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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Continued Problems at UNZA only Shows Politicians never Learn

Headlines Continued Problems at UNZA only Shows Politicians never Learn

Dr.Chiyaba Njovu,former Publicity Secretary and Acting Secretary of UNZALARU 1993

By Dr.Chiyaba Njovu.
Strikes at UNZA over Lecturers’ perks have been discussed by successive governments without any long term solutions for more than three decades now. I cannot believe that today we are still talking about negotiating Lecturers’ salaries year in and year out without any long term solutions being hatched out. UNZA problems still continue and yet long term solutions have been tabled before successive governments so many times.

I am talking from experience as one of the people that tabled proposals to HE Michael Sata then Minister of Labour in 1993. I was Publicity Secretary and Acting Secretary of UNZALARU at the time. Our proposal was simple and aimed at finding a long term solution to perpetual salaries negotiations at UNZA. Our proposal was dubbed ‘Equal Pay for Work of Equal value’. The basis of this proposal was creating payment package parity between local Lecturers and those of expatriates.

You may be aware that most expatriates in Zambia had a dollar component called inducement allowance added to their salaries that was payable in any Country of their choice plus a kwacha salary equivalent to the local Lecturers. This dollar component cushioned expatriates from any inflationary distortions in the economy as its value could not b eroded by devaluations in the local currency. Our proposal was supposed to have long term effects which could have cushioned Lecturers salaries from inflationary distortions and thereby creating stability on their basic earnings.

Negotiating for salaries year in year out is counter-productive. People’s salaries are supposed to be automatically adjusted each year to take into account any inflationary distortions in the economy. This idea was agreed by government and then Minister of Labour Hon. Sata, now HE The President of Zambia requested us to draft a Cabinet memorandum which was to be tabled at a Cabinet meeting the same month in 1993. This pay framework was supposed to be implemented in 1993 but government kept shifting goal posts until April 1994 when Lecturers ran out of patience and went on strike over the same. What followed turned UNZA upside down.

To-date, the outcomes from that meeting promised to us by then the Hon. Minister of Labour have never been discussed as the University was forcibly closed in April 1994 the over Lecturers’ demands to have that proposal implemented. Whether those demands were discussed genuinely at Cabinet level shall remain unknown. Lecturers were fired and later intimidated into submission. Those of us that could not be intimidated took legal action and subsequently won the Court case. Most Lecturers were working half heartedly while waiting for the next advert at another Institution.

The resulting consequences of those actions by government were massive brain drains from UNZA. To the best of my knowledge, UNZA lost more than 300 Lecturers between 1994 and 1998. These Lecturers are serving in foreign Countries where stable conditions allow them to plan their living without worrying about money for the next meal. Unfortunately, politicians will never understand that nobody can supervise a Lecturer in practical terms. A Lecturer worried about a meal for his family will never plan his/her teaching effectively and will never deliver learning in a constructive manner. They end up coping notes for the students and not lecturing. Others end up compromising their professional ethics and get bribed. The Institution suffers and in the long term the Country suffers – Catch 22. What that means is that most Lecturers would prefer to be using their spare time taking private tuition and never engaged in supporting students as doing so would mean sacrificing their families who may end up going hungry.

I am sure most government leaders are aware that this is the situation prevailing at UNZA since then. It is undeniable that standards will continue going down until long term solutions are found. The long term consequences are that such Lecturers would never engage in Research and Scholarly Activities (RSA) in a constructive manner. Who suffers? The Institution suffers as the Academic recognition and subsequent rankings of International Universities depend on the number of publications of its Academic staff. What is UNZA’s ranking on the International scale? Coupled with an unstable learning environment where students can take to the streets at any time, it is no wonder UNZA does not attract any foreign students.

Similarly students allowances are not supposed to be negotiated year in year out. The government plans the budget and knows the realistic cost of living. Their plan should take into account their responsibilities to the students they sponsor. They don’t need to wait for students’ demands before responding to their needs.

Today, it is amazing that having gone through such experiences, some of the sitting government officials who were themselves victims of such poor planning leadership styles can sit back and watch UNZA deteriorate while they drive past in their luxurious cars. It is a fact that some of the people who taught at UNZA and subsequently returned to UNZA after losing political Office are part of the group of Lecturers complaining about salaries. How hypocritical when they had a chance to do something positive about UNZA when they were in government.

