Minister of Higher Education Professor Nkandu Luo says Copperbelt University will only be reopened when the institution secures high security systems that will prevent “hooligans” from destroying property.
Speaking at a press briefing this morning where she announced the indefinite closure of the institution, Prof Luo narrated that the fracas at CBU began on April Monday when some students protested against a university policy which bars those who fail continuous assessment from writing exams.
“They sent out a memo that ‘April 2 was going to be Black Monday’ and the reason was that there were students who had failed their continuous assessments and according to university standard practice, somebody who had failed continuous assessments cannot write an exam. So the leadership that has just been in for about a month now felt that they wanted to change the systems at the university and start allowing students that have failed their continuous assessments to start writing exams, now that is not international practice,” Prof Luo said.
“Before Monday came, the Vice-Chancellor engaged the students’ union and had a discussion with them and it was agreed that the exams would take place. Monday morning, exams did take place, by afternoon, whoever is behind pushing the union to do what they are doing must have called them and said “wait a minute, why have you allowed the examinations to go on? So they went ahead and blocked the students who wanted to write their exams. And this is a very small clique of students that is doing that. “
Prof Luo said she advised the VC to let the exams go on but students protested and destroyed property.
She said the next day, the same clique of students met President Edgar Lungu and apologised for breaking things.
“On Tuesday night, this clique of students met His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zambia and they went to apologise for what they had done and the president asked them one simple question that ‘when you break things like that, what do you expect to happen?’ they said ‘Your Excellency, because when we pay our fees, there’s money that we put in there for maintenance so we expect that that money will be used to repair…these have what I call wrapped thinking,” she said.
“It actually shows that we have certain people in our institutions that are not supposed to be university students.”
She said despite apologising to the Head of State, the students went ahead and destroyed more property the following day.
“Tuesday night they were apologising to the President. Wednesday night, they went in to break the Vice-Chancellor’s office, they broke the council office, they broke the Dean of Mines’ office, they broke the windows of the lecture theatre of the BELT environment and tampered with the academic office. Now just tell me whether in fact these boys and girls were genuine in going to a Head of State to apologise when they had something else boiling in their heads,” Prof Luo said.
She said she had decided to close CBU indefinitely because she had been pushed against the wall.
“Last night we got information that they were planning to go and burn the multipurpose hall. So I just want to say this morning that although it has not been my desire to close any university in Zambia, I have been pushed against the wall and I say this with a very heavy heart because majority of students who are innocent, who know why they are at Copperbelt University are going to suffer. But I have no choice this morning. I have decided to close Copperbelt University with immediate effect and indefinitely! I will not even talk about when it will be opened, we are closing it indefinitely!” Prof Luo exclaimed.
She said only the medical school and courses for international students were exempt from this decision.
“There’s only two areas that will not be affected, I will be unfair if I extended this to the medical school, the Michael Chilufya Medical School, it will remain running and the courses for international students will also remain running. But any other student leaves campus by 18:00 hours,” Prof Luo said.
She announced that she had banned the students’ union.
“I know there is a practice that when universities close, the union leaders remain on campus, I am banning the union for Copperbelt University with immediate effect so there will be no student, not even the union leaders will remain at the Copperbelt University. Everybody will leave the Copperbelt University. Students will only come back to the Copperbelt University when we have secured high security systems for the university. We cannot continue having more infrastructure destroyed by hooligans and that’s what I call whoever was involved in destroying property, they are hooligans to say the least,” said Prof Luo.
“And they will be surcharged. We will not use any government money to repair the infrastructure. The surcharge will go to students and secondly, I hope you will take disciplinary measures against those students that have been identified.”