University of Zambia Lecturers and Researchers’ Union president Dr Evans Lampi says government’s the prolonged closure of the institution suggests that public coffers are seriously contaminated with empty shelves.

Speaking at when he addressed a press conference in Lusaka, Wednesday, Dr Lampi said governments changing justifications for keeping UNZA closed gave credence to suggestions that government coffers were dry.

“As UNZALARU, we are left to wonder if there is more to the continued closure of UNZA that what the meets the eye. It is our considered position that the response of the government towards UNZA’s plight reflects a number of important points. First, it suggests that it is probably the public coffers that may be seriously contaminated with empty shelves, not the UNZA waters. The changing justifications for the prolonged closure of the university, ranging from student loans, cholera, squatting and poor sanitation to dilapidated infrastructure reinforce this possibility. What keeps on changing is the excuse behind the closure of UNZA, not the closed status of the institution. We will not be surprised if the government will discover or invent another excuse to prolong the closure of the institution this month end or even before it,” Dr Lampi said.

He said UNZA had been neglected for too long.

“The deteriorating physical infrastructure at UNZA shows the lack of regular and effective maintenance of the institution’s structures. There are many universities across the world with much older infrastructure that however remains strong to this day. What has kept such buildings intact is periodic and effective infrastructure maintenance. Rather than reminding us that UNZA is now 50 years, the government would do well the maintenance of the existing physical infrastructure by increasing funding allocated to university education for maintenance issues and for new infrastructure construction. The current deplorable state of the university is sad indictment on the government and demonstrates the present administration’s general neglect of higher education,” he said.

“We urge those in government today including President Edgar Lungu who is a graduate of the university to remember that UNZA is the institution that provided the foundational basis of some of the privileges they enjoy today, such as a decent education-a privilege that is increasingly no longer open to younger generations of Zambians. We further urge our leaders in government to imagine or see the longer-term consequences of their poor decisions today.”

He asked government to reopen the institution and prioritise expenditure.

“We call on the government to prioritise their expenditure. Does it really make sense to embark on the construction of new public universities when the existing educational institutions are collapsing from the debilitating weight of debt and chronic underfunding? For instance we are told the government has secured nearly $150 million for the construction of a university in Luapula. While investment in new institutions of learning is commendable, priority should be accorded to the existing public university. We call upon government to reopen the university as soon as possible. The continued closure of UNZA has adverse effects on the career development of both students and staff and will greatly undermine the international reputation and ranking of our oldest and most prestigious institution of higher learning. We call upon President Lungu to show leadership by taking personal interest in this matter, given that he is an alumnus of UNZA,” said Dr Lampi.