It is my considered view that government revisits the equal pay framework and implements it fully if UNZA is to be stable for a while. Any knee-jerk increments aimed at circumventing the real problem for now will only postpone it to the next year and we shall be back to square one. It is one thing to promise something and another to effect it. Leaders need to be proactive and plan ahead for all Institutions. Academics’ problems and those of their students are never sudden in nature and usually have a cycle. Government can plan around such issues and build into their systems checks that would ensure these issues are triggered automatically without waiting for anyone to complain. These systems exist and are working in other Institutions, why not UNZA and Zambia as a whole?

UNZA is a great Institution that has shaped Zambia locally and internationally. Its deteriorating standards should be something we should all worry about as it is the heart of Zambia’s future. Unfortunately, all these prevailing problems are creating an environment where there is no RSA to inform the teaching. Most teaching materials at UNZA have never been revised for many years as Lecturers have no time for such activities. They are worried about their survival – what a shame? This should worry any well meaning and caring leadership.

Our most brilliant children should be the heart of our nation and neglecting them can only be at the nation’s peril. No nation will give you its best people. Governments need to invest in their best people. The onus is on government who may wish to seize this opportunity and create a real meaningful legacy by finding long term solutions to the well known problems in our Higher Education Institutions. UNZA is just one of them, the problems are the same with other institutions as well. The ball is in government’s court – will they play it?

46 COMMENTS

  1. UNZASU is busy politicking instead of lobbying Gov’t for better conditions.The whole union has been bought off, I mean why are they always singing praises to Sata and defending him. They are more concerned about their pockets than their education!UNZASU was even busy calling for chief justice to step down but on these issues directly affecting students they union is quiet.Genuinely needy but brainy Zambians will now suffer because on the pretext of saying only the elite benefit, Gov’t is now scrapping the bursaries, but tell us how does that stop the elite????It just puts more pressure on the poor.

  2. If only the elite are benefitting from the current bursaries, does it mean that changing it to a loan will stop them???And obviously for these elite to benefit they must have some connections or strings which they pull, when it comes to paying back the loan, what will stop them from pulling those strings and deferring payments???The real problem is in the system and Gov’t should accept that and change it!Otherwise the needy students will have a harder time accessing education which is actually supposed to have been free on 20 September last year.

  3. Politicians never learn? Dr Njovu, that is an erroneous analysis. The correct analysis is that politicians DO NOT care.

  4. All the top government officials have their children abroad in UK,America and now China looks like the new popular destination. This tells you alot about the quality of education in Zambia. 

  5. Chiyaba you have hit the nail on its small head squarely accurate. One example is education perm sec sichalwe kasanda who though he will never go back to unza to beg for a job. the other example am seeing keenly is simbyakula though he has gone back again to govt.

  6. Well am loving this peice of analysis. Indeed investment in our best material as a country investment in that is making the knowledge providers happy.There being happy will make them read more and do more reserches that will benefit the student and at the end of the day the country. We have proper material of lecturers that are out in other countries like you Dr Njovu. We need government to play the ball that is in there court which we know will encourage the many material we have in diaspora to come and plant knowledge in Zambia. With th experience that the president has having served in most of the governments in since independence we expect a long term amicable solution.

  7. Dr Njovu, you should know you cannot get a salary not affected by inflation. Where in the world do they pay such salaries? What govt pays as salaries is in part related to the capacity to pay i.e. revenue. Having a deficit budget year in year out, it means govt can only increase salaries if they reduce expenditure in another sector if that sector is less important than salaries. Ultimately what govt does is to balance so that they don’t pay too little but also not excessive at the expense of other sectors. Lets be sincere in approach to issues.

  8. Just like the situation in the health sector, they would rather send their children to Malaysia, UK, USA or South Africa than work towards improving local standards. We simply have bad leaders all round.

  9. This has been the problem in the Mining industry as well. Expartriate staff get far more than locals due to the dollar component of their salaries. I remember an expartriate could get away with 20 times that of a local, whilst the local of same position and may be better qualified gets a salary of an expertriate’s one return trip cost for holiday visit to home country of origin. What an imbalance! Yes equal pay for equal work for same qualification is best for all.

  10. Dr Njovu you are very correct, in Zambia we have a lot of misplaced priorities, and education is not one of them. We need an educated cadre of leaders from the top who have committment in bettering our education standards, only then can issues at UNZA be sorted out, minus that, kulibe!!!!!

