By Isaac Mwanza

While the Patriotic Front administration under both late Michael Sata and President Edgar Chagwa Lungu has done a marvellous job to meet increasing demand for secondary school education by building 115 new secondary schools and upgrading 455 primary schools in needy areas into secondary schools, not enough has been done to promote greater access to tertiary education. Although there has been a boom in private universities and colleges in Zambia, these are largely driven by profits and dividends than provision of quality education.

A picture of Zambia’s higher education

The 2018 statistics show that Zambia has a youth population of 4.8 million aged between 15 and 35 years. In 2017, student enrolment in public universities and technical education, vocational and entrepreneurship training (TEVET) institutions stood at 58,442 and 39,802, respectively. Of the 98, 244 enrolled students, 25,128 university and TEVET students were supported under the loans and scholarships board, the TEVET bursary, the skills development fund and the support to science and technology project.

Although public universities and TEVET only managed to have a combined total of 98, 244 students in 2017, our secondary schools offload a total of over 120,000 potential students every year. In 2017, a total of 132, 841 students sat for examinations.

The majority of Grade 12 School levers in Zambia do not find their way into public universities and TEVET institutions or have to wait a little longer before they could enrol. Some get to enrol as mature students – not because it was their wish to delay attainment of higher education but because of circumstances that could not have allowed them to when they were 16 to 24 years. Of course, acquisition of education in Zambia is not a matter of a justiciable or constitutional right.

There are many reasons for this situation but largely because of limited places for university education but also that university education is not very affordable to most children coming from poor or low-income families. As seen from the numbers of students on grant and loan support services, only about 25,000 students are beneficiaries. As government focuses on provision of basic education, university or college education is progressively becoming a privilege for young people from rich and well-to-do families.

Undoubtedly, there is a market in Zambia for higher education, with the same commendable energy that government that government has undertaken developmental projects in the road and health sector, the PF can leave a mark if it paid more attention to higher education.

What can the PF Government do?

The Lungu administration must consider investment into continued building of universities, same way the PF founding leader, late Michael Sata, had initiated building of universities after an almost 2 generation without such an investment.

Firstly, government must take advantage of the available market for higher education to make an investment that is self – sustainable but running parallel with the current system where government supports those who cannot afford the higher fees. For example, instead of building a wall in the Trump-like fashion, the University of Zambia has plenty of space upon which Government can build new lecture halls and hostels for full fee-paying higher education (The ZICAS model) without loans and grants. Provided that high class education is offered, with available qualified lecturers, people will enrol and get the education.

Government cannot fail to find a financing partner to undertake the building projects of more public universities that may be run based on the PPP model. Those malls and shops Government gas allowed to be built on the UNZA land are not adding value to educating our people

Professor Nkandu Luo, don’t build the university wall. Build classroom blocks, hostels and universities.

Secondly, the bigger problem with higher education is unregulated fees from one institution to another. Government must get into the ring and begin to regulate fees for both private and public universities while working at making education affordable to poor and marginalised students.

Thirdly, the mushrooming of private institutions of higher learning has seen an increase in “makeshift” colleges offering degree and diploma programmes at a relatively low fees albeit having unqualified lecturers and academic staff. This has made our students to focus on acquisition of a paper called degree or diploma and not necessarily knowledge and skills. Our makeshift colleges are thus producing half-baked graduates, for instance, teachers who later become custodians of our children children’s education. This has a lifetime effect on the kind of future managers and leaders our country will have.

Fourth, the high rate of student drop-out and failure at the Zambia Institute for Legal Advanced Education (ZIALE) offers another insight into how disconnected programs offered by different universities are from practical education in the real world. In the name of academic freedom to decide the packaging academic progammes that suit individual institutions, there are variances in what is being taught from one University to another. If you went to study law at a university where book-keeping or basic accounting is not part of the curricula, you will find basic book keeping at ZIALE. The effect only get to be seen when an independent evaluation of a student is undertaken such independent institutions such as ZIALE.

There is need to have uniform training curricula for all academic programmes in all institutions of higher learning and equivalent bodies to the effective Health Professional Council of Zambia (HPCZ) to prescribe and regulate different programmes.

