Higher Education Minister Professor Nkandu Luo says there is need to depoliticize universities in the country and make them reclaim their status of being institutions for intellectuals to share, acquire knowledge and skills.
And Prof Luo says she does not care about those disparaging her over the state of higher learning institutions, boasting that she would not have been a Professor if she was as foolish as people claim she is.
Meanwhile, Prof Luo says her ministry is investigating the reasons behind the “unruly behaviour Coperbelt University students” because she believes they are being sponsored by some unknown groups of people.
Speaking when she featured on ZNBC’s Sunday interview, Prof Luo said those insulting her because of the way she had been conducting herself as Minister of Higher Education were entitled to an opinion and that whatever they thought of her was their business.
“The Ministry of Finance hasn’t released money to my ministry. A Minister of Education, Tourism or whatever, our functions are very different. There is a ministry responsible for finances and I act based on the finances that I receive in my ministry. So even if I get a bashing, for me when people write and insult me I just keep quiet because really it shows that people don’t understand how government works. They can bash me as much as they want and draw me in any insults that they want, I will keep quiet…do you really think as a minister and as a professional I should be going around also to say ‘I am not this and that’?, I mean if someone says ‘Prof Luo is foolish’, fine they are entitled to that opinion. But let me tell you there is no way I could have been a Prof [if I were foolish]. Therefore, if someone decides to call me foolish or whatever they want to call me, I allow them because that’s their business and they are entitled to opinions,” Pro Luo said.
And Prof Luo said there were too many political activities in institutions of higher learning.
“There is too much political activities in the Universities and I think we need to depoliticise the Universities. There are too many politics… even when someone forms a political party, the first thing they want to do is to go and address students at the University of Zambia and Copperbelt University. I have also noticed that these Universities have got branches of different parties, but that has to come to an end. Why should we be having political activities in the institutions that are affecting the operations of the universities? If they want to belong to political parties, they are free to do that and they can do that but they don’t need to have branches in the Universities. A University is not a place for playing politics, it’s a place for intellectuals… we have taken this democracy wrongly, we think that democracy is to be doing everything that we want, no! There has to be certain principles, values, ethics and integrity in the way we conduct our things,” Prof Luo said.
Prof Luo further said her ministry was investigating what was causing the unruly behaviour among CBU and UNZA students.
“What we are going to put in place I don’t want to share now but we need to understand who is behind this behaviour of students. Definitely there is something that they that are doing. If I had to say let me not get into a place where people will be saying Prof Luo was accusing us, only people who smoke dagger can behave the way that CBU students where behaving, in the morning because they haven’t smoked, they are okay. Luch time they go and smoke, they change. But I know there is something that is making the students behave like that and I want to find out but I don’t want to share it on this platform,” she said.
Prof Luo regretted that the poor ranking of Zambia’s universities due to falling international standards would make it very difficult for Zambian intellectuals to be competitive internationally.
Meanwhile, Prof Luo announced that the splitting of the University of Zambia into University Colleges would take effect in January 2020.
“I announced not so long ago that the University of Zambia will not remain with the structure that it has. It will split into University Colleges. So we will have an UNZA College of Agriculture and Veterinary Sciences, we will have an UNZA College of Engineering, Mines and Minerals, we will have an UNZA College of Natural Sciences and UNZA College of Education as well as an UNZA College of Humanities, Social Sciences and Economics. These will be run by Principles so that they have a smaller unity of staff to look after so that if somebody is not doing that which they’ve employed to do, it’s easier for these Principles because the unity is smaller. On top of that, we have said that Universities will now have three deputy Vice-Chancellors,” said Prof Luo.
“So for example UNZA will have a deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of academia and research, then another deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of research and innovation and consultancies. There will also be a third deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of finance and administration so that even the finances we watch them. When finances are coming into the University, what is the budget and does it match the finances that are coming into the institution? So we need to have a deputy Vice-Chancellor purely for that. The other thing we are doing for the deans is that they will not be elected now. Deans will appointed on merit, so well the Principles, they will be appointed on merit. This model will be implemented form January, 2020, because we’ve now finished and the committee has presented what the cost will be. Now we are amending the Higher Education Act and am hoping to take to Parliament in June and then we will start then putting in search committees and so on to start appointing the Principles officers and then we start implementing in January.”