Wednesday, April 24, 2024

NARIC PROBLEM: UNZA First Year Student Is A Form 6 (Grade 13) In Disguise


By Field Ruwe EdD

I beg you all UNZA students be persuaded that no one is more passionate than me to see you turn our beloved country into a most prosperous nation. Please be reassured that my intentions are purely noble and are not aimed at undermining your intelligence or yourself-esteem as you strive to become Zambia’s erudite human capital.

Believe me I dedicated my degree to the improvement of tertiary education in Zambia because I have since learned that those who lack personal achievement tend to resort to embracing nationalistic sentiments in order to compensate for their own inadequacies. They passionately defend their country’s shortcomings to artificially bolster their false sense of commitment to nation building.

I mean good. The greatest pleasure in me is doing things people say I can’t do. Look, if it weren’t for me, the discourse on the quality of the UNZA degrees would not have arisen. Come with me, we can transform the University of Zambia into an even more exemplary institution of higher learning. Please peruse the entirety of this article not like a person who lacks personal achievement, but like the academic student you are.

Why Chibale Avoided To Mention NARIC In His Press Release

Had the Vice Chancellor of the University of Zambia deployed Dr. Mfune and not Acting Head of Communication and Marketing Damaseke Chibale to defend the university, the uproar on inferior degrees would have concluded more amicably with efforts to find solutions. Chibale is a philistine who uses the generic cookie cutter template to categorically deny, tactfully shift blame, and brutally besmirch.

During an interview with Lusaka Star, Dr. Orleans Mfume, who is Higher Education Quality Assurance expert and lecturer at UNZA, elucidated the discrepancy between the UNZA degree and that of its UK counterpart, deeming it a technical hitch.
Dr. Mfume, posited that the perceived inferiority of the UNZA degree could be attributed to the absence of an A-Level certificate at secondary school level, as a prerequisite for university admission, like is the case in the UK where such a qualification is required for pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree. Dr. Mfume further stated; “For you to pursue a degree in Zambia you need O-Levels whilst in the UK system you need A-Levels.”

In the United Kingdom, students typically complete their A-Levels in Year 12 (Grade 12) and Year 13 (Grade 13) as part of their preparation for university. On the other hand, the Zambian education system does not have A-Levels as a separate qualification for university entrance. Instead, A-Levels are seamlessly integrated into the structured four-year Bachelor’s Degree program. It is here the technical hitch lies.

Since 1965, the University of Zambia first-year students have been spending one year disguised as Form 6 (Grade 13) secondary school students studying A-Levels, leaving them with only three years of the actual four-year degree. This arrangement ultimately diminishes the value of the degree to a diploma as evidenced by the UK and South African NARIC comparability systems.

This is what Acting Head of Communication and Marketing Damaseke Chibale did not want to divulge. Burdened by the apprehension of exposing this longstanding technical hitch embedded within the degree curriculum, he feared its repercussions.

How A-Levels Were Embedded In The UNZA Bachelor’s Degree

To explore the origins of this development, it is essential to delve into the historical background of Zambia’s Secondary School education system. In the 1880s, primary education for Africans was established by the French Protestant Mission in Barotseland. The commencement of secondary education for Africans was delayed until the inauguration of Munali Boys Secondary School in 1938, which initially enrolled 11 pupils.

By 1951, the number of African students in secondary schools had reached 405, according to J. Elliot in his publication “Education in Zambia: Quantitative Expansion at the Expense of Qualitative Improvement? At the time, secondary education was provided from Form 1 to Form 6.

Elliot notes that the inaugural Form 6 (A-Level) examination was completed by Munali Secondary School students in 1957, following its introduction in England and Wales six years prior (1951). Initially intended as subject-based qualifications essential for university entry, the A-Levels were later adopted across the Commonwealth.

In January 1964, the Emergency Development Plan (January-December 1964) was implemented by the then Prime Minister Kenneth Kaunda with the aim of expeditiously reforming the education system in Zambia. The plan sought to decolonize the curriculum in order to cater to the increasing needs of the nation.

