University of Zambia Lecturers and Researchers Union (UNZALARU) president Dr Evans Lampi says there is lack of leadership in the Patriotic Front government when it comes to addressing challenges facing the institution.

And UNZALARU general secretary Dr Kelvin Mambwe says it is unfair to say that lecturers’ salaries are too high when some members of parliament with Grade 12 certificates get paid more.

The duo were speaking when they featured on Hot FM’s ‘Frank on Hot’, Tuesday.

“We have met the Minister of Higher Education on many occasions, [but] what we get is continuous promises! For instance, three weeks ago, she was on ZNBC saying that ‘we are about to release funds for gratuities,’ which have not been paid eight years back! We have had meetings with her where even the Chancellor was there, but we are finding it strange that we go to meetings with people who were at some point at UNZA sometimes and we are not getting a feeling that there is an urgency to solve the problems at the institution. There is a lack of leadership on this front. We can’t have every time ‘the problem is UNZA’,” said Dr Lampi.

“The Union has a very singular type of mandate; it’s basically to fight for workers’ rights. So, we will not comment on any issue in the nation, but if the issue concerns the welfare of workers, especially at the University of Zambia; we will ask the workers to go through us as opposed to just making a comment on their own. So, it’s part of the service. The university is really built on three things: it’s producing skilled manpower, that’s teaching; then, research. Research can have two effects, one is to solve national issues and some of them is just general research; then the third is public service. So, public service is when you find lecturers, for example, being involved in several things [and] some of them include vocation.”

And Dr Mambwe argued that it was unfair to say that lecturers’ salaries were too high when some members of parliament with mere Grade 12 certificates got paid more.

“[To say that] our salaries are too high, that’s not true! I don’t want to mention figures…K15,000, K17,000 for a PhD holder; can that be high? That’s unbelievable! I can’t get that [less] money if I went to South Africa or Botswana or Namibia here or in the US, I think it will be triple that! So, to say that our salaries are very high and unsustainable, that’s a very unfair comment. The University of Zambia has highly trained individuals with very high, the highest qualifications that you can obtain anywhere in the world, they are found at the University of Zambia, they are held by our members. And so to say that we are getting a lot of money, I think that that’s a very unfair statement coming from the Minister (Luo). In fact, some of these guys that sit in Parliament are just grade 12s, [but] are getting higher salaries than a lecturer who is very highly trained!” Dr Mambwe argued.

He said despite the challenges which UNZA was facing, lecturers were involved in serious research, with help from international organizations.

“There is a lot being done at the University of Zambia even amidst the situation where we are financially constrained. I think there are a number of collaborations that our members are engaged in with other partner universities abroad. So, for example, in public health, there is serious research going on there; in Population Studies in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, there is also serious research going on; in Veterinary Medicine…In fact, I should mention here that Veterinary School of Medicine was ranked number one in Africa in terms of research, and we have Educational Research happening. So, there is a lot happening at the University of Zambia, except that whatever is happening there is usually sponsored by foreign entities, which shouldn’t be the case. Of course, there should be a position coming from abroad, but the large portion should be sponsored by government! Government should make available research funds from which our members can draw and do serious research,” he observed.

And Dr Mambwe advised Prof Luo to stop being antagonistic and desist from imposing conditions and policies that were in bad faith because that will not resolve UNZA’s troubles.

He said the Minister should not expect lecturers to start rearing chickens in lecture theatres as a means of generating revenue because their profession was to teach.

“We are doing enough. University of Zambia lecturers are employed to teach and we are teaching. We are producing graduates every year and that’s the business that we are employed for. They don’t have to expect us to start rearing chickens in our lecture theatres; we will be running away from the core business or the core function of the university. Our function is to teach and generate knowledge and that we are doing. So, going forward, I think our Minister should stop being antagonistic! Let us sit down with her and other technocrats that are interested and other stakeholders that are interested in the welfare of the University of Zambia in order to find a lasting solution to this university. Imposing conditions, imposing policies that are not in good faith will not resolve issues at the University of Zambia. So, going forward, we need to dialogue,” said Dr Mambwe.