Conclusion

There are many interventions which we can discuss here but government has a Ministry of Higher Education which must begin to think outside the box when it comes to provision of higher education. Sadly, the Ministry of Higher Education is not far from being called the Ministry of Higher Education for UNZA and CBU. Even at UNZA and CBU, the Ministry seem not to have plans to invest in infrastructure but is largely focused on taming students.

It would be more appreciated if the Minister of Higher Education and officials took leading roles to demand for increased budgetary allocation from Parliament and Government towards higher education and to initiating more infrastructure development. But we all know that so long government officials get their pay cheque, fuel and many other allowances, they all get home and dry.

But one must not expect too much from the Ministry of Higher Education. This is the Ministry that is preoccupied with lecturers and students not having unions of their choice to represent them until they have placed existing unions under their feet, as is the case with Nkrumah, Chalimbana, CBU Universities, among others. I always ask what officials from Ministry of Higher Education do when their counterparts travel to negotiate bilateral agreements to build roads, health facilities, etc.

The author is Secretary General for the Zambia National Students Union – ZANASU

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38 COMMENTS

  1. Great write up and statistics. Higher education officials and Minister ought to be above board. Education has gone to the dogs in this country. We graduating students from many universities that know nothing. Real dunderheads. But also l like idea of providing for parallel full fee paying university at UNZA and CBU by building more buildings.

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    • Zambian education is for obtaining degrees and diplomas and not imparting knowledge. we send children to universities and colleges to bring back diplomas and degrees and not knowledge.

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    • Zambia has VERY BAD PRIMARY, SECONDARY, TERTIARY education period. BAD, BAD SYSTEMS. The author talks about education as BUILDINGS only when the whole system is broken especially the PEOPLE in the rooms, the teachers? I would care less if I got quality, relevant instruction from UNDER a tree. Buildings are the easy part, people are the soft yet key and very difficult ingredient. And that goes for building the whole of Zambia, Africa, the world for that. We don’t care about PEOPLE. Politicians just worry about cutting ribbons to open this road, that building always focused on things that can be seen and touched. Building people must be the focus, everything follows from that.

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    • I agree with both Kamanga and author. Of what value is an education system that only make people to get diplomas and degrees but keeps people dull. We need a complete overhaul of the entire education system. students get into universities and colleges to pass exams, and not to gain knowledge. Unfortunately those in charge of higher education seem not to have any idea at all on how to improve current state. even in Parliament, its all politics.

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    • Our education system needs revamping. Zambian graduates can’t compete on the world stage. Nowadays there are adverts in zambia for cashiers requiring only degree holders to apply.
      All graduates want to work, no one wants to apply the theoretical knowledge into their own start-up business.
      Without factories, industries, you can have millions of jobless graduates just roaming streets.

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  2. Will investment into higher education as compared to roads provide incentives for bribe-sharing? If it doesn’t, then forget. GRZ wont invest money in areas with no personal returns. So the idea for minister is to encourage private institutions

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    • last time UPND offered constructive solutions to Govt was when Mazoka was alive. UPND appreciates nothing from PF, still bitter with not being in power after 20 years

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  3. Not every leader values provision of higher education. Kaunda and Sata were exceptional characters. Both were known to have had low level education but so passionate about creating infrastructure so children would not go through what they did. But if you look at these leaders who went to universities and become professors, doctors, lawyers, etc, they don’t see value of higher education. they are more concerned in cutting down on students freedoms which they themselves enjoyed than in creating more spaces for higher education. The paradox of life

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    • Sata (mhsrip) is the instigator of our current problems: Chinese debt, Eurobond debt, influx of Chinese, dollarization of currency like its D.R.Congo, removing zeros from kwacha like its D.R.Congo,
      killing of agriculture sector, which by the way is the largest employer, authoritarianism, tribalism & many other pitfalls Lungu has taken over.
      This PF experiment was a huuuuge mistake which will take 100 years to rectify.

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    • People don’t just understand, especially those with hidden agenda-plundering nation assessets by inflating the cost of projects, getting the allowance for a job not done! At one time she was Minister of Health, she wanted to clean up the ministry of dishonest, she was hated. Viva Prof Luo.