  11. The talking goes on unabated as this is Zambia’s specialty, meanwhile everything is crumbling at a terrific rate. The university of Zambia is an eyesore and an embarrassment in every sense of the word. What sort of governments fail to maintain and run the only 2 universities in the country in 40 years?

  12. Very good analysis! One general observation I have made about African governments is how willing they are to watch their talent bleed while they hold on to parochial, bigotted measures and views! It is no wonder long term planning is not part of the package of our political and so-called professional management… It is only in prepared speeches.

  13. These are the brains Zambia is missing. Hope the government will take an interest to incorporate it in there plans when CNP comes back from holiday.

  14. Looks like the dont kubeba rubbish started a long time ago. UNZA should stop paying expatriates the dollar components. It should be equal pay all around and that is the situation in the region. Facilities at UNZA are in a deplorable state therefore it is not surprising that the teaching staff are victims of the yellow-notes sydrome. As long as UNZA cannot attract foreign students the institution will remain in the doldrums. I believe UNZA was a great university in the 60s, 70s and early 80s because it used to be a destination of students from countries that were fighting for liberation such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, etc.

  15. the problem with unza is that they fully depend on politicians. its time to think beyond the box. most former students are elite in the zambian society they should help their university. as long as unza continue to depend on politicians then these problems will persist.

  16. #4, I CONQUER WITH YOU. MOST POLITICIANS’ CHILDREN HAVE THEIR CHILDREN SHOOLING ABROAD JUST LIKE IN ZAMBIA ALL POLITICIANS HAVE NEVER TRAVELED ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT TO EXPERIENCE HOW UN-DIGNIFYING IT IS TO TRAVEL ON OUR COMMUTER TRANSPORT. I PERSONALLY FIND THIS ARTICLE HONEST AND TRUE TO THE POINT. THE ONLY SADDENING THING IS THAT ALL GOVERNMENTS ARE AWARE OF THE PROBLEM AND HAVE LONG BEEN ADVISED ON HOW TO CONCLUSIVELY SOLVE IT BUT THEY ALWAYS CHOOSE TO IGNORE THE ADVICE…

  17. …from 22. PROBABLY, LETS HAVE IT IN THE CONSTITUTION TO BE COMPULSORY THAT ALL POLITICIANS’ CHILDREN SHOULD ATTEND SCHOOLS, COLLEGES, AND UNIVERSITIES IN ZAMBIA AND NO OFFICIAL CARS FOR ALL POLITICIANS BUT LOANS TO BUY THEIR OWN CARS. WELL, FOR ME THE ALARM HAS BEEN RE-SOUNDED AND SOLUTION RE-SUGGESTED ITS UP TO THE POLITICIANS TO TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT AS THEY NORMALLY DO. BEBA ATI UULI NAMATWI OMFWE… TO THE AUTHOR OF THIS ARTICLE I CAN ONLY SAY HATS OFF.

  18. The calibre and acumen of some of our young graduates today is highly suspicious, someone needs to look into it!! 

  19. In Zambia we need a commission of inquire for us to understand the problems we are going through.The country is too stagnant with leaders who seem to understand nothing.One wonders if Zambia has been  40 years of independence or 40 years in the wilderness.What has gone wrong?

  20. Albert Einstein called itinsanity, while HH called it Chimbwi no Plan: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This is the tragic state Zambia finds itself in today, recycling old dogs hoping they will learn new tricks to revise the economy. Whether we like Sata or not, he will never be able to come up with any plan to change Zambia for the better. He simply has no plan and is too old or rather incapable of having a plan at this twilight in his age.

  21. If I may ask, is Zambia that poor that we can’t even afford to pay Lecturers? Cant afford to renovate government assets?

  22. The current Minister of Education was teaching at UNZA 9 months ago…..now he doesnt CRE! Dr. Njobvu thanks for the knowledge u gave us at UNZA…howz Greenwich University? The article has brought teras to my eyes.

  23. The author of this article must know that UNZA cannot be dealt with as an island. It is an institution that is very much part of the ravaged economy. In fact we expected the institution to be the leader in self-sustaining innovations. But what do we see? terrible rigidities that have made the institution an empty academic monument. The products that they have been pumping out year in and year out have not made any meaningful impact on the Zambian economic, political and social front. Except for a few the work culture of most lecturers leaves much to be desired leaving no choice to students but to explore other institutions for university education. A university where students can even buy grades; what a record!!

