LEARNING at the Copperbelt University (CBU) has been disrupted after lecturers at the institution downed tools, Monday afternoon, demanding payment of their delayed February salaries.
Copperbelt University Academics Union (CBUAU) general secretary Willie Ngosa confirmed this to News Diggers! saying lecturing had ceased because lecturers had no means of getting to work.
Ngosa stressed that lecturers would not return to work until their salaries were settled, and they they would not allow government’s habit of failing to pay its workers on time become a norm because it was unacceptable.
“What led to the disruption of classes yesterday (Monday) is that we were doing what is provided for under the law, which is picketing. Picketing is allowed where, as members as you are protesting, you peacefully ask people to join in and also just ensure that you are together. So, that is basically what happened yesterday. We held a general meeting where we resolved to go around classes and fish out all those that were not with us. This is because the delays in paying salaries has become like a norm with our government. But we cannot accept that anymore! The politicians, themselves, got their February salaries on time, but ourselves we haven’t received our salaries and this is 18th of March and government has kept on telling us to be calm. But how can we remain calm when we have not been paid? It’s like a parent who sits and eats their meal and when the children cry for a meal they say, ‘just be calm’, and then you are being irresponsible as a parent,” Ngosa complained.
“So, we are not going to accept this to become a norm. People go to school so that they can get a decent life after education. But to come and turn higher education academics into a laughing stock is unacceptable because, now, we even see memos where they are saying: ‘CBU employees stay away from rentals,’ if you want to go and look for a house and you are from CBU, forget it! But is that the way we want our lecturers to be treated? We want a situation where if I encourage a young man to concentrate on studies, they must see the value of education, not in the current state. Right now, if you encourage young people to get educated, they will just tell you: ‘get educated so that I don’t get paid like you?’ Because now its even better for people not to go to school as things are being portrayed because they are looking at what is happening; those that are not educated are living better lives! So, it’s like it’s better for someone to just be a thug and enjoy life, instead of going to school. That is not a society that we need to create.”
Ngosa insisted that lecturers would not accept government’s failure to pay salaries.
“All economies that have developed have developed because they have invested in education and for us, we want to take education as an investment. So, we shall continue protesting as members of staff here at CBU because this is unacceptable! This is not even an issue of go-slow. The thing is that our members have got no means of going for work. In fact, the salary component comes with transport allowance. So, if people cannot buy fuel, how do they get to work? Do they expect people to put water in their cars to go for work? Not at all. So, our members have been forced not to go for work due to circumstances. The really enjoy their work, but under the circumstances, they have no means. And we cannot accept this thing. It’s immoral and unacceptable,” he said.
“The students are not learning because the lecturers have got no means of going for work. People are stuck; we have got people, who come from Chingola, Kalulushi, Ndola… but they are unable to drive now. Even just taking their children to school, they not able to take their own children to school! So, children are just at home. So, if they cannot even take their own children to school, how, then, do they come to CBU and teach? It can’t happen. If they want people to come to for work, let them pay people their salaries.”
Meanwhile, Ngosa regretted that government’s failure to pay workers on time was putting the lecturers in perpetual debts.
“This is affecting us because, now, our members are getting double deductions from the bank. Those who’ve got loans, for example, the deductions that were done when we got our salaries for January, they hammered for January and February. So, if the bank is getting a K6,000 deduction from someone, you have a K12,000 going and you remain with nothing! In the end, you begin to borrow again. But is this the kind of life that we want to expose our workers to, where they are just borrowing in perpetual debt? It’s unacceptable! We need to give dignity to education. So, for us, we are only going back for work once our salaries are settled because we have no means of going to work,” insisted Ngosa.