University of Zambia Lecturers and Researchers Union (UNZALARU) secretary general Dr Kelvin Mambwe has charged that Higher Education Minister Prof Nkandu Luo has destroyed institutions of higher learning in the country because of her disregard for public institutions.

And Dr Mambwe has called on President Edgar Lungu to consider replacing Prof Luo with PF deputy secretary general Mumbi Phiri saying that the latter has a passion for education.

Meanwhile, Dr Mambwe says his unionised members are justified in calling for UNZA vice-chancellor Prof Luke Mumba to go because he had continued making numerous outside country trips when the institution was limping financially.

Dr Mambwe was speaking when he featured on the Tuesday edition of the “Lusaka Star” programme on UNZA radio.

“I know honourable Mumbi Phiri is listening and I can rest assure you that if that woman was our minister for Higher Education, perhaps these problems that we are talking about wouldn’t be there. Our Minister of Higher Education misrepresents the problems that the university is going through. She always politicises everything. We have lost confidence in our Minister of Higher Education because she is misrepresenting the challenges that we are going through, she has destroyed higher education. Can we have someone [else]. Let Mumbi Phiri go to the Ministry of Higher Education and you will see the change here that we are talking about because she understands the problems that we are going through,” Dr Mambwe said.

Dr Mambwe also backed calls by his members to have the vice-chancellor removed, accusing him of making too many international trips at the expense of the suffering institution.

“Our members are justified to call for the VC to go. And besides that, almost every month our vice chancellor is travelling and that has concerned our members. There is no way a university which is limping can afford to be sending a vice-chancellor outside of the country almost on a monthly basis. Even if his trips are sponsored, the air tickets are bought [for him but] the university still pays subsistence allowances. Unless he comes out very clean to tell us whether the university does not spend any monies on his trips so that that little money that he is spending on his trips can be channelled to improving the conditions of our learning environment, to buying projectors for lecture theatres. And he doesn’t go alone, he goes with his entourage and his subsistence allowance for one travel can buy four to five projectors and improve the learning environment of our members and students. So if these people have come to make money out of these institutions, this is a wrong institution to make money from,” he said.

Dr Mambwe further described the guidance by Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya that university must be innovative and stop relying on government, as total nonsense.

“The purpose of that tax which people pay is not to buy ministers’ vehicles, it is not to take the minister outside this country for medical attention or to take their children to China or Russia or South Africa where there are better universities, no! That money is meant to provide public service which includes provision of better public education the higher education that we are offering here. Part of that money is apportioned to run the health sector, its apportioned to run the energy sector. Dora Siliya should not tell you that you should be self-sustaining, we are already making enough. In fact, if you do your arithmetic, government only provides 17 per cent of operational cost of the university and that 17 per cent is a drop in the ocean. That’s nonsense you are getting from the outsiders that ‘no, innovation’ you need money to innovate,” Dr Mambwe argued.

And Dr Mambwe said it was a deliberate ploy by government not to fund higher learning public institutions.

“The first thing they want is to enrich themselves, build themselves houses, buy themselves big cars, ensure that their children are going to very good universities outside the country at the expense of bringing them here at UNZA, because they know that if they brought their children at UNZA, they will not receive the best education that other universities out there are offering. And so they have a deliberate ploy not to support this institution because they are able, on taxpayers’ money to send their children abroad. I actually don’t understand how these guys think. It’s like they don’t think. They just dream and just wake up in the morning and say ‘okay, this is how we are going to do things’ they don’t think at all. They don’t think through their actions and their decisions,” said Dr Mambwe.