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UNZA students riot over lecturers’ go slowBy Thomas Mulenga on 29 May 2017
University of Zambia students last night exchanged stones and teargas with police officers who tried to stop their violent protest on the Great East Road, over the on-going lecturers’ go-slow, delayed payments of project and accommodation allowances.
The students who have not been attending classes for the past one week blocked the Great East Road, burnt tyres and sang songs denouncing the PF government and the university management for failing to resolve the standoff with their lecturers.
Some students talked to said it was costly for them to continue living on campus without accommodation and project allowances when lecturers were not conducting classes.
“Exams are around the corner and management knows that this is the period when lecturers demand their dues. So it is unacceptable that every time before exams we should go through this go-slow which will affect our results,” said one of the protesting students.
“We are also demanding that our project and accommodation allowance are paid immediately. This is money which is already budgeted for, so we don’t understand why we have to protest to get it.”
But riot police stepped in around 22:30 hours and chased the rioting students from the Great East Road. The officers followed the students inside the campus and stormed the girls’ hostels where they fired teargas to choke and keep everybody indoors.
By around 01:00 hours, police were still roaming the university premises and manhandling students, but it was not clear if any arrests were made.
Around May 20, UNZA lecturers started their go-slow following the non-payment of contractual obligations, which they said had been accumulating since 2010.
The decision was arrived at a meeting which was held by the University of Zambia Lecturers and and Researchers Union (UNZALARU) membership.
“This decision has been arrived at due to non-payment of contractual obligations. Staff and former staff are being owed their entitlements since December 2010 when their contracts ended or when they retired. Some of the members of staff are now serving their third contracts before getting their gratuities or pension,” said UNZALARU Publicity Secretary Moffat Moyo.
“The union demands that before members can resume their duties, management should provide a clear road map on the dismantling of the debt. It is further demanded here that the payment of these entitlements has to begin with immediate effect.
Earlier on May 10, students staged a daylight protest after UNZA management ordered that students who had not yet paid tuition fees would not be allowed to sit for their examinations.
The students burnt tyres at the higher learning institution, demanding that management allows them to sit for exams.
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But UNZA Vice Chancellor professor Luke Mumba said poor students must sort out their scholarship problems before going to university because the institution needed money to pay salaries.
“Government is giving us for the GRZ sponsored students, it is giving us the grant which is K13 million to make it K24 million. To run this place we need K38 million every month to pay salaries and running costs. So we have to find the other K14 million. Our budget is run in such a way that students must pay. So it’s not a question of not being pro-poor, it’s a question of reality,” said Professor Mumba.
“Even in primary school or kindergarten, people don’t just go because they are poor and say let me attend, no! It doesn’t happen like that. Those who are poor have to come to university through a scholarship or someone supporting them, if they are not able to do that, unfortunately they cannot attend university because it has to be paid for.”
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About Thomas Mulenga
Thomas Mulenga is a fourth year Media Studies student at the University of Zambia. He is also a presenter for UNZA Radio's Lusaka Star programme which focuses on politics and current affairs.
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