Police have arrested 55 first year students from the Copperbelt University (CBU) who were protesting against government’s delay to pay their bursaries.
And Copperbelt Province Police Commissioner Charity Katanga has confirmed the arrest and said the students have since been charged with conduct likely to breach the peace.
Narrating the ordeal to News Diggers in an interview today, Copperbelt University Students Union (COBUSU) president Njikho Musuku said the students only wanted the District Commissioner to intervene in the matter before the 3rd November net registration deadline.
“Basically they were walking to the District Commissioner’s office, they wanted him to intervene on the matter since he is the head of government operations in the district. So they went there on their way, that is when they were apprehended because they assembled, they were actually 56 of them. The reason is they have not been given bursaries, they appealed to government and government said it would respond. Now there is that uncertainty in school because we have what we call net registration. Net registration comes to an end this week Friday, thereafter the University wont take any more students. So they wanted to know where their future lies. Thats the reason why they intended to go to the District Commissioner’s office,” Musuku said.
He said the students were worried about their fate in the institution regarding government sponsorship which they had been lobbying for since July this year.
“All the 56 have been picked by police and they have been distributed around police stations in Kitwe. So my comment is that the government should just respond in good time because they (students) really need to know their fate. Its not necessarily money but they need sponsorship. They need to be awarded that government sponsorship which we are trying to lobby for. At the moment I am by the District Commissioner’s Office, am just waiting for him to attend to me,” said Musuku, adding that more than 300 first year students were at the verge of being deregistered for failure to pay tuition fees.
And in a video sent to News Diggers! the student protesters complained that it was difficult for them to concentrate on their studies with the current state of affairs.
“We have failed to study knowing that we haven’t done our registrations, we don’t know what will happen to us after the 3rd of November. We don’t know what will become of us, we don’t know what our future is. We tried to concentrate in classes but without registrations, nothing. We came here knowing that the government will look into our issue as early as possible but we have been in school for three months, three solid months without anything, without any response, no direction on what will happen to us. We don’t know where we are going,” cried the students.
“We have tried to comfort ourselves brothers and sisters but still we don’t know what’s next. We are pleading with His Excellency Edgar Chagwa Lungu to look upon us as vulnerable children, we don’t know what’s next for us. Please Madam Esther Lungu, as you can see here, majority are ladies, without BC, they don’t know what their future will be after the 3rd of November. We are the future leaders, please we are pleading with you, please look into our issue before the 3rd of November.”
But Katanga who confirmed the incident warned that police would not take lightly those that deliberately did not want to abide by the provisions of the law.
“They are 55, 11 females and 44 males all first year students who were protesting heading towards the DC’s Office where they came with placards over delayed meals and accommodation allowances. They were intercepted by police at Mukuba mall around 10:00 hours. They have been charged with conduct likely to cause breach of peace. And I wish to once again warn the protesters, let them abide by the law, simple. You don’t just wake-up and start-up something, its to notify the police of their intended protests, so everything needs to be done within the law,” said Katanga.