Professor Nkandu Luo was an awful choice for Minister of Higher Education. You just have to listen to her to appreciate that she has no energy to run such a demanding ministry of colleges and universities. Hers is a bitter tongue, laced with all kinds of political frustrations.
What has she done to deserve this condemnation? Well, let’s recap a little on her tale of the tape. This minister supported the ban of over 8,000 University of Zambia students from writing their examination in July 2017, on grounds that they were owing the institution various amounts in school fees; even if some students complained that they were owing as little as K100.
Then she banned squatting among students at the Great East Road campus, when she knows that the institution has enrolled three times more than its planned capacity. This, she said, would curb the spread of cholera and other communicable diseases. We can, at least, commend her for conceding to public outcry and introducing bunk beds at the institution.
After the students took to social media to mobilise and challenge her wisdom, Professor Luo emotionally abolished students’ unions countrywide, saying they were useless. According to her, the University of Zambia Students Union (UNZASU) and the Copperbelt University Students Union (COBUSU), were retrogressive bodies that had been bought by opposition political parties (the UPND in particular) to fight political battles. UNZASU is back now, but it is definitely not the same. This new deal UNZASU was literally designed to conceal the minister’s failures. This is why we are not shocked that they issue statements attempting to twist what was said by Luo’s own mouth.
As if that was not enough demonstration by a minister to run institutions under her charge, Professor Luo went further to announce that her government would dismantle the University of Zambia and take all the faculties away from the Great East Road Campus, save for the School of Education. According to this minister, spreading these faculties to various locations would make it impossible for students to mobilise and riot. One wouldn’t know whether to laugh or to be annoyed with such reasoning.
We thought we had heard it all from her. But no, while Oxford University in UK and other top ranking world universities were downgrading Zambia’s universities over falling standards; Professor Luo says ‘I am not done destroying your education system’.
Prof LUO: “Starting January we will not be paying any pocket money allowances. We will only pay for your tuition; we will pay for project; we will pay for your accommodation. I think this meal allowance thing is going to drive us crazy. That way, we can even support more students. That’s too much. I think we need to stop this allowance thing. Let your parents also take some responsibility for you people at that school, it is too much. So in the new year, I will announce so that you know that when you’re coming to school, you come with your own pocket money. And also so that we can focus on other serious things in the nation.”
The learned Professor in charge of Higher Education broke this devastating news to a Copperbelt University student who called her to ask when meal allowances would be paid. This was last Saturday, days after some students had rioted following government’s continued delay to pay meal allowances.
We repeat, this is a tongue of a very tired, hurting and probably grudge-bearing minister. The wisdom that is coming out of Prof Luo is not desirable at all. So, if supporting tertiary education is not among the “serious things” that Professor Luo’s government would like to focus on; what is she doing in this ministry?
Professor Luo needs to know that it is not all the students who are as fortunate as her to have influential relatives like Mama Nkankasa who could push for her education in Russia. Some of these students at UNZA and CBU come from very vulnerable families. They totally depend on the meal allowance to make ends meet on Campus. In fact, some of them don’t even use this money on fancy food, as professor Luo imagines, they use this allocation to buy the rest of the school basic needs that their poor parents can’t afford.
What Professor Luo is saying essentially is that only rich parents should send their children to university, while those who come from vulnerable, struggling families can hang! This is murder of the student’s academic progress. How heartless can one person be?
No, fellow citizens! Professor Luo must not be allowed to stretch her tyranny in the education sector any further. This bully has to be stopped. UNZA, CBU don’t belong to Professor Luo, she can’t be managing student’s affairs as if she is rearranging makeup bottles on her dressing table. And listen to her tone of voice when dictating terms for the students; full of arrogance, as if getting educated in Zambia is at her mercy.
Dear President Edgar Lungu; for the sake of the future leaders of this country who are trying to shape their destinies in these institutions, please step in and intervene. Don’t condemn the future of these students by letting a bitter minister drown them in her frustrations. We have said it before that Prof Luo has outlived her usefulness in the public service. She has been in and out of government for the past 20 years and her ears are tired of hearing problems. Prof Luo has lost the zeal to overcome challenges.
If it is within our freedom of speech to suggest a reshuffle, allow us to recommend that you give Professor Luo her retirement benefits and let her go to rest, while you put David Mabumba in charge of Higher Education. Mabumba is not perfect, but he has commanded respect wherever he has worked. Not only is he clear of corruption scandals, but he is also level headed and able to engage with both the people he governs along with the media, which he respectfully recognizes as a fourth estate. We say no to Professor Nkandu Luo, please!!
But if, for whatever debt she is owed, you would like Professor Luo to remain in your Cabinet, it is better you take her to the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries. Kampamba Mulenga is even better than this Professor Luo. Yes, she may be a scatterbrain, but at least that very lack of capacity leaves room to the Permanent Secretaries and directors to run the ministry while she takes selfies. That’s how the Ministry of Information endured her reign. Whatever it takes, please remove Nkandu Luo before she makes things worse for PF ahead of 2021. We don’t mind the PF losing, but we can’t afford to lose the education sector because of sheer negligence and arrogance.