UNIVERSITY of Zambia Students Union (UNZASU) Shadreck Mumba says UNZA management is being unfair to students by not allowing students owing the institution to write the final exams.

In an interview Mumba said it was painful that UNZA management had failed to show empathy to students who had faced financial challenges in 2020.

UNZA management recently informed students that only those that had paid 100 percent of their tuition fees would be allowed to write their examinations.

“This year we have had a slow rate of registration because people were affected because of COVID-19. The economy was shut down, most of our guardians were failing to move around to collect fees for our students. That is where I feel empathy should have been used because people have struggled really to even pay up to 90 per cent of their tuition fee. It is quite shocking that we are going to put these rules and regulations first before helping these people and education is a driver of the economy. People have struggled, they have been learning online and the fees that we paid were for physical learning not the online learning. So there has been a lot of compromise along the way,” Mumba said.

“This is really shocking. I have tried my best, my ‘cabinet’ has tried their best, we have done what we can do, it is very painful. We have engaged management, we have engaged the Ministry and really management is just benching the law, which says failure to collect revenue because that is what they were cited for. Government is failing to intervene through the Ministry because last year the Minister just had to use a statement and we had to ride over that. There have been so many changes this year which have made it so difficult, even when I go to say ‘can you allow people to write exams’, all they say is look ‘Mr president the people that you helped write exams last year have not paid up to date and the institution has to run. So how are we going to pay lecturers?’, so there is too much conflict of interest. Lectures on the other hand are saying we cannot teach for free, so it is very painful, I won’t lie to you.”

Mumba said only allowing students who had paid 100 percent of their tuition fee was unfair.

“Above anything what needed to be done was compromise especially this year when we have had COVID-19. Parents have suffered, students haven suffered. First of all we are writing exams within two weeks which have been compressed, we were supposed to write until 18 December. Last year what we did, we managed to help students to write even those who had paid nothing. Now the understanding is that all those people owe the institution and they have not paid up to date. I don’t know if you remember there was an issue last year when management gave a memo to say all those students who are on GRZ sponsorship and have not screened are supposed to screen. So what I am getting is that those 200 students they did not screen meaning they never entered their agreement with the loan scheme board. So those people, government did not pay for them because they did not enter an agreement with the loan scheme board. So those people now automatically turned into self sponsored students and all those people have not paid the K30 000 to the institution,” Mumba said.

“That is where the problems are stemming from. For me I told management that this is so unfair, first of all students have paid 90 percent of their tuition fee, others have paid 80 percent of their tuition fee, you cannot come and push a threshold of 100 percent on the day of writing exams. It does not make sense at all. You cannot come and start removing people from writing exams until they pay 100 percent. Honestly I have never felt this pain in my life. It has really been painful, I won’t lie to you. I am equally just a student who is just struggling. My parents just sent me here at school; I am stuck I don’t know what to do.”

Mumba said it was painful that management was asking students to pay 100 percent of the tuition fee when most students used the online platforms.

“It is painful even when people are looking up to you, it is like you have been given power to help people but you don’t have the power, you just now look useless, it is painful. Management should have empathy for these students. These people have struggled, they have tried their best, their guardians have tried. If the whole country is in debt, there should be a way of reaching a consensus at least for this particular year. People paid tuition fees and they are demanding people to pay tuition fees in full for people who have been learning online exams. Everything was just new this year, people pay tuition fees for physical exams, they have barely learnt a thing on online, then you make them write the exams within two weeks and then you even put pressure on them,” said Mumba.

“The poor communications as well I have been engaging management ‘can you tell us how we are going to write exams, are they going to be online or physical?’, you cannot make decisions within a short period of time such as an educational institution. I engaged with management on Friday to say what is the way forward? What I was told is that ‘we are going to see what is going to happen’, but they still had to maintain their stance. I have been telling management to say at least can they do what CBU does? can they put 80 percent threshold, all the people who are on 75 percent have registered can they write exams. The most who will be affected are those who are self sponsored.”