The Government Officials Represented Here
Honorable Members of Parliament,
ZANEC Board Members,
All Protocols observed,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my singular honor and privilege to welcome you all distinguished guests to this meeting. I am glad to note that in our midst we have Parliamentarians from the Education, Science and Technology Committee whom we hope to be our strong advocates in ensuring that legislation is put in place to protect Academic Freedoms in Institutions of Higher Learning. This engagement will allow ZANEC to advocate for the introduction of legislature to protect Academic Freedoms which in turn will provide for the provision of quality education.
Ladies and Gentlemen, ZANEC has learnt that a lot of stakeholders do not understand Academic Freedoms and hence the non-practice therefore, it is very important to define Academic Freedoms. According to the dictionary Academic Freedom is the freedom of lecturers and students to teach, study and pursue knowledge and research without unreasonable interference or restriction from law, institutional regulation or public pressure.
For those of you who may not be aware, Zambia National Education Coalition (ZANEC) is a Coalition of 68 non-state actors working in the Education and Skills Sector. It is a recognized institution advocating for improved quality and access to education by all citizens. The organization is involved in research and capacity enhancement on different aspects of the education system in Zambia. The Coalition has been advocating for quality education for every Zambian at all levels of Education through subsectors namely:
- Early Childhood, Care, Development and Education (ECCDE)
- Basic Education (Primary and Secondary)
- Adult Literacy Education
- Youth Skills and Tertiary Education
- Gender, Equity and Equality
Ladies and Gentlemen it is through the Youth Skills and Tertiary Education Subsector that the Coalition has been advocating for Academic Freedoms in Institutions of Higher Learning. The background of ZANEC advocating for legislation to protect Academic Freedoms began in 2013. When ZANEC started earnestly focusing on contributing to the quality of education delivered through our Institutions of Higher Learning. In 2014 a study was commissioned to look into the state of Academic Freedoms in the country and perception of Academic staff and students. The study highlighted the lack of guiding principles on Academic Freedoms in Institutions of Higher Learning. As such, one of the key recommendation was that ZANEC advocates for legislature to protect Academic Freedoms.
In 2016, ZANEC through a consultative process drafted a generic Code of Conduct and Policy on Academic Freedoms. This document was validated by identified private and public Institutions of Higher Learning and Student Union Leaders. The Ministry of Higher Education and several government agencies equally bought into the idea of Code of Conduct and Policy on Academic Freedoms. It is based on the foregoing reasons that ZANEC is therefore, engaging you as law makers to begin instigating for an Act to provide and protect the practice of Academic Freedoms in our Institutions of Higher Learning.
Ladies and Gentlemen it is also important to note that this year (2017) commemorates the 20th anniversary of 1997 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel. The recommendation underscores the necessity of Academic Freedoms and university autonomy for both teaching and research and also articulates the rights academic staff should have. Therefore, it is significant to add that lecturers’ and students’ Academic Freedoms are very critical for Institutions of Higher Learning to meaningfully contribute to national development. Therefore, the quest for a legal framework to protect Academic Freedoms could not have come at a better time.
With these few remarks I urge you all to take this opportunity and fully participate in this engagement as your views and commitments are of great value to ZANEC and for the progress of the Education and Skills Sector in Zambia.
May God Bless you all!
Read on the 12th of October, 2017