In a vehemently emotional invoking plea, the untold truth about the plight of CBU students continues to haunt the debasement and sub-standardization of Zambia’s higher education sector. CBU has been robbed off its voice, pride and academic excellence due serious Managerial handicap and reckless unconcerned management of its academic affairs.
The hidden truth is that since the inception of the institution in 1987, CBU was built to the capacity befitting that of a college formerly called Zambia institute of technology(ZIT) which was later transformed into the university of Zambia Ndola campus (UNZANDO) and subsequently turned it into a University named now as The Copperbelt University (CBU). At this particular point Bursary scheme was extended to the University. UNZA was the first institution to benefit from the scheme, in addition to those who went to study overseas. The people who benefited from the scheme are professors today.
32 years down the line since its inception, the general public and the nation at large has never concerned itself or rather put responsible authorities to task on how the infrastructure development has expanded proportionately to the increased enrollment numbers of students from 152 students who matriculated students as the first intake in 1987 to the current numbers standing at 14,000 plus registered students.
We have never bothered to know how the University has integrated its technological advancement, improve its academia by providing necessity facilities such as a fully furnished and modern library, increased capacity building in terms of classes, lecture theaters, scientific laboratories, hostels to provide decent accommodation to students and indeed departmental offices. A precise answer and accurate update to the general public and the nation to the queries above is that CBU is still same. It has remained unchanged with stunted University infrastructure development except sham beautifying changes made to its environment and selective office paintings.
All these factors have contributed to the degraded academic standards of the institution which Management and other authorities responsible have ignored but rather focused on politicization of matters affecting the institution. The institution needs proper well-structured management of its affairs which will concern itself with improving the academic environment and making it conducive for the learners.
ORGANISED CONFUSION AT THE INSTITUTION.
In most instances, the first thing that comes to the mind of every Zambian child either in school or not, parents as well as students from other universities/colleges and generally the public once they hear about CBU or UNZA, is the bursary currently called student’s loan scheme which was established to support vulnerable students.
This scheme has had given serious problems to the two institutions in the recent past as a result of student unrest due to delayed payments of meal and book allowances attached to the loan scheme package.
Despite the problem being partially resolved by governments decision to scrap off living allowances and introduction of agonizing monthly payment of meal and book allowances for those already on the loan scheme, the important aspect which authorities had failed to recognize is that the organized confusion at the institution was actually as a consequence of delayed disbursement of student’s meal allowances, lack of proper communication and shunned dialogue with student leaders. As expected, students have been put at the receiving end by blaming them for taking alternative means of demanding for their entitled allowances and on several times we have been labeled to be thugs by the society.
They have ignored the fact that almost 90 percent of students come from either poor or middle income families which can only offer minimum support not rising above their basic income of course. The untold truth is that the greatest incitement and opposition political player we have had is hunger and nothing else. Hunger strikes everyone irrespective of your political affiliation and the best way to resolve this organized confusion caused by delayed payments and hunger was timely disbursement of the said allowance and creating room for dialogue with students.
Students cry for proper dialogue and engagement with both government and management but monologue and issuing of instructions to our leaders has been the order of the day. We are being denied of our rightful democratic privilege to voice and air out our genuine concerns consequently leading to avoidable unrest and riots. Our grievances are always hidden from the public for unknown reasons and once things get out of hand we are blamed for everything without flip-flopping or rather looking at other side of the story.
WHY IS CBU CLOSED TODAY?
CBU is closed today as a result of Management’s failure to handle two resolvable issues, the 50% continuous assessment (CA) threshold and 80% tuition fee payment threshold which school Management had set as the minimum requirement for students to sit for final sessional exams. The two policies were solely agreed upon by the university senate and Management without the involvement of student leaders.
The other aspect that school authorities have paid a blind eye to is that, CBU as a second highest university in the country it does not even have enough furniture in lecture rooms, there’s no study space for over 14,000 students due to scarcity of classrooms and the library can only accommodate 150 students to its full capacity hence management still insisted on imposing a theoretical way of uplifting academic standards unlike a pragmatic one by addressing these challenges earlier stated above.
Implementing such policies (50% CA & 80% Tuition fee threshold) would have meant that 85 percent of students who were supposed to sit for mid-year sessional exams would’ve been put off the exam room and were not eligible to write. Deviating from the main course why the institution existed which is to enable students attain quality education, be assessed, sit for exams and graduate at the end of the day.
Not overlooking the struggle of poor students, parents and even students themselves because some of the students are orphans. They strive very hard to raise funds to pay for tuition fees especially those on 75% bursary and self-sponsorship. And management has come up with an online system and a policy which compels students to pay off arrears before they access their seasonal results. Students have always made a commitment to pay off arrears despite not reaching the 80% payment threshold and it has worked well in the recent past without bleeding any conflict between the two parties.
We shall not allow inconsistency and conflicting policies to be enforced just like that.CA threshold is just a theoretical way of uplifting academic standards but rather ensuring that the institution has proper labs, heavy equipment for engineering students, expanded library capacity with updated study material and having a motivated academic environment is the most practical way of uplifting the academic excellence and standards of the university.
In addition, delayed lectures’ monthly salaries has been a demotivation factor to the lectures hence hindering academic research works and disruption of learning process due to boycotts by our lecturers when not paid as usual students bear the consequence of such. As we may be aware that a university with advanced research works and a motivated learning environment is expected to raise its academic standards and compete favourably both locally and internationally, our case at CBU suggests otherwise.
But alas, the perception of reality is more real than reality itself. Yes, a misconception has already been created that students only cry and demand for meal allowances which has been a source of disruption for many years now but when students raises all these aforementioned concerns school Management tend to shun dialogue and pay a deaf ear to our cries. If we exude huge insistence to have these issues resolved on a round table discussion, our leadership is compressed to the darkest corners of fear and a vacuum in leadership continues to establish itself as result of such.
HUMBLE APPEAL TO OPEN CBU ON TIME.
We humbly appeal to His Excellency the Republican President and The Line Ministry to accept our apology for damage of public property caused due to unrest and riots which broke out lately and consider the plight of over 14,000 students coming from different homes whose future have been put on hold and in serious quagmire as graduation is no way nearer due the indefinite closure of the institution.
We plead with The Republican President to show mercy upon us as we have shown resilience and remorse for our riotous action. A lesson has been learnt and new chapter should be opened for your children your Excellency.
We also appeal to the authorities that all the issues which led to the closure of the institution can be easily resolved through an Open-dialogue with the student leadership if a proper platform is accorded and a chance to be heard is given. The prosperity and future of our country is been derailed with over 14000 students having been sent home contributing literally nothing to the growth of our economy. Students are the think tank of this country and reinstating them back in school will immensely have a huge positive transformation on the general outlook of our economy and international image.
Education is the greatest weapon to fight poverty with, and a nation which educates its citizens, is a prosperous nation. We appeal to all non-governmental and civil society organizations, the church and indeed the general public to give a helping hand in the advocacy for reopening of CBU having known the consequences which led to the indefinite closure of the institution.
We say No to # violence and Yes to # open -dialogue. # Divided we fall # united we stand.
Our education our right, open CBU.
BY Mathews C. Chanda
STUDENT ACTIVIST/FORMER UNION LEADER
SENIOR STUDENT IN THE SCHOOL OF MATHEMATICS AND NATURAL SCIENCES (Copperbelt University)?