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    • ROKA- The Professor can do well in a Ministry where no PR is needed much. Sata tried her at Local Government, it was another disaster. Her idea is she is only one who knows what to do and everyone must follow her wishes. If Luo went to Labour, have no doubt – she will ban all trade Unions or propogate and impose Guild leadership too.

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  4. LIBERALISATION HAS STRONG EFFECT OF EDUCATION IN ZAMBIA. EACH ONE CHARGES FEES THEY WANT. WE NEED TO END CONFUSION WITH COMING UP WITH A LAW WHERE FEES ARE SAME IN ALL PUBLIC AND PRIVATE INSTITUTIONS; WHERE STUDENTS NEGOTIATE WITH GOVERNMENT WHEN THEY WANT TO INCREASE FEES

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  5. we need think-tank like you,who are able to analyse issue and offer solution to the many challenges our country is facing. Bravo

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  6. Great observations and recommendations. Only if they could take up the recommendations hastily will this country become better. The current administration seems to be too preoccupied with politics and politicking.

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  7. There are no jobs for the current school and higher education graduates while potential investores are pointing at artisan skills shortages as a reason for not investing…..

    it’s a no brainer. If those leading the country can’t work this out, you are doomed.

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  8. Our leaders are too preoccupied with making money for their kinsmen and families. If you think such advice is heeded by anyone, then you better go live in mars. They only remember these things when they leave power and look back. Anyone who offers advice to the Know-it-all Professor becomes her enemy. She has nothing to lose. She has served in govt for 20 years and has made her money. Cares less what anyone would say.

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  9. message is loud and clear inspire of few typos here and there. Aftican Governments know its easier to lead educated people and difficult to cheat them; so the pattern can be discerned – Govts will never prioritise higher education. Worse still our government has allowed private vultures to suck every ngwee available to students through deciding fees on their own. This must come to an end. Zanasu should push a motion in parliament on fees. But even when u get degrees and paper, companies look for people with 15 years experience to employ. Where do u get 1 to 15 years experience? Students must push for an end to this. Sadly, Union in places such as UNZA have been weakened and now this Zanasu sounds strong than most unions. So get your constituency student to push these bills in Parliament…

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  10. The only thing the Minister does when she goes in Cabinet is present progress and plans of crippling students down. She has no bigger picture of what higher education should look like years after she is not in govt. busy fighting unions, busy fighting zanasu instead of getting ideas.

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  11. The idea of regulating fees for Universities is an idea who time is ripe. There is chipantepante with the private universities and colleges. Soon as universities open next year, students are greeted with new fees they never agreed to. Only a listening govt must step

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  12. 1 of the lessons why Zambia ain’t developing is because the majority of our people are unskilled labourers. The majority of these unskilled labourers reached only Grade 12 while another group of unskilled labourers are university graduates. Truly speaking, our universities do not produce skilled labourers. But who cares? politicians dont. Ministry of higher education officials don’t. its beneficial to have more Grade unskilled labourers who reached Grade 12 levels when it comes to paying wages. So no one cares about higher education in Zambia. Skilled labourers are actually more useful to Chinese than skilled people. KK and Sata envisioned beyond this.

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    • ….and the author calls the building of secondary schools marvellous job when all it does is produce unskilled workers? SMH. PF is a failed project and they will not take any single advice on higher education. Luo wud have been happier if author suggested way of taming students.

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  13. Have u ever seen a kaponya who is interested in education, in PF we have kaponya’s as ministers education is the last thing on their small minds, we are dealing with morons and ignorance at the highest level with this lot… Only good for stealing

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    • Let’s be realistic! Blanket condemnation won’t develop this country, Be as objective as possible as the author has demonstrated in this article. Problem is that you targeting the presidency!!!

