The closure of Nkrumah University adds to an unfolding unfortunate tale about the state of tertiary education in Zambia. Nkrumah University was closed on Monday with students forced out of campus by the police as the institution grapples with the challenges of transition from a college to a university.
The two leading institutions the University of Zambia (UNZA) and the Copperbelt University (CBU) have remained closed longer than they should have. Both universities have been caught in the cholera outbreak that has hit the country with sanitation cited as the major reason the two institutions have remained closed. The better informed know better than the sanitation gibberish the nation has been fed with the issue of allowances at the core of the prolonged closure. Both universities have been closed from last year in November with first year students that were accepted languishing at home.
Higher Education minister professor Nkandu Luo has been less than enthusiastic to act on the problems that have be-dogged higher learning institutions partly because of a petty feud that she has with students on social media. Angered by their continued stay away from school the students have instigated an anti Luo crusade that has ridiculed the minister with caricatures of her in manly features flaunted on social media.
Prof Luo has not hidden her irritation with the man to man mantra that has made her a figure of fun. Otherwise the country’s education is bigger than sustaining revenge based on social media fights. The country can only show its seriousness with the future by the manner it treats education. It is not by accident that the Patriotic Front scored less votes at the University of Zambia polling station. It could have been a reflection of how low education may rank on their list of priorities.
They have to do more than just offer lip service to education. After all it is not a secret that there has been an issue about dried coffers that makes it difficult for government to pay students their meal allowances.
That could be the major issue around the delayed closure of the two top universities. It has not helped that politicians are not the best advocates of education beyond an election season. The prolonged closure has been glossed over by the leading political parties that are more preoccupied with matters of gets another chance to contest the 2021 elections.
We appeal to President Edgar Lungu to take personal interest in the prolonged closure of the universities as it is hurting the image of the government among those that seek knowledge unless they want to add more youth to the emerging culture of thuggery in politics.