MASERU – Students from different tertiary institution both in and outside the country are at loggerheads with government over food and accommodation allowances for the month of April.
This after the Minister of Development Planning, Tlohelang Aumane, announced that students who are currently at home will not get their allowances for the month of April due to the unexpected inconvenience caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. The minister said this is done mainly to prepare for tough times ahead where the academic year is likely to be extended for further one or two months. If extended, students will then get their allowances.
However, those that are still at school pursuing different projects will get their allowances as scheduled. Students are divided on the matter; some wants to get their allowances while others agree with the ministry’s decision. The student representatives, through the United Lesotho Students Association (ULSA), said in an interview with Public Eye on Thursday that while opinions may differ, the association has reached a conclusion that all students whether at home or still at school for different purposes should all get their allowances.
This, they say, is important to allow them buy food and pay rent as they were not prepared and or warned about the current situation. They argue that the minister did not consult with the association before making decisions. They also claim that other students are still out of the country while others from institutions such as Botho University and National Health Training College (NHTC) are still pursuing distance learning “which is a very expensive method to study under.”
Due to the COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, four months ago, the government of Lesotho has since declared a state of emergency and introduced a 21-day lockdown as another measure to fight the pandemic which has currently killed more than 40 000 people across the globe. The lockdown, among others, means schools are also affected and had to shut down for the said period. In an interview with Public Eye on Thursday, ULSA publicist, Thapelo Koloko, said students should get their allowances and that if the academic year is extended, then they will appreciate. “If the academic year is extended we will appreciate as long as there is a formal communication well on time so that we prepare ourselves for such conditions.”
“We have students that are still continuing with their studies as we speak, even those that are home still have to make ends meet as they were not prepared for any of this. So to say they will not get allowances becomes a real problem on their side,” said Koloko. Aumane, on the other hand, stated that his ministry gets information through the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) director, who is in direct contact with the student representatives.
He said they have been made aware that some students are still continuing with their studies, particularly those that are outside the country, citing that such students will still get their allowances as scheduled. He went on to explain that in situation where schools are closed completely for this period, students should be clear as to whether allowances should be released or not because it is almost clear that their academic year might be extended.
“We are still yet to seat down with student representatives to decide on how to deal with this matter because we do not want a situation where some will suffer as the academic year is extended,” Aumane said in an interview with Public Eye. He added that government will pay accommodation for students for the month of April and the same thing will apply if the academic year has to be extended. “Accommodation will be paid by government because we are in a situation which nobody anticipated. So we will meet them halfway in this case also because we are not expecting them to go back home during this trying period. But they have to make us understand what they really want to avoid confusion,” the minister said.