Minister of Higher Education Prof Nkandu Luo has complained that lecturers at public universities are no longer paying attention to their work because of moonlighting at private institutions.

And Prof Luo says government will no longer close down universities due to riots, but will instead take stern measures against students involved.

Speaking in Parliament, Tuesday, Prof Luo observed that due to the introduction of private sector-run universities, staff in public universities had stopped research because of moonlighting.

“In many statements, I have actually said that we are trying to re-energize the universities to play the role that they are supposed to play. That is of quality teaching, research, innovation and participation in technology. What has happened in Zambia is very sad. Due to the introduction of the private sector, our staff in the universities have actually stopped research because of moonlighting. When they report for duty at eight o’ clock to teach, they will teach from eight to nine; between nine and ten, they are cross-country to Open University to go and teach. The next time, they are on their way to UNILUS to go and teach,” Prof Luo disclosed.

She announced she would compel universities to start displaying qualifications for all lecturers to encourage them to push for academic excellence.

“This is why I announced recently that from now onwards, for every university to function as a private university, they would have to put at the entrance of their university pictures and qualifications of the full-time staff and they must constitute 75 per cent. That is in our policy statement under the Ministry. That way, our staff in the public universities will pay attention to their work, they will also participate in research and will also take a lot of time in looking at innovation and so on,” she said.

And Prof Luo said government would no longer close down universities due to riots but would take stern measures against the students involved.

“I will not close any university because of riots. However, we shall punish every student who has been found in riots, organising riots or even attending a meeting to plan a riot. We shall take very stern measures. We need our universities to be celebrated as centres of intelligentsia. They are not centre for political activities. So let me warn everybody who is organising riots that be ready to have cronies that you organise to go and do riots to be removed from the institutions of higher learning,” Prof Luo said.

Meanwhile, Prof Luo, who is also Munali PF member of parliament, reiterated that Copperbelt University’s performance was better than the University of Zambia’s performance despite African university ratings showing otherwise.

Responding to a question from Kabwe Central PF member of parliament Tutwa Ngulube, who wanted to find out the ratings of Zambia’s universities at African and global levels, Tuesday, Prof Luo highlighted the ratings for CBU and UNZA, but could not provide for other universities as they had not yet been ranked.

“The ratings for the University of Zambia in 2015 in Africa was 57, the world-over was 3,492. In 2016, in Africa was 55, the world-over was 2,630. In 2017, in Africa was 60, the world-over was 2,598. For the Copperbelt University; in 2015, in Africa, it stood at 265, the world-over was 8,615. In 2016, it stood at 239 in Africa and the world-over it was at 8,174. In 2017, in Africa was 190, the world-over was 5,462. The university rankings for UNZA and CBU were based on data from webometric. The ranking for 2018 will be done in July,” Prof Luo responded.

“For Kwame Nkrumah University, Mulungushi University, have not yet been ranked as they are relatively new. For Chalimbana University, it is also in the process of being operationalized, therefore, the institution has not yet been ranked.”

Prof Luo said the rankings were based on research output.

“For example, at UNZA, the laboratory was used to research on the Ebola virus. Rankings are done by different agencies. When you look at the rankings, you look for the impact and academic excellence. In this case, one of the important factors of academia is actually teaching and research,” she narrated.

And when Senanga Central UPND member of parliament Mukumbuta Mulowa wondered what CBU could do to improve its ratings, Prof Luo said she was of the view that CBU was actually performing better than UNZA.

“If you do a very quick analysis of the figures that I have presented to you, there’s been a lot of improvement on the rating CBU. In fact, CBU has been improving! And I think in my own statements in this House, I have actually said that CBU’s performance is actually much better than the University of Zambia. I have actually made that statement. My worry is the University of Zambia because remember, the University of Zambia was established much earlier than the Copperbelt University. Really, by now, UNZA should really be performing much better,” observed Prof Luo.