Minister of Higher Education Professor Nkandu Luo has announced that universities will open as soon as the senate adjusts their academic calendars saying she has given them 10 to 14 days to do so.

And Minister of General Education David Mabumba has directed that all government, community and private schools which had remained closed due to the cholera outbreak should reopen on March 5.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Chitalu Chilufya has assured Zambians that the fight against cholera has almost been won, with only 14 new cases recorded in Lusaka as of yesterday.

Speaking at a joint briefing yesterday, Prof Luo announced that the universities would remain closed until the academic calendars were revised.

“I want to announce that with the progress that has been recorded and the assurance that I have had from the management of the universities, I wish to announce that the University of Zambia and the Copperbelt University will open in the shortest possible time. This is because management is going to ask senate to sit and adjust and compensate for the days that have been lost so that we don’t have extension of the learning time. So senate will have to sit and ensure that they compensate for the time. At that point, the management will communicate to the students when they should report on campus. I’m therefore directing the management of the two universities to convince senate this week, or at the most, early next week so that they adjust the learning dates so that students are back on campus in the next 10 days or so. The universities will open as soon as the senate adjusts the learning days. I’m only giving them 10 to 14 days to do that so that the students can be back on campus,” Prof Luo said.

“My ministry has been under a lot of pressure by both the students and the lecturers to have the universities opened. Usually, in places where you find too many people at one time, are closed for fear of the spread of the infection. This is the reason why, through our Chair, the Minister of Health, it was decided that the universities remain closed. At the time that we decided to keep the universities closed, there has been a lot of activity that has been taking place in the universities. As Minister of Higher Education I visited our institutions of higher learning and I agreed with the Minister of Health’s decision that we leave the universities closed. We have been carrying out inspections at these institutions. The first inspections was done on the 2nd and 3rd of January at UNZA, we inspected Nkwame Nkrumah on the 12th of January, we inspected UNZA once again on the 26th January, 2018 and Mulungushi on the 8th of February. Clearly, it was not possible to open those institution.”

Prof Luo said the Ministry of Finance released K5.8 million to help improve access to clean water and sanitation at the learning institutions.

“Through this ministry, we managed to persuade Ministry of Finance to give us extra money to help improve access to clean water and sanitation in our institutions. We were given K5.8 million which was distributed as follows; K2 million was given to UNZA, K1.8 million to CBU and K1.2 million to Mulungushi University. Since then we have had a lot of work that has been going on at the institutions. The University of Zambia management has assured me that these works that have been done are critical to the reopening of the institution and they will continue all the works. I have [also] been assured that 95 percent of the works have been completed at the Copperbelt University,” she said.

Prof Luo said she was prepared to put her head on the chopping board to ensure that institutions did correct things.

“When I was talking about not going back to our old habits, I mean business. At the risk of being hated by the university staff, we have to do the right things. I’m aware that I’m the most unpopular minister at moment because I’m trying to correct things. But I’m prepared to put my head on the chopping board to ensure that we do that which is right,” she said.

Prof Luo also expressed worry over falsehoods being spread of social media.

“There’s been a lot of social media reports all of which have been telling lies about what’s happening at the university and when the universities will open. I just want to say to the public that social media in Zambia has come to destroy and not to build. If we are not careful as people, we are going to land ourselves into deep trouble. Just yesterday or the day before yesterday , the News Diggers reported that Munali constituency had been nullified and it went viral on the media and so on. I think this is not healthy for our country. I think we need to do something about it because we have the responsibility as the people of Zambia especially us the adults to protect our children that are coming in future. I’m very worried about the rate of lying that is going on in this country. Its become part of the fabric of the Zambian nation and we are indeed abusing the social media and I think this is not good. As a country we need to rise and do something about the social media and the lying that is going around,” said Prof Luo.

And Mabumba directed all schools which had remained closed due to the cholera epidemic to reopen.

“Following positive results from the multi-sectoral response to the fight against the cholera epidemic in the country, the Ministry of General Education would like to inform the nation that all schools under the ministry are being directed to open with effect from 5th March, 2018. Under the Ministry of General Education, there are 12 government schools that have remained closed. We have got approximately about 49 private and community schools that have been reported closed as well. Given the amount of work that has been done, I’m directing all the 12 schools from government and all the 49 community and private schools to open,” said Mabumba.

He announced that schools which opened late were likely to close late to compensate for the lost time.

Mabumba encouraged school authorities to continue carrying out interventions meant to support health and hygiene in schools.

Meanwhile, Dr Chilufya said the ministry was on the verge of containing the cholera epidemic.

“We can confidently state that we are on the verge of containing cholera. To this effect we have started easing restrictions on the various sectors. As at today, February 28, 2018, Lusaka district has recorded 14 new cases of cholera in the last 24 hours. Three are children and 11 are adults. Of these, five reported to Heroes cholera hospital, three to Chipata cholera treatment units, two to Matero and four to Chawama. No deaths are recorded in the last 24 hours. We have 24 patients who are being treated in our various treatment centers, six children and 18 adults,” said Dr Chilufya.

“From outside Lusaka, we recorded three cases. Two are from Kafue and one from Shibuyunji, particularly the illegal fishing camps. No deaths were recorded in the last 24 hours from these districts outside Lusaka. Outside Lusaka we have six cases under treatment in the various units.Cumulatively we have recorded 4,388 cases. We had a total of 89 deaths. We successfully treated and discharged 4,299 cases. My assurance to the nation again is that the cholera epidemic is averting. We should be just about the end.”