Copperbelt University Academics Union (CBAU) secretary general Dr Derrick Ntalasha says mismanagement of funds at CBU has worsened the institutions standards, citing the purchase and setting up of a tent used as a library at a cost of K10 million as one of the examples of abuse of funds by the Professor Naison Ngoma-led management.

And the University of Zambia Lecturers and Researchers Union (UNZALARU) secretary general Dr Kelvin Mambwe says some of President Edgar Lungu’s ministers have been lying to him about the challenges facing public universities.

Meanwhile, Dr Mambwe says Higher Education Minister Professor Nkandu Luo wants to treat lecturers like children when some of them like himself have the same qualifications.

Speaking when the two featured on Prime TV’s Oxygen of Democracy programme, Monday night, Dr Ntalasha said there was misuse of resources at CBU, citing the purchase of a tent which was used as a library at K10 million.

“We came up with a document that detailed the challenges of CBU and we presented it to the council and the council set up a committee to look at how CBU is being mismanaged by the vice-chancellor. This committee sat and did a very good job and the recommendations, but someone has sat on that document because someone is hiding the problem. This mismanagement is costly! I can tell you that at CBU, we have a white tent, which cost us K10 million! Would you tell me that this building where this studio is can cost you K10 million?” asked Dr Ntalasha.

“But we have a tent that cost K10 million. And someone put air cons in the tent, which normal person puts air conditioners in a tent? Someone goes to India to interview lecturers and in fact the issue of recruitment is not for the vice-chancellor, it is for the registrar. But it was the VC who went to India to recruit lecturers and spent K600,000! They go to Israel for a management training and they spend K800,000! But these are people who have renewed their contracts as managers on the basis that they have performed well as managers, but they go to seek retraining,” disclosed Dr Ntalasha, who reiterated calls for government to reopen CBU without wasting any more time.

And Dr Mambwe said some ministers who surround the Head of State were wrong chaps who mislead him on the challenges of universities.

“The problems of the universities, now, as things stand, lies with the President, they go beyond the Minister (Luo) because it seems the Minister is misrepresenting the issues we are facing; there is clear evidence that the President is lied to by these ministers. Not until he starts to listen to these intelligence (reports) around, are we going to see change. The President should act. I remember one of our members wrote a very emotional letter to the President, the challenges we are facing today were contained in that letter. The ministers have got no power, the power lies with the President, let him listen to what we are talking about, let him not fold hands and watch us cry over what we have worked for,” Dr Mambwe urged.

“The people who are surrounding him may be wrong chaps and these are same chaps that were misleading Rupiah Banda about things on the ground. They want to speak sweet things so that the President is happy that ‘yes, you are working’ and yet they are lying to him, this is true; they are lying to him! Let the President come to UNZA and CBU to see what is going on, there are no politics. Because when the Minister (Luo) was asked to present a ministerial statement in Parliament, she was blaming us that we have become political, which is not true!”

And Dr Mambwe said Luo wanted to treat lecturers like children when in fact some had the same qualifications as her.

“We have had meetings with the Minister on several occasions, but nothing has come out; the problem is with the Minister because she comes out as if she knows everything, and she will treat you like children! And yet we have the same qualifications; she has a PhD, I have a PhD, she has a masters, I have a masters; the only difference could be experience. I have taught for 10 years she might have taught for 20 years. But when you sit in those meetings, discussing the challenges facing UNZA, the only thing that will come out from her is how much she brought in the university when she was a lecturer; how certain universities abroad were run. You can’t sit in the meeting with the Minister and come out with solutions,” Dr Mambwe bemoaned.

He warned that the higher education system would collapse if challenges affecting universities were not addressed.

“Yes, government has failed to run public universities and as we are sitting here, in 6 months’ time if nothing is done, the entire public higher education system will collapse! We are behind by a full month without salary and we are going into another month. I can assure you, the moment UNZA and CBU collapses, there will be no higher education system to talk about. There is a likelihood of a mass brain drain. We had a brain drain in 1994, UNZA lost about 300 lecturers; they went to South Africa; they went to Botswana and Namibia because their conditions then were very pathetic, and that is likely to repeat itself if nothing is done to solve these problems and the public will lose out,” he cautioned.