MOVEMENT for Democratic Change (MDC) secretary general Lucky Mulusa says there are a number of illiterate people in government.

Commenting on the University of Zambia (UNZA) management’s decision to bar defaulting students from writing their examinations, Mulusa said the institution should not punish students but should engage parents on a payment plan.

He said UNZA must be creative and innovative in debt recovery.

“You know, I have been against that, especially when I was Minister for National Development Planning. I remember clashing with the Minister of Higher Education because for me, the other time they were blocked from writing, I instructed UNZA admnistrationn to allow them to write. My argument was that as Minister of National Development Planning, I would like to have a well-trained labour force. I don’t want to have a labour force that gets blocked from exams and because they are blocked, they start pressuring in writing exams and not internalizing the lessons and knowledge. Today, welfare is in the brain; unless you have a healthy and well trained human capital, you will fail,” Mulusa said.

“So UNZA must now demonstrate its reputation as the highest learning institution in Zambia, they must be creative and innovative in debt recovery. They must separate children’s rights to education from the parental obligation to pay that which they signed. You know parents take children to school and the parents are made to sign a document confirming that they will pay for the services rendered to their child. You cannot punish the child. It is high time in this country we started interpreting laws properly. So UNZA administration is actually demonstrating its inability to unpack issues. I am against this thing of disrupting the smooth flow of learning and writing of exams for our children. They have nothing to do with UNZA, the people who have something to do with UNZA are the parents. UNZA must take legal redress against parents.”

He said the government was full of clever illiterate individuals who couldn’t think beyond their next step.

“So UNZA should take the last action against parents and allow students to write. Never mind that UNZA lecturers get paid from fees, the government must come in and establish a public institution and that public institution plays a role to create a competitive and a healthy, educated and competitive human capital. People are unable to connect all these things because we have got clever illiterate individuals in government who can’t think beyond the step they are taking the next day. I want students to write exams. For me, as a former minister of national development planning, that is my human capital. Who will take my national development planning implementation up to our vision 2030 forward?” Mulusa asked.

“UNZA must demonstrate that being the foremost learning institution in Zambia, it can come up with ways beyond what is already provided. What is already provided is that when each child is being enrolled, there is a sponsor, either a company or a parent, you cannot punish a student. Before they punish a student, they must show the world that this student signed that I am going to pay my fees and that if I don’t pay my fees, I am going to be denied the right to write exams. To show UNZA that they have the capability to recover the money from parents, I am telling them to say ‘you go to University of Lusaka, has there been a riot at University of Lusaka [for students] to be allowed to write exams because they haven’t paid their fees? How can University of Lusaka…target the parents? These parents, when they were signing, they probably talked about where they work, they probably talked about the business they do. Separate rights to do with education from obligations by parents to pay for their commitments.”

He said UNZA students’ inability to pay their tuition fees could be tracked back to government’s inability to run the economy.

“You are punishing a poor student, meanwhile the father is dining in an expensive restaurant. Take the father on and allow the children to write those exams, it is our future, those are the students who will make our economy competitive. Even the UNZA administration, now when they will retire, they will be able to exist in a well run, competitive environment and economy as a result of a well-educated human capital. UNZA should realise that a well-trained and a healthy human capital does not only serve itself at an individual level, it is a national level. We are destroying a national asset. So UNZA must separate these two, children must have a right to education. Let UNZA for once be in the forefront in thought processing,” said Mulusa.

”I am actually very disappointed with UNZA, these are the people who should come up with ideas to recover the debt. Here is the paradox, Zambia has defaulted, who is killing Zambia? No one. UNZA students have defaulted and they are being killed. When you frustrate someone’s education, you are basically killing them, especially in a tough environment like ours. Students’ inability to pay can be tracked back to the government’s inability to run the economy properly because there are retrenchments, there are delayed salaries, there are delayed retirement packages. I was fired in 2017, I only got my leave days pay two months ago. I had to keep mentioning to political connections that ‘guys, I haven’t been paid’. Now, think of a guy who doesn’t have connections. I have all the connections, including the President. I can call the President now if I need to help someone, I can call the President that ‘Mr President, there is a problem here’ and he has done it before. I have recommended him to intervene in a number of situations since I was fired and he has done it.”