Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) Spokesperson Antonio Mwanza says however backward riots could be, they are the most effective ways for students to air their grievances.
Featuring on UNZA Radio’s Lusaka Star programme yesterday, Mwanza said riots had brought about change at the University of Zambia.
“If government had listened to the students through those meetings that they have at the University Council, the meetings they have with the Senate and the Ministry of Education, would the students have gone to the road side? The answer is no. The problem that we have here is that the government is failing to do its part and then the students realise that there is no one listening to them, there is no one attending to their problems so they end up going to the roadside and that is how we have vivas, unfortunately; backward and as uncivilized as demonstrations might be looked upon, they are the only things that have brought changes here at the University of Zambia, very shamefully, that’s the only thing that works here, I have been here [at UNZA] for 12 years and I know how the University operates,” Mwanza, a former UNZASU president said.
Mwanza however urged students to re-think the way they conducted demonstrations because they risked losing public sympathy due to damage to public property.
“When the students union was raising this issue with government, the Minister was quiet. When the lecturers were raising this issue with management and government, they were all quiet but when they went for go-slow, the government started talking. When the students went to the road side, the government starts acting. The government must do its responsibility and their responsibility is to ensure that they do the statutory obligations that they have because there is no student who goes to the University of Zambia or any other just to be going to the roadside to protest, every student here wants to learn and all I can say to my fellow comrades the monks, the momas and all the divers at this University is that Please, we need to re-think the way we are doing demonstrations because when we destroy property then that works against us and that way you lose public opinion and support of the people when you go and disturb other motorists then you lose the face of our community,” he said.
And Mwanza said the suspension of UNZASU by Minister of Higher Education Professor Nkandu Luo was a clear demonstration that she did not understand her role.
“It’s very clear that the Professor [Nkandu Luo) doesn’t understand what her role is, that’s why she went on to suspend UNZASU and this is what happens when you don’t understand your role as a Cabinet Minister. The University of Zambia Students Union was established by an Act of Parliament, it cannot just be suspended by word of mouth. It is established by an Act of Parliament and there are rules and guidelines governing the activities of Union and what I believe in myself, having served as University of Zambia Students Union president is that UNZASU is instrumental in reading the mood of students and directing them in the rightful way. And when you suspend the operations of the students union then you are simply suggesting a way of running things where every jim and jack can direct students to go to the road side and do the damage that they do, which I am not even proud of,” Mwanza said.
Mwanza also said UNZA needed managers who thought outside the box.
“The management at the University of Zambia has to change, we cannot have hardcore academicians running the university. I think we need managers, we need administrators who can think outside the box. We also need a government that understands that it is their responsibility to educate the nation and they need to realign their budget because the allocation being given to education is very minimal and education is very broad,” said Mwanza.