UPND deputy spokesperson Patricia Mwashingwele says Hakainde Hichilema’s government will reintroduce full bursaries for all needy students in higher learning public institutions.

In the UPND news letter to News Diggers! Mwashingwele noted that the current conditions in Zambia especially the state of higher education had nothing to write home about.

She stated that the UPND government would deliver a better Zambia and would reintroduce full bursaries for all needy students in public higher learning institutions.

“A better Zambia is possible and UPND will deliver that better Zambia. A UPND Government will radically change the manner in which higher education is managed. Like we have consistently observed, education is the best equaliser in life and we pledge to ensure that it continues to play this important role through: (i) Resumption of adequate and timely funding for our Public Universities and ensuring greater operational autonomy,” she stated.

“(ii) Reintroducing full bursaries for all needy students in all public institutions of higher learning. (iii) While acknowledging the importance of University education, we shall revamp and modernise vocational and trades training institutions, which will produce the needed skills for industries. (iv) Ensure prudent implementation of projects, including Universities and vocational and trades skill centres through project appraisal.”

She added that the principal reason for non-ending problems in Universities was because government was not adequately funding the institutions.

“Unfortunately, our current conditions and especially the state of higher education is nothing to write home about. The whole country is aware of the financial and operational woes besetting our institutions of higher learning. The principal reason for the non-ending problems at our Universities is basically that Government is not adequately funding the institutions, which struggle with shoe-string budgets, year in year out,” she stated.

“The PF government has lamentably failed to adequately fund the two public Universities (UNZA and CBU), and hence the perennial financial problems that have affected the two institutions. Although the difficulties facing our Institutions of higher learning precede the current Government, the PF chipante pante way of doing things has compounded the situation.”

Mwashingwele observed that CBU and UNZA were being forced to raise their own operational costs, with government only supplementing.

“A common question that people often ask is why new Private Universities seem to be running better than UNZA and CBU. This comparison is as misplaced and patently wrong! Both the CBU and UNZA are public universities, meaning they are supposed to be funded 100 percent by the government, as indeed is the practice with other Universities in the region. While private Universities charge fees that reflect costs, the government dictates what fees UNZA and CBU can charge,” she stated.

“The nation should know that the Universities actually raise the bulk of money used for operational costs, with government supplementing. Unfortunately, almost the whole budget is spent on operational costs and hardly any remains for capital costs, which explain the dilapidated state of infrastructure at public universities.”

She charged that at the rate at which the PF ‘chipatepante’ government had mismanaged higher education in the country, Zambia risked becoming even more uncompetitive.

“When they assumed power, the PF government woke up one day and, against all logic, proclaimed a strange policy of constructing Universities in all the provinces. In Lusaka, construction of Chalimbana and Palabana, was also commenced. The PF had inherited a fairly healthy treasury, which allowed them to go on a thoughtless construction expedition. With time, however, they ran out of money before these projects could be completed. Not only have they failed to complete these projects, the Chipantepante government also did not think through how and where they were going to get Lecturers for the new Universities. Being used to short cuts, and afraid of deep thought, the Chipantepante group simply damped the running of new Universities on already outstretched UNZA and CBU!” stated Mwashingwele.

“It is clear that higher education has been mismanaged in the country, and at this rate, the country risks becoming even more uncompetitive, at the very time when other countries, such as Rwanda are radically changing their countries through quality higher education. While our neighbours desire and dream to go far, we seem to be content with mediocrity. While our neighbours are investing in the education of their youth, we seem to be content with maintaining our youth’s helplessness and just use them as political tools! This is not right and it must be stopped!”