Higher Education Minister Professor Nkandu Luo says if she had powers, she would have flushed out some University of Zambia and Copperbelt University lecturers because they are irresponsible.

And sources have revealed to News Diggers that government through the Ministry of Higher Education, is moving to abolish lecturers’ unions at all public learning institutions so that they can negotiate their conditions of service under the civil servants and allied workers union.

The PF government has already abolished the university students unions, on account that they were promoting unruly conduct among students.

Prof Luo was speaking when she officiated at the 10th Anniversary and 7th Graduation Ceremony for the Zambia Catholic University in Kalulushi over the weekend.

Prof Luo said lecturers were responsible for some of the problems the country was facing because they were teaching students unacceptable behaviour.

“Educated people behave in a particular manner and the vice-chancellor was very clear as he described an educated person and I would like lecturers from CBU and lecturers from UNZA who are supposed to model the future of this country by presiding over our students to listen to this speech. The reason why I asked for that speech, apart from sending it to my president who assigned me to come and preside over this, I would like these sentences to be repeated to our lecturers in these two universities. If our lecturers are the ones who are going to wear black shirts on a Friday and start demonstrating on the corridors of the university, what signal are they giving to the students that we have given them to preside over? And I can tell you that if I had single powers, some of these people would be history from our institutions,” Prof Luo said.

“They are responsible for some of the problems and challenges that we are facing in our country because for four years, our students are in the university, they learn to misbehave and also riot and when they get into our institutions, they don’t want to be on time for work, they also don’t want to give what they are supposed to give, they are the first ones to knock off because they were not given the correct grounding. How do you have a lecturer saying I am going to withhold results for the students, are they fit to teach in that institution? The answer is no, they are not fit to [to be there].”

She said government was unhappy about lecturers’ behaviour.

“So I want to cut a bit of your speech and send it as a circular to our lecturers to remind them that we did not employ them to go and destroy the fabric of our education in this country. The fabric of education in Zambia has been destroyed, not by the students but by our lecturers and our students are only following suit. That’s what the statement from the vice-chancellor said that the students do what they see, not what they hear and we have not been good examples. And I hope the vice-chancellor from Copperbelt University, who is in the audience will liaise with his colleague, the vice-chancellor of the University of Zambia, that government is very unhappy with the behaviour of your lecturers. How do you have a lecturer who goes on go-slow, illegally and stops teaching students and we as vice-chancellors and chancellors and council condone and still keep them in our institutions and pay a months’ salary to such people. We need to find a way to discipline our workers. Once we find the best way to discipline, we will remain with a core group in our institutions that will give it the glory that Copperbelt University and University of Zambia once enjoyed,” Prof Luo said.

She said there was no way unions could hold government at ransom.

“We cannot have unions holding us to ransom. No union has been given powers to misbehave. Unions have been given powers to preside on behalf of their colleagues and no union has been given power as an employee to fire another employee, there is no such thing in the unions statutes but these are the things that we are facing and I just hope your union, vice-chancellor of CBU will read the statement from the vice-chancellor from here because that is the message they need to be hearing every day,” said Prof Luo.

Meanwhile, a well-placed source at the University of Zambia revealed plans by the PF government to withdraw the recognition of UNZALARU and effectively abolish the union. The source, who is part of UNZA management and spoke on condition of anonymity, urged the minister to be above the two factions at UNZA.

“One of Prof Luo’s problems is that she’s too quick to judge. In situations of conflict, a leader must be slow to judge. They must exercise restraint, patience and listen to both parties before passing judgement. Take the case of the current standoff at UNZA as an example. Is it very difficult for the Minister to call both parties, sit them down and say ‘You people, what exactly is the problem? How may l help?’ That’s leadership, the ability to transcend the confines of partisanship, prejudice and pettiness. What we have seen instead is that last week, the Minister met one of the two warring parties in the form of management and subsequently decided that UNZALARU is the problem, even without hearing the other party. That’s not correct. I urge the Minister to meet lecturers directly or through their representatives and hear their concerns first-hand,” the source narrated to Diggers.

“I have heard of plans to withdraw the recognition agreement with UNZALARU, which would effectively herald the death of unionism at UNZA since the students’ union is already non-existent. Prof Luo may succeed in abolishing the lecturers and researchers’ Union, since all she needs is to direct a possibly pliant Labour Commissioner to do as she wants. But is that the legacy she wants to be remembered for, as the Minister under whose leadership the nearly 30-year old UNZALARU ceased to exist? I urge Prof Luo to reflect carefully on the rumoured plans to withdraw the recognition of UNZALARU. I also urge the Labour Commissioner to refuse to be used in these political schemes. He is too young to be associated with a lifetime burden: as the executioner of UNZALARU. The problems at UNZA are much bigger than the union and l urge Prof Luo to be careful with how she utilises her ministerial power. Let her show leadership, not power. I know that she personally does not want unions in universities but she must understand that running a Ministry is above personal wishes or preferences.”

The sources also said UNZA management had a leadership challenge.

She needs extra and independent sources of information pertaining what is happening here at UNZA. For instance, the current Vice-Chancellor, Prof Luke Mumba, is an excellent mind but his leadership style is problematic, has alienated him from many people within the university and explains some of the institution’s problems. He travels so regularly that he probably spends more time outside the office than within it in a given month. As a result, he hardly knows many of the institution’s immediate challenges and is removed from his settings. What’s worse is that he does not meet the other administrators such as Deans of Schools or Heads of Departments who are much closer to the academic staff and are in a position to share with him some of the concerns of their members for possible resolution before they find open expression,” said the cources.