Copperbelt University (CBU) students yesterday fought running battles with the police during protests instigated by the continued strike of unpaid lecturers.
CBU lecturers, along with those from the University of Zambia (UNZA), have been demanding for their delayed February salaries and have vowed not to resume work until their dues are settled.
The Ministry of General Education has repeatedly denied responsibility for the impasse, saying it is still waiting for money from the Ministry of Finance to fund public universities.
This situation has forced lecturers to conduct continued protests and demonstrations within the precincts of the two institutions in Lusaka and Kitwe.
But students from CBU took to the streets yesterday, burning tyres and blocking motorists, as they attempted to reinforce the demands by their lectures.
Earlier in the morning, lecturers and other support staff performed protest songs and dances at the university before their union leader addressed them.
“As we speak now, the protests continue because people have not been paid and we don’t work for assurances! People have waited for long and we can’t continue to wait for assurances! Today is 25th [March] and nothing is coming. How long are we going to wait? A day after tomorrow is a new month and we want our March salaries as well now. So, we demand that we get paid both salaries for February and March before we go for work!” Copperbelt University Academics Unions and Allied Workers president Dr Derrick Ntalasha demanded.
“Otherwise these protests will not stop! If government has not done anything about it, this place will come to a standstill. People are protesting and do not want any of this nonsense of saying ‘there is no money.’ If money for by-elections has been raised, we should also have money for education.”
He condemned the Ministry of Higher Education for failing to deliver on the lecturers’ demands.
“The Minister of Higher Education is telling us that we are being political, we can’t be political if people are not paid. Salaries are a right and people need to be paid their dues. We have been getting assurances all this month. We just want the money, no assurance will stop the protest,” warned Dr Ntalasha.
As soon as the lectures winded up their protests, students took over and escalated the demonstration into a riot as they besieged Jambo Drive, blocking motorists while shouting anti-government slogans.
The students marched in numbers and blocked the main entrance to the university with burning tyres and logs, while others pelted objects.
Moments later, police arrived in full riot gear, charged at the enraged students, while discharging teargas canisters.
The tear smoke, however, had no effect on the rainy morning, prompting students to push back on the law enforcers, as the two groups engaged in a full-scale running battle the whole morning.
Students who spoke on condition of anonymity said they had resolved to join in on the demands by their lecturers, saying the predicament was affecting their academic calendar.
“We are not going to sit here and do nothing. The delayed salaries to lecturers are affecting us in the process because we are not learning. So, we have resolved that we will also start rioting now until our lecturers can be paid their money. This situation cannot continue like this. So, they should know that there will be protests by lecturers and protests by the students, until the money is paid!” said one of the students in a separate interview, Monday.