By JOWIT SALUSEKI-
THE proposed National Budget for 2022 has been heralded by many social and economic commentators as being historic.
To many, the increase in allocation of resources to various aspects of human and social development will help to improve the living standards of most vulnerable people.
Among the sectors that have seen an increase in allocation of funds is the Social Cash Transfer (SCT), the Food Security Pack (FSP), Girls Education and Women’s Empowerment and Livelihood Programme (GEWEL), Child Welfare Programmes and the school feeding programme, among others.
The Government has also set aside funds to provide free education by paying school fees in all public schools for all learners at early childhood, primary and secondary education levels.
School fees have been a headache for most vulnerable families in the country.
Regarding boarding fees for secondary school learners, a bursary scheme will be introduced for vulnerable learners.
The beneficiaries for bursaries will not be chosen from Lusaka or provincial headquarters and not even at the district level.
Rather, it will be determined at the community level in the constituencies, possibly at ward level.
The provision of the budget for the bursaries will be through the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).
The support to the girl-child through the Keeping Girls in School Programme has also been increased from the current 28,964 in 2021 to 43,520 girls in 2022.
The SCT will be scaled up by increasing the number of beneficiaries and the transfer value.
In 2022, the number of beneficiary households under the programme will be increased to over one million from the 880,539 as at end August 2021.
The transfer value per household will be increased from K150 to K200 per month.
For households with a severely disabled member, the transfer value will be increased from K300 to K400 per month.
With regard to the Food Security Pack (FSP), the number of beneficiaries will be increased to 290,000 households in 2022 from 263,700 as at end-August 2021.
The FSP is targeted at the vulnerable but viable farmer households.
Other social protection interventions that will be scaled up include the Girls Education and Women’s Empowerment and Livelihood Programme, the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, Public Welfare Assistance Scheme, and Child Welfare Programmes.
The increase in social aspects of the economy is a relief to many people especially those in peri-urban areas where poverty levels are high, leading to an influx of people flocking to major towns to beg for alms on a daily basis.
The dire situation has over the years given birth to an army of street kids and adults who patronize streets to ask for food and financial aid from well-wishers.
Zambia is one of the countries on the continent experiencing high population growth rates in urban areas such as Lusaka, Ndola, Kitwe, Livingstone, among others.
These high urbanisation rates paint a challenging picture of the nation’s future that depends on the well-being of children.
Because families had no adequate income per household, children were forced to the streets due to a number of reasons.
Generally, the poverty level in urban areas has been on the increase and children have had no choice but to go out and look for their daily bread to assist their families.
However, this is supposed to be discouraged if the resources allocated will be targeted at the intended vulnerable people.
In the case of single female headed households, a child may feel the need to go out and assist his or her mother in bringing some income.
Family crises brought by poverty and other associated life events resulted in dysfunctional parenting styles too.
These had over the years weakened family bonds and resulted in an environment where parents became physically and emotionally abusive to their children or towards each other.
Challenges such as lack of living space and poor house ventilation, under which children are forced to live in slum areas, without food, and other basic amenities have forced numerous children to the streets of cities.
Then there is also the issue of abusive work in homes where domestic workers are forced to run away as a result of being overworked, underpaid or even subjected to other forms of abuse.
They end up on the streets trying to earn a living too.
The growing HIV/AIDS scourge in Zambia has left many children orphaned or abandoned by their parents.
Such children often end up as street children.
With one third of Africans currently living in towns and cities, coupled with rapid urban population growth rates, the streets have become the workplace and playground for millions of street children.
Added to the conundrum is the elderly who flock to the central business district to ask for alms.
The implications of this rapid population growth are enormous.
Social exclusion and a relative lack of support systems further characterise slum neighbourhoods.
Due to lack of stable sources of income, parents are likely to pull their children from school and expect them to supplement family income.
For example, there are some street children in Ndola’s Broadway who claim they are hungry and are lost in an environment without love, care and peace.
These children find the street more secure than their homes.
It is against this backdrop that the Government has increased resources to various aspects of the social sector in order to cushion the impact of poverty on vulnerable people in the 2022 budget.
Mwinilunga Council Chairperson Jonathan Chinyimba said if the projects under local authorities were to be implemented adequately, they must also be incorporated with the needs of local communities at heart.
He said the budgetary allocations should include the needs of the most vulnerable in society.
“The main objective here should be to put all the needs of the most vulnerable in society under the local government’s comprehensive development plan and to provide for periodic reviews and disclosures of their budgetary status,” Mr Chinyimba said in an interview.
Lucy Daka, a social welfare officer in the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services said there was a need to strengthen the capacity of ward development committees so that the right people were identified to benefit from the various social projects.
Esther Chihangu of Ndola’s Maria Chimona, a settlement located on the fringes of the city, feels the increase to various aspects of social economic development and the scrapping of the user fees in schools would enable vulnerable people to live decently and educate their children.
She was hopeful that the local leadership in various communities won’t be biased in selecting intended beneficiaries of the education bursaries and the SCT.
There is no doubt that the increase in expenditure to human and social economic development would help alleviate poverty at household level.