AS overjoyed University of Zambia (UNZA) monks and mommas jogged around t he Great East Road campus premises in Lusaka celebrating the re-introduced meal allowances that hit their bank accounts last Friday, two brothers were missing from the ecstatic crowd despite being among the hundreds of benefiting students.
Altough 24 year old Winston Nachihulu, a first year student of Development Studies and his younger sibling Collins, 20, were just as joyous as other learners, they could not join the mobile celebrations because they are both visually-impaired.
According to their mother, Kezia Nachihulu, Collins and Winston both gradually lost their sight, as they approached the age of five in their birth town of Choma, Southern Province.
Despite their mother’s best efforts to get their vision restored, as she sought treatment from various specialists and health facilities, Winston and Collins would never see again.
Having failed to get her sons’ sight restored, Kezia now 56 years old, resolved to try all she could to give the boys the best education she could afford.
Uneducated, widowed and with four children, of which two are visually-impaired, to feed and fend for, Kezia’s task was not an easy one – she took on whatever decent job she could find.
With help from well-wishers while she worked as a maid, Kezia saw Winstone and Collins, who she says have impressed her with their academic performance, through primary and secondary schools and to UNZA.
The two brothers have been A students, despite being visually-impaired.
When they both made it UNZA, Kezia was happy but worried about how she could afford to pay their fees and provide their meals, a worry that was shared by Winston and Collins.
Luckily, the brothers are both on 100 per cent bursary and will now be recipients of the re-introduced meal allowances that were abolished by the PF government in February 2019.
“With all the challenges that I have been through, I never thought that my children would ever step their feet at UNZA. I am very thankful to all the people that helped me come this far but more importantly the government for the meal allowances,” Kezia told Kalemba in an interview, as she helped the brothers to settle down in campus.
“I can’t wait for Winston and Collins to finish their studies so they can be independent and look after themselves so that my BP can reduce. I really hope they don’t get carried away by peer pressure here at UNZA and forget the suffering that we have been through. I really pray they work hard like they have always done so that they can complete their studies”.
Winston and Collins, who depend on smart phones with special mobile applications to study and do their school work, say the headache of where they will find their meals is now out of the way – they will now focus on studies.
Collins explained that he in fact had initially wanted to study law but due to the unavailability of research gadgets to help visually-impaired learners, he opted for Development Studies.
“We are very thankful for the meal allowances. It’s a big relief for us and our mother; we now just seek help in learning items such as laptops to make it easy for us,” said Winston, who received a phone donation from Lusaka youthful businessman Chanda Chimba.
As for Collins, who is studying special education, he says he is inspired by the re-introduction of meal allowances.
His motivation to pursue special education were the teachers who taught him throughout his primary and secondary school education.
In his campaign messages, ahead of the August 2021 elections, President Hichilema pledged to reintroduce meal allowances for government-sponsored students at public universities.
In the 2023 national budget, the meal allowance pledge was actualised by the UPND government and students are now making good use of pans and pots, as they fry real, appetising food bought from the given meal allowances.
President Hakainde Hichilema reintroduced meal allowances.
Kalemba May 3, 2023