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIMA) remittances,” Phiri said.
He added that this was compounding institutional debt and worsening the plight of retirees at UNZA whose unpaid terminal benefits backlog stands at seven years while NAPSA non-remittances stands at six years.
Phiri said the union also noted that no funding had been allocated towards terminal benefits in the 2024 budget, yet the University owed retired and current staff in excess of K900 million in unpaid terminal benefits and gratuities.
“As a consequence, the University will continue to accrue debt through penalties on unresolved statutory obligations related to NAPSA, Pay as You Earn (PAYE), Superannuation and retired employees who continue to be on the payroll,” he said.
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