The University of Zambia Vice Chancellor Professor Luke Mumba says it will be difficult to enforce the squatting ban at the institution given the critical shortage of accommodation.

Speaking when he appeared on UNZA Radio’s Lusaka Star Program, Wednesday, Professor Mumba said squatting was inevitable.

“What has precipitated that decision by the minister is that clearly, the hostels that we have at the moment were meant to accommodate two students per room, so that gives us a total of bed spaces of 3, 860 but because of the high number of students; by the way, the number of students at the University of Zambia stands around 27,000 against the number of bed spaces of 3,860. So that has brought about a lot of pressure on the few rooms that we have and inevitably, students are having to squat, students are accommodating fellow students in those rooms,” Prof Mumba said.

“By the way, we do have regulations. Any student who is found accommodating an illegal student in the room they lose their room, both the squattee and the one who is accommodating the squatter are panelised, they both lose the room but there are also other disciplinary actions that are taken. But it’s something that has been a little difficult for us to enforce given the number of students that we have. So the minister has given us marching orders that we enforce our rules and regulations, we’ll be looking into this but I can assure you that it will not be an easy task given the few rooms that we have and the large number of students”

Prof Mumba suggested introduction of banker beds as a short term solution.

“This (squatting) is an issue that management is very much alive to, over the years, we know it’s happening but it’s just that we are saying, what is the solution. The lasting solution in our view is to accelerate the construction of those hostels but also for us as management to accelerate the construction of other hostels as I have highlighted earlier. Secondly, we are also looking at increasing bed spaces in the existing rooms by introducing banker beds so that officially instead of having two students in the room, we’ll have four students and at that point we’ll be able to effectively and strongly enforce the university regulations against squatting,” he said.

And Prof Mumba disclosed that UNZA was owing more than K2.5 billion debt in different forms.

“We put aside, in the 2017, budget K7million towards liquidating debt and paying employees on the waiting list and at the end of last year, it turned out that we paid out K9 million, K2million in excess of what we budgeted for. But the bigger picture is that the University of Zambia owes in excess of K2.5 billion debt in different forms; retirement benefits, gratuities, service providers. Some of this is statutory debts to ZRA, NAPSA, and Workers’ Compensation Fund. So we have been engaging government the whole of last year, in fact, a technical committee was set up to work out modalities on the liquidation of debt in three public universities. It is co-chaired by the ministry of finance and our ministry at the level of Permanent Secretary and we have been meeting, we have now put in place a roadmap on the liquidation of debt starting from this year. This has been made possible through an increment in budget support to these three universities,”
he said.

He said UNZA was currently not supporting research due to lack of funds.

“What you must look at is what the prerequisites are for one to conduct research? You need to create an enabling environment research to thrive. We don’t have necessary infrastructure, the labs are dilapidated. Research also involves funding. There is some minimal amount of research going on in the University, how is that conducted? It’s by people who have developed the skill to compete for grants from outside that’s how research is being conducted, otherwise as a university we are not able to support academic to conduct research. So it is about creating a necessary environment conducive for people to conduct research. If you are perpetually closed, there is unrest in the University, people are striking for salaries, and the environment is not just conducive,” said Prof Mumba.