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CBU, UNZA closure: The case of PF failed leadership

Filed under: Politics,Special Comments |
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File: Michael Kaingu

File: Michael Kaingu

By Nalukwi Nawa

I have always restrained myself to comment on this issue because Hon. Michael Kaingu is like a brother to me above being a family friend. However, working in the education sector myself, am duty bound to express myself on the failed management of the Ministry of Higher Education by the Patriotic Front (PF) government.

The truth be told; on many times that I have spoken to Hon. Kaingu I have been honest with him that his leadership in this sector has been far from impressive. I warned him outrightly that if he managed the education sector in the same way he had been managing his family, that is with the “I know it all attitude” he was bound to fell. Hon. Kaingu is a mini-dictator at home, he gets no advice and pushes everyone around and this can only work in a home set up! It is this leadership that he has brought to the management of the higher education sector in Zambia and it has backfired.

CBU Students meeting

CBU Students meeting

To begin with, had it not been for Hon. Kaingu Prof Nason Ngoma, the current Copperbelt University (CBU) Vice Chancellor would not still be the Vice Chancellor at CBU. Prof Ngoma’s continued hold to power is only beneficial to Hon. Kaingu and his PF government to the detriment of the University. For as long as it has satisfied Hon. Kaingu and his PF friends this CBU problem is ‘burried’. The autocratic approach to leadership exhibited by Hon. Kaingu has had far reaching consequences on our two universities and generally the higher education system.

As it is Hon. Kaingu is the biggest problem the Ministry of Higher Education has and he must not blame the students for the resulting closure of CBU and the University of Zambia (UNZA). Hon. Kaingu must take a self introspection and accept that him and his PF government have failed to run the Ministry of Higher Education. For a minute, Hon. Kaingu must understand the seriousness that this ministry deserves- this is a ministry that is at the prime of producing our tomorrow’s leaders; managers, doctors, teachers, nurses, engineers, technicians, scientists, and all key decision makers that drive policy and decision making in the public and social sector.

This is an important ministry that we can not allow individuals to mess up with. Hon. Kaingu must not forget that his mandate is to rise above the challenges in this ministry and revolutionize its operations. He cannot hide from the fact that this ministry is under funded! As such he must source for funding to support this ministry. Once education is prioritized, the allocation of resources to this sector will not be a problem. We cannot allow a situation were we know that the problem in the ministry of higher eductation is funding but we want to blame the Lectures and students. Lecturers, Researchers and all staff working under this ministry must be paid for their services as workers in the ministry just like their colleagues in other government ministries, agencies and departments! Students on government sponsorship too are a responsibility of government and must be paid too. Institutions under this ministry just like others must be fully funded and their budgets met too! The government must play its role- release the funds to these institutions to make them functional!

It is indeed disheartening that CBU and UNZA are once again closed when the best decision could have been to tackle the challenges that have resulted into students protesting. Students under the sponsorship by government are entitled to a consistent flow of upkeep allowance, book allowance and project allowance- pay them!!! Pay the students!!!

CBU riotFB_IMG_1454482114199When it comes to demonstrations/protests which the PF government and its sympathizers are blaming on the students as the reason for closing the two universities; I must mention that like all of us have a right to express ourselves; students too are entitled to freedom of expression. The use of demonstrations/ protests is such a legally accepted means of self expression in a democracy. In a democracy like ours, demonstrations are constitutionally allowed and viewed as action by a mass group or collection of groups of people meant to show a view point (either negative or positive) regarding a public issue, especially relating to a perceived grievance or social injustice.

Demonstrations are generally staged in public with a cause to influence opinion of decision makers or appeal for public sympathy in a bid to evoke for the taking of the necessary action meant at correcting the situation. The general doctrine of non-violence or pacifism is deeply enshrined as the allowed form of demonstration/protest in functional democracies.

In a democracy, so far as such demonstrations do no turn violent, the police or other military authorities are mandated to keep a watch and protect the demonstrators to ensure they are allowed to express their grievances. More so, students must be given an avenue to protest freely and peacefully to air out their discontentment. The students must freely express their dissatisfaction and appeal to decision makers on what must be done differently! That is democracy and we must allow it to flourish because once we suppress them they will quickly resort to what they feel would be the loudest method to express themselves- violent protest!! Students in Zambia have always been denied an avenue to hold peaceful demonstrations/protests and the resulting effect has been their resorting to violent action.

It is regrettable that any assembly by the students is met with force and offensive use of weapons by the police. On one hand our Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land grants its citizens the right to gather peacefully and to hold meetings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets! On the other hand you have a colonial oppressive law like the Public Order Act (POA) which renders it illegal to hold cause-related events without notifying the police. This POA when applied unfairly on students will surely spark violent protests because they understand their rights and freedoms granted to them by the constitution. If you cannot allow students to even hold peaceful demonstrations as the case may necessitate, then atleast be responsible enough by paying them so that they would not be forced to express themselves against your wishes as government.

Above all, the PF government should not have rushed on closing CBU and UNZA without working around finding a solution to the problem raised by the students. Everyone knows that the students were protesting against not being paid their dues- Pay them!!! Is the PF administration telling this country that they have no solution to the impasse facing them in the two universities? Is the PF administration telling this country that they are bankrupt to the point of suggesting closure for all institutions that are calling for funding?? Is the PF administration telling this nation that closure is the best solution they have found for CBU and UNZA??

Demonstrations in Universities and institutions of learning happen the world over, however, universities and all these institutions are never or they rarely get closed. What is advanced in all these countries is leadership which is apparently lacking under the PF administration. Atleast the students had put their position that all they needed was to be paid their dues- the PF government must pay them and not jostle around with excuses that do not add value to our education. There is no need of blaming students, absolutely no need!

Now that NIPA, LIBES and other institutions of higher education around the country are demonstrating over various problems, are we going to have a situation were Hon. Kaingu and the PF government will sanction that they all get closed??? The problem is not with the students and neither is it with the Lecturers or staff in these institutions but rather with Hon. Kaingu and his failed PF administration. Prioritize education and the problems we have today will be the past!!!

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