The University of Zambia Lecturers and Researchers Union (UNZALARU) says the removal of Professor Nkandu Luo from the Ministry of Higher Education is long overdue.

And UNZALARU has pledged to work with Dr Mushimba to fix mess of “Luo’s destructive legacy”.

Last Friday, President Edgar Lungu reshuffled his Cabinet and moved Prof Luo from the Ministry of Higher Education to the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, replacing Kampamba Chewe, who is now Community Development Minister.

Welcoming the development, UNZALARU general secretary Dr Kelvin Mambwe said Prof Luo lacked a consultative approach to issues and described her as an “I know it all” type of a minister.

“We welcome it! In fact, it is long overdue! We actually thank the President that he has made this move. We only hope that the new minister will be the opposite of the old minister because what we saw in the former Minister of Higher Education was a person who lacked a consultative approach to issues. She was the ‘I know it all’ type-of-a minister and that created trouble in many institutions. We welcome the appointment and we know Minister (Brian) Mushimba is up to the task [and] he knows UNZA very well; he has been a student there and he recently graduated from there. So, he should be in a position to understand many of the challenges that UNZA is faced with,” Dr Mambwe said.

“It is ironic that someone of her level of education is so hostile to knowledge and intellectualism. Luo was simply horrible at the Ministry of Higher Education. Her pedestrian educational reforms and ill-advised plans to amputate the University of Zambia into several small colleges, her proposed harmful amendments to the Higher Education Act, her decision to abolish meal allowances for students in public universities, and her silence in the face of renewed police brutality against students which resulted in the death of Vespers Shimunzhila, a female student at the University of Zambia, serve as haunting reminders of her unfortunate stint at the ministry. Her illegal indefinite closure of the Copperbelt University, her unlawful suspensions of student union activities at both UNZA and CBU, and her needless but repeated clashes with the very people she was employed to serve – lecturers and researchers, university administrators, students and other stakeholders – means that Luo’s removal can only be good for the future of Zambia’s higher education sector and calls for celebration. We wish Luo well in her future endeavours and will certainly not miss her at all.”

He said the general membership of the institution was delighted with Prof Luo’s transfer.

“So, we want him (Mushimba) to be an active listener to the issues so that (the Ministry of) Higher Education runs at it should be. Of course, the general membership is very happy with the move that the President has taken to remove Minister Luo to another ministry. And it is our hope that this change will bring real change to UNZA and other higher learning institutions,” Dr Mambwe said.

And Dr Mambwe pledged to work with Dr Mushimba to fix mess of Luo’s destructive legacy.

“UNZALARU would also like to extend a warm welcome to Hon. Brian Mushimba, the new Minister of Higher Education. We pledge to work with him to rid the higher education sector of the ghost of Luo’s destructive legacy and find a lasting solution to the numerous challenges that affect public institutions of higher learning in Zambia. These include the regrettable frequent closures of public universities, the inadequate financial support from the government to these institutions, the crumbling and insufficient infrastructure within them, the acute shortage of visionary, selfless and independent university administrators, the lack of government support for meaningful academic research and innovation, and the delayed payment of salaries, outstanding gratuities and terminal benefits to deserving recipients. We urge the new minister to embrace dialogue, develop the capacity to listen, and build constructive relationships with other key stakeholders involved in the running of higher education institutions, as he seeks to address these surmountable challenges. We are keen to meet Hon. Mushimba at his earliest convenience after he has settled in his new portfolio and share ideas on the way forward, including on how progress can be made in dismantling the debt that the government owes the university,” said Dr Mambwe.

“We in the UNZALARU have very high expectations of the new Minister of Higher Education. We would however like to warn Hon. Mushimba that should he choose to adopt the quarrelsome attitude, toxic tendencies and other self-perpetuating petulancies of his predecessor, UNZALARU retains sufficient ammunition within its ranks to defend the fundamental interests of its members to the hilt. We consider the Minister of Higher Education, the university administration, students, and ourselves (lecturers and researchers) as a community of people ultimately in pursuit of the same thing – the restoration of the provision of higher education in Zambia to its glorious past and even a better future. Let us work together to deliver that aspiration.”