The University of Zambia, founded in 1965, brought about significant alterations to the secondary education landscape. The revised secondary school curriculum included classes ranging from Form 1 to Form 5, and consisted two distinct cycles: the initial cycle spanned 2 years, while the subsequent cycle spanned 3 years. Upon completion of the five-year period, a student received an O-Level certificate.

Form 6, which provided A-Levels, was moved to the University of Zambia as a fundamental element of the comprehensive four-year Baccalaureate degree curriculum. The decision is perhaps one of the gravest errors made by the Kaunda government. The obligatory one-year A-Levels significantly impacted the Bachelor’s degree, essentially reducing its Bachelor’s course work to three years. Consequently, the UNZA Bachelor’s degree was also reduced to a diploma in the UK and South Africa.

What Then Is The Remedy?

Dr. Mfune assures the nation that the Higher Education Quality Assurance has already responded through the revised curriculum. To this he added; “Explicit in the new framework is the introduction of an A-Level certificate as the requirement to university education while the O-Level will be for college entry, thus at policy level, the technical hitch is already being fixed and this harmonizes our Higher Education system with both the UK and South Africa.”

Revisions by the Higher Education Quality Assurance stand as an affirmation that the University of Zambia’s Bachelor’s Degree has been inferior to that of the UK and the Commonwealth for 59 years. Once the modifications are effected, newly enrolled students will no longer endure an entire year imitating Form 6 students, but rather focus on their Bachelor’s Degree studies. And when they pursue further studies or employment abroad, they will be treated as equals. Viva UNZA!

The rights to this article belong to ZDI (Zambia Development Institute), a proposed US-based Zambian think tank. On May 19, 2022, a comprehensive proposal was delivered to President Hichilema through Principal Private Secretary Bradford Machila. Author, Dr. Field Ruwe holds a Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership. He is affiliated with Northeastern University, Boston, MA. US.


  1. Your argument is flawed on the basis that you have forgotten about Science degrees from the schools of Engineering, Agriculture and Mines. These all are 5 year degrees with 4 years duration in those respective schools after the first year of Natural Science which is indeed equivalent to A Levels and no secret has been made of that.

    Secondly, what about the US system? Don’t the Americans where you, yourself reside Dr Ruwe have a system very similar to ours? Some of the text books actually used at Natural Science first year are University text books for their contemporaries studying similar science courses at first year University and College in the US. Medicine in the US is it not a 5 year program as well? With one year premed and another residential?

    • Very correct. My concern is that our staff development fellows went to these countries to study for their MAs and PhDs, they came out excellently and are professors now. Why should we at this point start undermining our own systems of education?

      I would appreciate it if we started questioning our current feedback and correct anything which may have gone wrong. An example in this case is the non supervision of teaching staff. Dean’s seem not to supervise their staff adequately.

    • His ego is over the top. I wish he can just focus on being a second class citizen in whichever country he resides

    • Dont read too much into that. The phrase is just a figure of speech meaning “you can count me among the most passionate defenders” of something. I hope thats what he meant

  2. Ctn…
    Lastly, this is addressed to the UK Ministry of Education and the specific department that vets over seas degree entrants to study programs there. I repeat what I said last week on the same subject. On what criteria have they placed Tanzanian degrees higher than ours? Tanzania degrees are mostly offered in Swahili and English is a second language there!

    Can they also apply an evaluation system of actual graduates from Zambian Universities, (specifically UNZA and CBU) at what level they have worked in the UK? I know for a fact we have Zambian engineers, medical doctors and accountants with first degrees from Zambian Universities. Go to Australia and you will find literally Zambian Mine Engineers running those mines over there.

    • As a graduate of UNZA in the early 80s let me remind all that the biggest achievement of the institution was to unbrainwash us students or let me say, me. Because of colonisation, most Africans think Europe is the benchmark for civilisation and this post is falling in that category of Muzungu praise-singers. So you’re saying Tanzanian degrees should be graded lower than Zambia’s just because they are not taught in English? How self-condescending can you be? What about those in Ivory Coast? Oh no they are done in another colonial master’s language.