    • There is a system in place such that if anyone attempts to change grade, system records who, when grade was changed. Its only out of ignorance that you would think UNZA sells grades. Even some chap that tried to change grades was fired. So dont speak from without! never been there obviosuly otherwise you’d know better. Even internal auditors check for any grade changes, its part of their job. grades are there at dept, school and senate levels. UNZA grades go thru a process. So that PAC exposed their ignorance when they misunderstood Simukanga. U change grade, system picks up and you willbe caught and dealt with.

  24. Just sell the university to the chinese….Ah the place would be beautiful within 1 year, mutimedia classess, laboratories eh dont joke with chongchongs

  25. Good analysis dr. As others have pointed out I do not expect Sata and his team to sort out the UNZA mess. This govt is composed of the same old timers who will keep on doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Remember Sata is the one who contributed towards the massive exodus of medical doctors when he was a minister in Chiluba’s govt. Sata can not handle criticism and he has a habit of punishing anybody he percieves as an opponent and as expected UNZA will be/is the hub of his critics..

  26. The  conditions for lecturers at UNZA are not that bad. UNZA is one institution with better salaries. The major problem is the lecturers themselves, they have no idea how to manage that institution. Look at ZCAS, its very well managed and with no cry baby mentality. Believe me, no matter how much money the govt can pump into unza, there will be no change. Those professors and doctors, they need to change their thinking. 

    • If UNZA charged economic fees, it would be much better (infrastructurewise) than ZCAS. But the same govt wont allow unza to charge economic fees so what do u expect??? lecturers salaries not bad, based on what? regional salaries? why brain drain….???

  27. Number 34, ur comment is misplaced, i think UNZA lecturers are the worst paid in the region with a Doctor getting K8mILLION, PROF. K10MIL is this not a mockery??? i think u are a university of matero graduate

  28. Y shud we students suffer???? my prayer is that our children’s children shouldnt go thru this. let us resolve this issue once and for all. this shows that some people somewhere are not concern with our education system in zambia. i therefor, ask our generation to put more effort so that whoever comes after us shud not experience the same problems we r facing at unza.

    whats up third year students, Ivy, Cynthia, barum Peter and Mutinta Mulungushi,

    XSY

  29. WELL HAVE SEEN SOME SENCE IN THIS ARTICLE VERY MUCH!!!!!
    BUT THE LECTURERS ALSO NEED NOT TO WAIT EVRYTHING FROM THE GVMNT, THERE IS ALOT OF SPACE AT UNZA WHY CANT THEY BUILD MORE HOSTELS RATHER THAN WAITING FOR MONEY FROM THE GOVMT???? LECTURERS/ADMINISTRATION AT UNZA NABO THEY DONT WORK ACCORDING TO THE WAY THEY RE SUPPOSED TO WORK.
    THEN PAYING A SALARY THAT WONT BE AFFECTED BY INFLATION I DONT KNOW THAT IS & HOW POSSIBLE??? WELL THE DOLLAR THINGS FROM EXPTRATE LECTURERS BETTER THEY REMOVE IT PAY SAME SALARIES WITH OUR LOCAL ONE’S.EVEN IN MINES ITS THERE & VERY FRUSTRATING, ATI AN EXPATRIATE HE/SHE JUST MOVES AROUND IN THE PLANT DOING NOTHING, DOES NOT EVEN KNOW WHICH DEPARTMNT HE/SHE BELONGS BUT SAYS “AM FOUND EVRY WHERE”. THIS RU.B.BISH.

  30. SOME ZAMBIAN BORN INDIANS, WHITES ETC GET THERE EDUCATION FROM ABROAD & COME BACK IN THE MINES AS EXPATRIATES GET VERY HEAVY SALARIES IN THERE POCKETS IS THAT RIGHT???? THIS IS ALSO HAPPENING MU MINE.
    MP’S SALARIES MUST BE REDUCED TO GIVE THEM TO OUR LECTURERS AT UNZA & CBU, WHY AN MP GETTING MORE MONEY MANY TIMES THAN LECTURER????
    MR SATA PLEASE LOOK INTO THESE ISSUES THATS WHY WE VOTED FOR YOU BWANA.

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