Higher Education Minister Dr Brian Mushimba says K2 billion out of the total K2.4 billion allocated to his ministry in 2020 budget will go towards university education.

And former University of Zambia deputy vice-chancellor Professor Geoffrey Lungwangwa says it is worrying that Zambian universities lag behind in terms of research in comparison with other universities in the SADC region.

Meanwhile, Ikelengi’ UPND member of parliament Elijah Muchima has urged Dr Mushimba to remove politics in management of higher learning institutions.

Speaking in parliament, Tuesday, when he gave a policy statement of expenditure for 2020, Dr Mushimba said a total of K2.4 billion had been allocated to the Ministry of Higher Education for 2020.

“My ministry has been allocated a total of K2.4 billion in the 2020 budget. This allocation represents an increase of 54 per cent when compared to the 2019 allocation of K1.519 billion. Out of the total allocation, K2 billion representing 84 per cent has been allocated to university education, K244 million representing ten per cent has been allocated to skills development, K95 million representing four per cent has been allocated to science, technology and innovation, and K38 million representing two per cent has been provided for management and support services in the ministry,” Mushimba said.

“Madam speaker, in order to enhance quality and attain Excellency in the delivery of university education at the recently upgraded Chalimbana, Kwame Nkrumah, and Mukuba Universities, K15 million has been allocated to each of these universities. This allocation is meant to continue addressing personnel-related obligations and costs related to new programmes and curricular development at these new universities. My ministry has also allocated K20.4 million to the Higher Education Authority and K14 million to the Zambia Qualifications authority. These allocations have been made to enable the two regulatory institutions to enforce standards and ensure the quality of higher education. Madam chairperson, the ministry has also allocated K557 million towards the students’ loans fund for 2020.”

And debating the policy statement, Prof Lungwangwa who is also Nalikwanda UPND member of parliament, Prof Lungwangwa expressed concern over the lack of scholarly publications by Zambian universities saying this was affecting rankings.

“We also have a major problem of intellectual property production. If you take time to look at scholarly writings, publications, madam chairperson, we lag far behind even within the SADC region in terms of publishing especially in this particular area of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and so on. We are one of the least in the SADC region. How can we promote scholarly publishing which of course emanates from research? Which means we have to support research,” Prof Lungwangwa said.

He advised the minister to make it a priority to improve the university staffing levels, infrastructure as well as the curriculum of learning.

“I think your focus should be to have a very close look at the staffing levels in our colleges and universities. Do they have what it takes to bring about effective and efficient teaching of science, technology, research and so on? Look at the laboratories, look at the equipment, look at the infrastructure, the classrooms, the overcrowding, how can we address that? Look at the ICT infrastructure in our colleges and universities, the research infrastructure in our universities, look at the teacher training itself because clearly, it’s in the universities where teachers of science, mathematics, technology and so on are being prepared. Look at the curriculum, see how relevant the curriculum is, how modern the curriculum is to the day-to-day needs of our country. these are practical areas which will enable you to see how efficient, effective and how well these subjects are being handled in our colleges and universities,” Prof Lungwangwa said.

He said it was unthinkable for lecturers holding Bachelor’s Degrees to teach masters and PhD students.

“Apart from that, we have a problem of the massification of higher education in our country. Massification of higher education through private sector investment is leading to poor quality of higher education. We have in our so-called universities today, people with bachelor’s degrees teaching masters and PHDs [which is] unthinkable. We have a situation where somebody opens a university today and tomorrow they are offering masters and PHDs. Where on earth does this happen? Somebody establishes an institution in the back of their yard and they call it a university. It doesn’t happen anywhere in the world. You have to have a chartering institution where institutions of higher learning have to be monitored by well-established institutions,” Prof Lungwangwa said.

Prof Lungwangwa also urged the Higher Education Authority to get rid of sub-standard universities offering fake degrees.

“If we continue in this trajectory madam speaker, we are going to have medical doctors in these institutions who really don’t have what it takes to be a medical doctor and what will be the end results? Poor service delivery to our people including loss of life. That was the reason for establishing the Higher Education Authority. The authority has a responsibility to rid out those institutions which are not serving this country. By doing so, I think we shall do a service to the younger generation if we get rid of those institutions that are not really up to the expectations of a university or a college worth the name,” said Lungwangwa.

Meanwhile, Muchima urged the Dr Mushimba to remove politics in higher education and invest heavily in the sector.

“My issue is with the Minister of Finance. Minister, are you sure [that] you have increased the budgetary allocation by 54 per cent? Will you release this amount? At the moment, ministries have not been receiving the allocation. Ministry of Education, especially Higher Education should be off politics because this is our future. If we invest heavily in education, even the problems we are facing in this country will not be there. The issue is you are bringing too many politics in running the universities,” said Muchima, who also called for the re-introduction of meal allowances.