    • Without self-pride you are going nowhere. When Nyerere introduced Swahili an African language, as a national language naysayers were quick to argue “Geometry in Swahili!! Physics in Swahili! Bwa hahahaha! It cant happen!” Nyerere didnt listen to them and Tanzania went on to produce required textbooks in Swahili. Intelligence, progress, civilisation are not measured by Muzungu standards. China’s universities lecture in Mandarin Zhuang and Uyghur and its about to be the world’s biggest economy.

    • My fellow secondary school graduates who got their degrees in the USSR were taught in Russian. Cubans who have one of the best academic achievements on the globe dont learn in English! For the brainwashed African you can only be educated if you follow the colonial masters’ orders! Brainwashing is enhanced by political leadership that only wears European suits thus sending a message that African dress is inferior. Too much of anything including tuchawa is dangerous

    • My last part of the post is censored. Perhaps because I mentioned brainwashed political leadership that wears only European suits

  3. Ctn…
    Also, let them tell us with publications and statiatical data how have our graduates performed at higher institutions of learning in the UK in comparison to other African countries? I think it is no secret we as Zambians have thousands of graduates educated at UK universities amongst them Oxford and Cambridge that have flown the Zambian flag high and proud, many of these graduates with first degrees from UNZA and CBU.

    Otherwise, this is a sad smear campaign!

  4. How do you account for the historical admission of UNZA graduates into, and successful completion of postgraduate studies from, prestigious UK universities such as Oxford and Cambridge as well as ivy league universities such as Harvard? To my knowledge, they were not required to do a bridging year.

  5. If you say First Year is A Level, then we study for three years for a Degree! No wonder we are half cooked Graduates remaining with one year more. Engineers and Medical Doctors have one year more to complete too.

  6. Now, we have discovered that UNZA stole a year of study from each Graduate since the First Graduation Ceremony.
    We are now organizing all UNZA Graduates to come and complete; and we all drive, and by the way President HH will come with a convey of cars. So you should have enough space at UNZA. See you Mr. Chancellor.

  7. He is still disparaging the Zambian educational system. I was was hoping someone can point out that the graduates produced at UNZA are actually over-educated. Anyone that has been through that institution can point out that most of the things that we learn there are not encountered in the working world. My opinion is that one of the mistakes we made was not to produce enough craftsmen, technicians, nurses, carpenters, welders, millwrights, etc. We focused on bachelors degrees and higher. A country does not need too many people with degrees. We need craftsmen, farmers, sport instructors, technicians more and they are involved in production

    • Filled with ego, some people with degrees outside Yunza want to look more educated defensively. He will lose relevance if he wants to argue when answers are already provided by ZAQA, Zambia’s acclaimed education standards body.

  8. To enroll for a 4-year degree programme in UK without A-levels, you will need to do a Foundation Year, which will take 5 years to complete. If I already have Form 6, I will only need to spend 4-years.
    In Zambia, we have no A levels at secondary school and the UNZA 1st year is like a foundation. NARIC is aware of these two different paths to take. Dr. Mfune Orleans, the Qualifications expert already put matters in perspective. Hasn’t Dr. Siakalima already told us that pupils will have a 13th grade? What Dr. Ruwe does not understand is that the UK is revisiting immigration laws on graduates, which has nothing to do with Zambia. He is spouting hot air. Sometimes, little knowledge is dangerous, and Dr. Ruwe is that clear and present danger.

  9. I don’t know what the fuss is all about from Dr Ruwe? University of Zambia, our University, has produced the best cream which is highly respected in the world. We have one professor, from UNZA, who is even one of the presidential advisor on World Bank Board. Others have gone ahead in different countries and produced the best academic papers and scholarly papers. Despite have a lot of challenges, Unza has produced the best brains.
    The government should just increase budget allocation to Unza so that it reaches the highest academic apex.And the university itself should have innovative ideas of pushing itself towards the best name in the world.

  10. When a point is choreographed to persuade. Critical readers will attest that the learned Doctor has not shown how exactly A levels dilute the value of UNZA degrees.

