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Tue, 30 May 2017 10:07:07 +0000

Innocent

SO the University of Zambia is simmering again, and almost exploded on Sunday night. When will it all end?

Hardly a month after the violent scenes at Mulungushi University in Kabwe which led to the 10-day closure of the institution, another campus is boiling.

A week ago, University of Zambia Vice Chancellor Professor Luke Mumba warned that the university management will not tolerate free loaders and that any student who has not paid the mandatory 37 percent student fee will not be allowed to attend lectures and will consequently be expelled from the campus hostels.

He said the university runs its operations such as salaries on money paid by students and there was no way it could tolerate students to live on campus and attend lectures when they had not been registered as paid-up members of the university.

This was tough talk coming from a man running a volatile rag-tag army. It is therefore not a surprise that chickens have come home to roost.

We are certain that the near-riot at UNZA on Sunday night had something to do with the measures the university management has taken to force students to pay their fees. Instead students claim they are angry because the university has not paid them their projects and accommodation allowances.

To justify their illegal protests, students claim they are also reacting to the decision by lecturers to go on go-slow over issues of their own and deny them education. The lecturers are reported to have boycotted classes for the past one week, pressing the university or Government to pay them their long-standing allowance arrears and other benefits.

But Prof Mumba says the university is not responsible for paying student project and accommodation allowances. It is the responsibility of their sponsors – in this case their parents or Government. One wonders if the students did not know that.

So the blame game is back to square one. It is not the students to blame for the rising tension at UNZA: it is management and lecturers. Lecturers no doubt would say blame Prof Mumba and his administration for not paying us what they promised. Prof Mumba says blame the sponsors – Government and parents – not us.

In the meantime, Government recently promised to pay the lecturers what was due to them – but apparently have not.

The UNZA merry-go-round goes on and on. Precious time is expended quarrelling over nothing and no solution is in sight.

It is unfortunate that UNZA, and other institutions of higher learning, have become tinder boxes which erupt so often that Zambians have become fed up with what is going on. How come no better method can be found to handle these issues of money, money, money every day?

Why can’t Prof Mumba drive to the Ministry of Higher Education and find out if and when Government was able to pay the lecturers or the students and negotiate with them to wait for the period when the money would be made available?

And why can’t Higher Education minister Professor Nkandu Luo intervene by talking to his Finance counterpart and work out a plan on how to eliminate the huge backlog of debt at the University of Zambia and other universities? These debts have been accumulating over the years and they now run into billions of Kwacha.

The usual Government policy of burying one’s head in the sand believing the issue will disappear is what promotes university unrest. Someone must be brave enough to take the bull by the horns and show leadership.

Riots and go-slows are not the best form of education curriculum. They portray a picture of lawlessness, indiscipline and anarchy which should never be associated with any respected university or education system.

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2017-05-30 12:07:07

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