Zambia National Students Union (ZANASU) president Joseph Busenga says in order to avoid perpetual strikes at institutions of higher learning, government must own up and find real financial solutions to the problems affecting universities.
On Monday, the Ministry of Finance released a breakdown of budgetary allocations to various sectors in January, and highlighted that public universities received a total of K92 million.
The statement which was released by Ministry of Finance spokesperson Chileshe Kandeta stated that the University of Zambia received K33.4 million, Copperbelt University K38.3 million while Mulungushi University received a total of K2.4 million.
But Busenga said K92 million that was allocated to the three public universities was not adequate to solve all the problems that the learning institutions were facing.
“If we were to single out just the University of Zambia itself, it is so far owing K2.5 million that ought to be paid to the lecturers and it has become a matter of public knowledge that last January, lecturers were not paid their dues and there are also some students both on the Copperbelt University and the University of Zambia who have not yet received their allowances, every one knows that. So this K92 million is not enough. Worse off, at the university of Zambia where K33.4 million has been allocated, there are a lot of things to be done; a lot of money needs to be channeled towards the research department. Like I said much earlier that there is no education that will be rated well in Africa or in the globe if the research department is not doing well. And that is what we have seen at the University of Zambia, research is dead,” he observed.
“So to avoid any demonstrations from the students, or to avoid any go-slow from the lecturers, I think it is imperative that the Ministry of Finance together with the Ministry of Higher Education who I normally refer to the Minister of CBU and UNZA because she is more interested in these two learning institutions, should find something substantial so that there is more money that is pumped in higher learning institutions.”
He wondered why Prof Nkandu Luo wanted universities to avoid operating like businesses while expecting tuition fees from students.
“I would love to quote Nkandu Luo herself, she said ‘learning institutions should not become a business venture’ that means that management of those particular learning institutions should not overcharge students in terms of tuition fees and accommodation fees. So if that is the case, then these institutions depend on grants from government after all they are public institutions that are there to provide a service and not to make a profit,” Busenga said.
“I feel there is more that can be done, especially that government has proven to the students and the people of Zambia beyond reasonable doubt that they have money to buy fire trucks, they have money to buy ambulances, they have money to spend on the fight against cholera in an extravagant manner. So far K99 million was spent just on vaccine to over 4,000 Zambian people, just vaccines and yet at the University of Zambia alone, there are 27, 000 students. I want to assume that the population of UNZA, CBU and Mulungushi supersedes numbers that were given vaccines to avoid cholera. K99 million has been spent, yet companies, other countries and donors were so generous to donate a lot of things.”
He said K92 million funding to three universities was a joke.
“So K92 million is a serious joke. Even if that was allocated just for a month, still that is a joke. And previously, in only a month just to consult the people of Zambia whether we must move from the ICC or not, we spent K2 million. Just for consultation and according to the auditor general’s report, in the education sector alone, 28 percent of the budget that was allocated to the sector went into personal allowances,” said Busenga.
“For them, they want to do things that are of their desire not things that can benefit the people of Zambia. So any one who is going to rise and say ‘no we don’t have money’ shame upon them because it has been proven, it has been made clear. You don’t need to be an educated mind, all you need is to be a person that resides in Zambia to understand that government has a lot of money which is not being well spent.”