    This is how glittering generality convinces masses. NARIC what ever it is called is an epitome of academic discrimination. Sole agenda is to prevent Africans from working in the UK

  11. Because students in the UK enter university with A-levels, a typical bachelor’s degree (other than medicine or engineering) takes three years to complete. At UNZA, students who enter with O-levels need to take the first-year foundation or A-level course before proceeding to the bachelor’s course work for three years, a total of four years, unless it is medicine or engineering, which takes 5 to 7 years. So, I do not see any issue here for downgrading the UNZA degree.

  12. For some reason, Field Ruwe reminds of Clive Chirwa. Both well educated, Both from the East, both leaving abroad, both bragging about their academic accomplishments, both offering unsolicited opinions. Well done for your academic PhDs. But the negativity just puts me off such that I just read the first paragraph and went straight to the comments to post this.

    • CC and FR are cut from the same cloth. After getting some education, the stand on a pedestal and talk down on people they consider inferior. Our country has challenges: food security, sanitation, lack of beneficiation of minerals, energy, poor infrastructure, corruption, human rights (Jackson Chama), etc. The work is cut out for any person that thinks they are educated, we do not need people disparaging our institutions

    • @Dobo: Unsmoke your dobo. Prof Chirwa never talks down to people and never brags about his qualifications. Perhaps you feel intimidated by his achievements and start seeing things that are not there.

  13. Don’t be letting people with inferiority complex write news on here. Always thinking the UK is the standard of everything, what a load on nonsense. After spending all those years in America the dude still functions at pedestrian level. The UK is one of the few countries in the developed world that has the trajectory of going backwards. Leave UNZA alone or suggest other things that will help them improve without mentioning the UK. Learn to change with time and stop being inferior. You are not inferior to other races. There is only one race called the human race that comes in different colors.

  14. It is sad that a person who lamentably failed to enter the corridors of Unza because he did not pass the Cambridge Certificate Examination and ended up insteaded singing ‘patapata’ and telling dry jokes ‘about the man with the longest queue’ somehow then entered a University in America as a tag along and obtained a Phd….instead of researching on how graduates from Unza have excelled in the ivy league Universities without A levels …A league to which he does not belong he comes with the nonsense of ‘ I mean well believe me I mean well’ …more like a person saying ‘ With no disrespect’ when they mean the opposite. By the way has his reputation now been resorted? He huffed and puffed law suits…but hot air it was.

  15. Our education benchmarks should be based on innovation and economic output that our universities and graduates produce. It is true, we have to improve in many areas. However, understanding our long term needs and environment are key drivers that should inform our education and skills training we focus on. We all know that academic education is just starting position, it does not guarantee anything. The are lots of successful people without academic degrees including Bill W. Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg etc. My own observation is that, Africans are generally highly educated, but, they lack application of the knowledge they acquire. Most of them, end up spending all the time after graduation admiring their own work (if you know what I mean)

  16. Key distractions that Zambians should avoid include:
    – emotions and lack of focus in everything
    – prayer as a solution for addressing challenges
    – need for external validation
    Bottom line, UK, US or anyone can think and say whatever they want. What matters most is that we focus on self-development and address our needs. There is a place of everyone who wants to work.

  17. @Phiri emotions will never see Africa develop, you are like a Nigerian that screams at the top of his lungs when mistakenly served coffee and not tea on a plane. Last I checked, UK system uses English as a standard to vetting degrees. Go send your dissertation with your broken English to any UK University where the degrees are taught not in Swahili but English and we will see how much longer it will take for you to be awarded a degree. Try and defend it verbally at a presentation, in Swahili or whatever language and you will be failed on the spot and asked to go write an entry level exam for secondary school leavers on English as a Foreign Language. We are talking about the UK system ok, Mr “know it all”, not some other educational system…can that please get into your head?

  18. Australia has grade 12, and their degrees are three years. Those going for Masters do a honors degree then Masters.
    How come no one ever says their first degrees are inferior? Infact they boost that even UK degrees are inferior to theirs.
    You have to protect what is yours. And education should teach what is useful in your locality than to teach people Theoretical Mechanics just to look good to others. One size should not fit all

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