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Students threaten strike if no increase in food allowances

Business

Ntsoaki Motaung

The ministries of Finance and Development Planning have resorted to dillydallying play blame-game one over the other neither ready to carry the responsibility over the grievances by tertiary education students who have threatened to embark on violent demonstration if issues around their allowances which they say are insufficient for their needs are not attended to finality and increased during the current financial year, NewsDay has learnt.

This after students from different institutions of higher learning through their alliance, the Allied Lesotho Student’s Association (ALESA) wrote a letter to the Ministry of Finance demanding that their food and rent allowances be increased.

The alliance wrote to the Minister of Finance Thabo Sophonea, and also provided a budget to the Ministry of Development Planning indicating the monies they need and why they need an increase.

They said they need their allowances to be increased in this financial year explaining that the last time the allowances were increased was five years ago.

In a letter dated February 28, few days before the presentation of the national budget for the current 2022/23 fiscal year, the students demand that their food allowances be increased from M1100 to M2000 as per inflation, and rent from M620 to M800.

“Current stipend and rent allowances can no longer carry us through to the end of the month. Honorable, let it not be hidden that we will therefore be forced to do what 2017 students did if the answer on this matter is not satisfactory,” reads part of the letter seen by this paper.

“Tertiary students’ allowances (stipends) were last increased five years ago in 2016/2017 academic year from M850 to M1100 following a violent demonstration of all institutions of higher learning,” say the students, adding that this was despite the inflation and subsequent price increases of both food and rent.

They said the students’ efforts to have their stipends adjusted have since drawn a blank, with different stakeholders citing unclear reasons including lack of money, as to why their monies cannot be increased.

Meanwhile, contacted for a comment, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Ministry of Finance Keneuoe Mojaki, told this paper that it is not their responsibility to adjust the students’ allowances.

“The Ministry of Finance only gives money to the Ministry of Development Planning if it has been requested for the plans they have,” Mojaki said adding that only the Ministry of Development Planning can address the students as they are the ones who can tell if the increase of allowances is part of their plans for this fiscal year or not.

For her part, PRO for the Ministry of Development Planning Mpho Mosili, however said only the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) can comment on this as they are the department working directly with students’ issues.

Efforts to get a comment from NMDS on Tuesday this week were also fruitless as the Secretariat’s PRO Moeketsi Rankhone, said he could not comment because he has to find permission first from his superiors.

 â€œI have to get permission to comment first from my boss. At the moment, I cannot talk to them because I have defaulted from work today. You will have to call me tomorrow morning that is when we will be able to talk,” he said.

However, when he was contacted as agreed, Rankhone could not be reached as his phone rang unanswered, for a couple of hours on Wednesday until the Director of NMDS was reached, who also indicated that she is not at work referring us to the Deputy Director.

The Deputy Director Mosa Mpoko requested she should be texted through WhatsApp because the phone she was using had some problems.

Our reporter then wrote her a text which she was made aware that it has been delivered which she had not responded to by the time of going to print last night.

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