Thursday, August 23, 2007

Levy under attack over 'school fees'

Levy under attack over 'school fees'
By Brighton Phiri, Nomusa Michelo and Masuzyo Chakwe
Thursday August 23, 2007 [04:00]

OPPOSITION Patriotic Front president Michael Sata yesterday asked President Levy Mwanawasa to reflect on his background before telling people to stop bearing children if they cannot pay school fees. And Women for Change executive director Emily Sikazwe said President Mwanawasa should apologise and retract his embarrassing statement.

Commenting on President Mwanawasa's statement on Tuesday that the poor people who could not afford to pay school fees should not be bearing children, Sata said it was sad that President Mwanawasa, a beneficiary of free education system, had turned against the poor people.

"Mr. Mwanawasa himself, his wife, all his ministers and permanent secretaries are beneficiaries of the free education system. Why is he trying to deprive others the service which he benefited from?" Sata asked.

"Who is Mwanawasa to tell the people that they should stop bearing children?" Sata warned that President Mwanawasa's statement was a replica of the Chinese policy on children bearing.

"There are worse things to come...very soon Mwanawasa will be telling us to stop producing children because we cannot pay for their medical fees and food," Sata said.

And Sikazwe reminded President Mwanawasa that it was a right for anyone to have a family.

"Is he telling us that since we are poor we cannot have children?" Sikazwe asked.

"Is he saying the right to having children should be the prerogative of the rich, who have plundered our resources?" She said.

President Mwanawasa should be mindful of the fact that one of his job descriptions was to reduce poverty among Zambians, who were his masters. Sikazwe said President Mwanawasa's statement confirmed that the poor were not protected under the current constitution.

"Hence, our fight for a new constitution that will include both the social and economic rights," she said.

Sikazwe asked President Mwanawasa to apologise and retract his statement because it was an insult to the majority Zambians who were poor, not by design but due to poor and unproductive government policies.

She challenged President Mwanawasa to tell the nation which background he came from before becoming a lawyer and Republican President.

"We want to know who paid for his education...was it his family or government?" she asked.

And United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) country representative Lotta Sylwander said poverty would not stop people from having children. Sylwander said having children was the most natural thing, which happens everywhere in the world and nothing could stop people from bearing children.

"It's natural to have children and it is happening all over the worked. It's the most natural thing and poverty is not going to stop them," she said.

"I think in that case government should provide proper programmes to prevent people from falling into poverty."

And Apostolic Church in Zambia pastor Duncan Simukonda said the words uttered by President Mwanawasa should not come from a Republican President.

Pastor Simukonda said President Mwanawasa was implying that those who had money were the ones who should have children.

"A President should not be using such words that promote division between two groups in society especially that the majority of Zambians are poor. A nation cannot develop without children. It is government's responsibility to ensure that poor children get an education because if they don't, the poor will remain the larger population," he said.

He appealed to President Mwanawasa and the general leadership to seriously consider their statements every time they spoke to the nation.
"What they say can build or destroy a nation," he said.

And child activist Godfrey Simukonde said the government should come up with better policies on education because there were children from poor families that had grown up to be influential people in society.

On Tuesday, President Mwanawasa advised people against having children if they could not look after them.

He said this when MMD Copperbelt Province chairman Terence Findlay reported to him that he was receiving a lot of complaints from parents who said some schools were charging fees when it was not supposed to be the case.

"Mr provincial chairman, you have talked about the fees that are being charged by the schools. I would like it if I could get more details on this: which schools are charging school fees and we know schools have been allowed to charge PTA charges and in this case you know what it is used for," President Mwanawasa said.

"It's not meant as a fee in the essence that the money does not come to government. I ask you that any parent who has a school child should be in a position to pay a little money, which is called Parents Teachers Association PTA. I want to encourage you to plead guilty to poverty because if you are so poor that you can't afford to bring up children and put them in schools then don't have children because the next thing you will be saying is that we can't buy clothes for the children, the government should buy clothes for these children.

"If the complaint is the charge for PTA, tell the people who came to complain to you that I am a wrong sympathiser because I support the concept of them contributing to the extra tuition fees charge which I think is not too much for them that it should raise a lot of complaints."

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2 Comments:

At 4:02 AM , Blogger MrK said...

I want to encourage you to plead guilty to poverty because if you are so poor that you can't afford to bring up children and put them in schools then don't have children because the next thing you will be saying is that we can't buy clothes for the children, the government should buy clothes for these children.

This pretty much typifies the neoliberal/laissez-faire mindset. The problem starts when you want to be in office, but don't believe in government. Neoliberals believe in 'free markets', which in this case, is little more than 'survival of the fittest' or social darwinism.

He forgets that the tax revenues that finance his administration - are the people's money. Their needs come first, not those of the corporations.

 
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