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    • His ur president not mine, to me the guy…wrong word,the moron is a convicted debarred thieving lawyer who stole from a widow, proven fact… His a pompwe and no where in my earlier post did I refer to this loser try read if u can read I am sure u are one of the cadres

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  14. Kind of minds Zambia needs. Not just people who complain but not offering solutions to govt. Don’t be distracted. PF government listens to people with great minds Isaac

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  15. While I agree with author, I think he should also have addressed issues of retention kevels of qualified lecturers in public universities. GRZ does not pay well compared to universities outside the country. Furthermore, even private universities in Zambia have opted for part time lecturers, a trend that is dangerous in provision of quality education. Most part time lecturers don’t even take time to read either students assignments but just mark for the sake of getting paid. This practice is supported by fact that most private universities hide exam results from students. Students can’t challenge their results and take anything. So money has been put ahead of everything. Failure lies at the hands of Higher education board.

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  16. Our problems as Zambia was to acquire Independence in 1964. We should have waited a little longer like Zimbabwe or maybe around 1990s. Then the Whites would have invested in infrastructure for higher education which should ve benefited us. Expecting a fellow black man to provide higher quality education is quite unrealistic. Blacks first have to look at own pickets before developmental ideas.

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  17. If Prof Luo is supported in total by all people, she can change the current situation as described by the author. However, building higher institutions of learning should not be taken a sole solution to the current scenario. The curriculum must emphasize the skills training, not just theories. In addition, the curriculum must reflect the skills needed by the country in order to accelerate national development led by the Zambians, not foreigners.Once these foreigners leave, the projects become white elephants. These institutions of higher learning lost direction in the mid-70s. Many critics of Prof Luo don’t just understand her. She knows what education is generally and tertiary education in particular. Lecturers in higher institution of today are worse than thier students in terms of…

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    • Prof Luo has herself to blame. She has abdicated her role as policy maker to becoming an implementer of policies herself. Students are an important client in the delivery of education and but she is disconnected this Prof Know-it-all. A good leader does not seek to oppress those she leads and even embraces those with divergent views. Prof Luo does not possess this attitude. Anyone who appears to oppose her, she does not tolerate. As a typical African Minister, she loves praise singers more than those who can criticise her. That aint good leadership. Just look at how she has kept Chalimbana, Nkrumah and other public universities without lecturers and students unions. Shows you she is scared of things as Unions.

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    • Luo must allow herself to be surrounded by people with brains. The author says is Zanusu leader, so why would she allow herself surrounded by those scatterbrains who been helping her to deflate student union leadership than sensible people in zanusu? Maybe why others say she is self opinionated & doesnt tolerate different viewpoint

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  18. @Roka but what support does Professor Luo need when she is scattering away the very people who should support her? lecturer, students, people within her own Ministry. Lungu is more likeable to lecturers and students than Luo. Luo supported UNZA over students not writing exams and it only took presidential intervention for students to take exams some time back. Luo banned students unions, Luo declared zanasu illegal in in parliament, Luo wants to abolish meal allowances. the list is endless. News Diggers opinion on her makes sense

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  19. I don’t believe Nkandu Luo is the prime problem. Real problem is successive governments have not invested much in higher education apart from UNIP and partly PF. Also our education system was tailored to serve colonialists and carriculum has outlived its usefulness. So instead of blaming Luo, all citizens must begin providing real solutions as did author. Let those tasked to develop curriculum, employers, unions such as zanasu and lecturers sit down to advise the Minister. The Ministry must call for an indaba to review things that have gone wrong and right. fees also must be regulated as pointed out.

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  20. We have a serious crisis in higher education in Zambia. Our toothless Higher Education Authority has registered 61 so-called universities. Most of these universities depend on less than 25 percent full-time academic staff and 75 percent of moonlighting academics from UNZA or CBU. Full-time staff at most private universities lack the minimum qualifications befitting a university lecturer. Most of their professors have only master’s degrees; only a few have earned doctorates. A good number of their Vice Chancellors have no doctorates or traceable academic records! Students – even those who cannot spell their names- graduate as long as they pay the fees! How can Zambia, with less than 500 PhD holders have 61 private universities, while Nigeria with more than 13,877 PhD holders has 75…

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    • Spot on! We have serious problems with higher education. It appears every Jim and Jack with Masters Degree becomes a lecturer. But we also have students who are much brighter than these lecturers. Some lecturers can’t teach, they read word by word in books or learning modules.

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