UNIVERSITY of Zambia Registrar Dr Lubinda Haabazoka says some students waste their fees on other activities thinking they will be allowed to write exams without paying, but things are different.
Speaking when he featured on Smart Eagles’ Round Table Talk, Thursday, Dr Haabazoka said genuinely poor students were currently writing their exams because they were on 100 per cent government sponsorship.
“There are people that join under self-sponsorship in universities and the following year they get government scholarship. So they narrative to say government has neglected students or the University of Zambia is chasing away students, that is very wrong. The majority of those students, when we told them no paying no writing exams, I am telling you we were collecting huge sums of money every day from same students I am telling you. One student came to me crying, there were two students crying, I told them [if at] 14:00 hours, you haven’t paid, you are not going to write exams because they use unionism, they come together, eat money, saying no, at the end of the day we shall riot and then they will allow us to write but this time we said, we shall meet you,” Dr Haabazoka said.
“And the Vice Chancellor announced the perpetrators and they are facing the law. You can’t come and say I love this country, I am poor and you go and burn a building that was built by the same people who said their forefathers built this university for us to learn for free. What the government says is that, the K20,000, per year, divide that by 12, it will be something like K1,800. So at the beginning of the year, there is a payment plan, pay as you go. So what most students have been doing is when the parents give them money, they take it to Kalingalinga, they take it to Chicagos and they take it somewhere, then we also have cases where for example a parent came and was beating up the child in my presence to say I have been giving you money for the last three years and you have been sending me forged results, we didn’t want to be involved because that’s a police case that person was going to be arrested, let the parents handle that issue, there are such cases.”
He said genuinely poor students were writing exams because government gave them 100 per cent bursary after verifying their vulnerability.
He said allowing owing students to write exams would be recorded as failure to collect government revenue in next year’s Auditor General’s report.
“There was a heated story about the University of Zambia allowing students to write exams without paying and the figures that we were talking about are K57 million that the University is owed, so if government and if the University of Zambia went and allowed such a situation, you were going to read about it in next year’s Auditor General’s report for this year to say, the University of Zambia failed to collect government revenue amounting to K59 million. So these are things that people don’t understand. So they think we can just wake up and say let’s allow this, but there is also a law, public finance management act which says, non-collection of government revenue is an audit query. So much of the issues to do with the Auditor General’s report is not about stealing, it’s about having a human heart towards implementation of government policies…So according to the finance management act, all the backlog that we have been keeping, that means management is irresponsible and management is breaking the law by not collecting government revenue that’s why this year, it has been a different story because there is no other place,” Dr Haabazoka said.
“For example, you have a human heart and say go and write the exams you will pay later, and they don’t pay. When the Auditor General comes, they don’t care the circumstances, there is a law, they will just non-collection of government revenue meanwhile, the person who is outside there on the streets thinks, me and other people in management at the University of Zambia we connived with the students maybe got some a bit of money and we did not collect that government revenue, there is no excuse…You know, we have been practicing, write exams then pay after you get your results but unfortunately, no one has been paying, we have people that owe for the last five years so how are we going to believe this person that in the sixth year they are going to pay.”
He said universities were highly politicised.
“One thing is that universities are highly politicised, we have incidences of cadres coming into the University to come and start all that noise and I would like to warn all those that now we have advanced techniques to ensure that culprits are brought to book. Majority of the students are well meaning, they are hardworking, they want to graduate, they don’t want noise and those are the students that we are going to educate,” he said.
He wondered why students from private universities were not in the habit of throwing stones when asked to pay their fees when they were just as Zambian as UNZA students.
“Let me give you an example, UNILUS, the Zambian citizens that are learning in UNILUS, they are not worse than the students that we have, they are equal, they are all Zambians with equal rights but those people, and some of them have equal points, some people say instead of me waiting for bursaries the next two years, let me just go to UNILUS, they have even better points than the students we have at UNZA but when UNLIUS says you pay, they are not throwing stones. So what right do these people that throw stones and are burning buildings, what right do they have more than the people that are at UNILUS? I wish we even give those people that are at Cavendish scholarships because they have shown that they are well behaved, we even bring them to the University of Zambia to come and learn on a government scholarship,” said Dr Haabazoka.
“I have never stoned in my life a University despite the fact that when I was myself on bursaries, we would go eight months not paid under Chiluba’s government, eight months we were staying without receiving bursaries abroad, you never heard us stone anybody, we were engaging intellectually.”