The Ministry of Development Planning through the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) has finally heeded the to the wailings and grumbling by students from institutions of higher learning by positively reviewing their stipends after five years.
This follows protracted efforts by tertiary education students to have their stipends reviewed in a move that has continually seen education disrupted year-in-year-out as students would complain about non-payment as well as delayed stipends disbursement by government through the NMDS.
In its recent move to have the tables turned in the studentsâ€™ favour, the Allied Lesotho Studentâ€™s Association (ALESA) wrote to government asking that their food and rent allowances be increased while threatening an industrial action of such proportions as has never been seen in the country.
In a letter dated February 28, few days before the presentation of the national budget for the current 2022/23 fiscal year, the students demanded that their food allowances be increased from M1100 to M2000 as per inflation, and rent from M620 to M800.
Students had indicated that in their current statuses, the monthly stipend and rent allowances could no longer carry them through to the end of the month decrying disregard of annual inflation by government as indicated by the fact that â€œâ€¦tertiary studentsâ€™ allowances (stipends) were last increased five years ago in the 2016/2017 academic year from M850 to M1100 following a violent demonstration of all institutions of higher learning. This was despite the inflation and subsequent price increases of both food and rentâ€.
However, this publication has learned that the studentsâ€™ body has not received any formal or written reply to their proposal for the increment of their stipends from the government. A feat which has students saying they have no idea how much if at all the professed increments are a reality.
Studentsâ€™ Representative Council (SRC) President for the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology Tumisang Ngatane indicated that, he has no idea how much their stipends have been increased by since no one has communicated to them since their proposal to government.
â€œIf it is true that our stipends have been increased, we would be more than pleased that the government has eventually heeded our call for a review of the studentsâ€™ stipends. But based on the status quo of the recent hikes in prices of almost everything, we are beginning to realise that whatever the increase will be, we ourselves initially asked for too little an amount as it is more than just food and rent rates that have increased, there is school equipment as well as stationery that we have to buy,â€ he said.
For her part, SRC member from the Scott College of Nursing Mpai Monamatha reiterated the fact that if indeed their stipends had been increased, it would be a positive for their livelihoods since the current rates are so insufficient that most of the time their parents have to assist with financing some of their needs to augment the meagre stipends, adding that in some instances, some students not as privileged are forced to drop-out of school since parents cannot afford to financially assist.
Meanwhile, contacted for a comment, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Ministry of Development Planning Mpho Mosili could not be brought into confirming that studentsâ€™ stipends have been reviewed upwards, as that is not her officeâ€™s purview but that of the NMDS.
Efforts to get a comment from NMDS from Tuesday this week until time for publication were also fruitless as the Secretariatâ€™s PRO Moeketsi Rankhone, said he could not comment because he had no documents about the matter with him.
â€œI do not have the documents talking about the increments with me, but I am following up with a person with the information after which I will revert back to you,â€ he said although until the time of publication last night he had not done so and could not be reached by phone. Meanwhile, the Minister of Development Planning Selibe Mochoboroane is reported to have said on national radio that the studentsâ€™ stipends had indeed been increased where the new figures will come into effect starting in August 2022.