By Reagan Malumo
Zambezi Vocational Training Centre (ZVTC) trainees have been boycotting classes for the past two weeks. The trainees are unhappy about their meal allowances.
The trainees say they resorted to a class boycott because they have not received their meal allowances or loans since the beginning of the year.
Since last year, the trainees have accused management of allegedly embezzling loan money meant for students. They are also not happy that they attend classes on empty stomachs sometimes going for up to nine hours without eating anything.
They allege they have not been able to receive meal allowances to pay for food. The centre does not cater for meals for students. The trainees want to know why other centres in the country receive money on time.
They only received the meal allowances for February and March at a rate of N$10 per trainee per day instead of a N$20 per trainee per day as promised by the Ministry of Education.
The management at the centre set conditions before disbursing the money it claimed was from the centre’s coffers. It wanted the money paid back once the Ministry of Education transferred the meal allowances into the centre’s account.
Approached for comment, the Public Relations Officer in the Ministry of Education, Toivo Mvula, said the trainees’ meal allowances were not paid into the centre’s account pending review of the allowance from N$10 per trainee per day to N$20 per trainee per day.
He said the centre has requested the trainees’ meal allowance based on N$20 rate per trainee per day, which the ministry is still processing. He assured the trainees that approval to pay the trainee at N$20 per trainee per day has been granted by the ministry and that the finance department is in the process of transferring the money into the ZVTC’s account.
He said trainees will receive back-paid meal allowances as well as continue receiving the allowances for the remaining months. He added that the centre will also have to subtract and the money the centre gave the trainees on N$10 rate in February and March this year.
Concerning the training loans, Mvula said the ministry usually transfers the loan money into all VTC accounts during the months of June and July or latest by August every year. It is the duty of each centre to provide the trainees with financial statements upon request by the trainees to verify how the money was utilised.
He explained that the money that remains every year is usually returned to the ministry. This is done to avoid the trainees repaying a lot of money upon completion of their courses.
The trainees have also complained about the absence of a liaison officer at their institution stating that ZVTC was the only centre in the country that has no liaison officer. This is one of the major reasons why they experience problems because there is no proper communication between the trainees and management.
They also question the credibility of the training they get citing lack of proper training materials and accused some instructors of not having the necessary aptitude to render training at the institution.
According to Trainees Representative Council chairperson, Eric Mulenamaswe, the centre has no library and proper computer laboratories. They also have very limited access to computers.
In a letter addressed to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, through Caprivi Regional Governor, Leonard Mwilima, trainees have vowed to stay away from the centre until their problems are resolved.
“We are hereby informing you that since from May 2008, we have decided to have a stay away from the centre until bellow (sic) problems are settled” trainees stated in the letter.
The Principal of Zambezi Vocational Centre, Gerrie de Villiers referred all questions to the Regional Director of Education, Lovemore Lupalezwi.
Lupalezwi told New Era that he was not aware of trainees being denied access to computers. He said the only issue raised with him during a meeting with trainees’ representatives and management was the Internet connection that was not working.
Lupalezwi said it is not proper for trainees to stay away when they are about to write examinations. He called on all trainees to go back to classes while the ministry resolves their plight. Lupalezwi added that staying away from classes does not do justice to their education.
He said similar problems are being experienced at other vocational training centres country wide, but are resolved amicably without the trainees having to resort to boycotts.