ACTING Higher Education Minister Dennis Wanchinga says the ministry has identified congestion in classrooms and lecture theatres as a potential super-spreaders of the coronavirus.
And President Edgar Lungu has directed the University of Zambia administration to investigate whether all the money paid by students for accommodation gets deposited in the university account.
Speaking during the commissioning of the New Teaching and Learning complex at the University of Zambia, Friday, Wanchinga said UNZA had a student population of 26,000 against bed spaces of 4,000.
“Your Excellency, with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a ministry, we have identified congestion in classrooms, laboratories and lecture theatres as a potential super-spreader of the COVID-19 virus. To counter this, all universities have been directed to implement the delivery of learning programmes by way of reducing the number of students in classes as well as the contact time with students. In addition, they have all been directed to adopt the blending of physical classroom sessions together with online learning as a delivery mode. The coming on stream of these two lecture theatres will benefit the University of Zambia in that it will increase the amount of time devoted to delivery of learning programmes as well as help in effective social distancing in compliance with one of the golden rules for the prevention of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Wanchinga said.
He said the limited accommodation constricted the university’s capacity to enrol more students.
“Your Excellency, I wish to express our joy that you have seen it fit to visit the infrastructure for student accommodation which is being constructed. As you know your Excellency, we have currently student population of about 26,000 against a bed space of about 4,000. So this is a lot of congestion and constricts the opportunities for us to bring in as many students as we can. So we are hoping with this infrastructure we should be able to double the bed spaces for our children,” said Wanchinga.
And President Lungu said he received disturbing reports that while first years, were grappling with accommodation, with many of them living in private homes, there were some former students still occupying university accommodation.
“I am aware that the University of Zambia, just like the other public universities, has been facing serious challenges in providing adequate accommodation for its students. I wish to state that government has not slackened in its effort to complete construction of student’s accommodation at all the public universities. But while government is making this effort, I direct the University of Zambia administration to do an inventory on people residing in university accommodation and whether all of them are students. Further, the university administration must investigate whether all the monies paid by students for accommodation reach the university accounts. I have been made to make this call because I have received disturbing reports that while genuine students, especially first years, are grappling with accommodation, with many of them living in private homes, there are some former students still occupying university accommodation,” President Lungu said.
“I also have received reports that some students and even former students are renting out accommodation to students who have nowhere to stay. This cannot be allowed to continue. It must be stopped because it borders on criminality. Students are here to learn and not to become landlords. Accommodation belongs to the university and the administration should be the ones to allocate accommodation to students and receive accommodation fees.”
He said government was encouraged by the effort that UNZA had been making to improve its internal revenue generation capacity through a Public Private Partnership.
“I am delighted to officiate at the commissioning of the University of Zambia teaching and learning complex. I am delighted because a project of this magnitude has been funded through internally generated resources. This complex has been built from revenue realized through the Public Private Partnership (PPP) between the university of Zambia and Graduare properties limited. This is an example of what could be achieved if government worked together with the private sector to develop our country. This project is also a reflection of the drive and success of my government and the people of Zambia as we pursue policies and programmes that positively impact the needs of our citizens,” he said.
“I have been following very closely the execution of this project. My government is encouraged by the effort that the University of Zambia has been making to improve its internal revenue generation capacity through this PPP. Let me, however, hasten to say there is still room for improvement in government’s endeavour to ensure PPPs are a success in Zambia. I therefore in this particular case, urge all concerned line ministers, in liaison with the Minister of Higher Education, to closely monitor this PPP project and seek continuous improvements to negotiations and collaborative agreements such as contracts.”
Meanwhile, President Lungu said it was the desire of the Patriotic Front government to ensure that all public universities continued to operate in a financially sustainable manner.
“It is the desire of the Patriotic Front government to ensure that all public universities continue to operate in a financially sustainable manner. To this effect, my government will continue supporting all efforts by public universities to ensure that they achieve financial sustainability. My government is in a hurry to deliver development to the people and the education of citizens, in particular, is very key in transforming the lives and livelihoods of our people. I wish to urge all who are in service of my government and those who want to do business with government, to do so in public interest as this is the only way this nation will develop for the good of everyone,” said President Lungu.