Zambia National Educational Coalition (ZANEC) is saddened by the decision taken by the Copperbelt University (CBU) to expel 10 of the Student Union leaders at the institution following the student led demonstrations that rocked CBU in March this year. This punitive measure taken by Copperbelt University management is against public interest and the spirit of reconciliation that we have been advocating for. We also realize that the decision came just a few days after the Student Union leaders publicly apologized for their actions to the Republican President. The impression that this sends therefore is that the President refused to accept the apology by the Students, which we believe is not true. As a Coalition, we are of the view that expelling the students is not the best way to solve the many problems that the institution is facing. The solutions to the problems that our higher learning institutions are facing lies in honest dialogue involving University Management, Student Unions and the Minister of Higher Education.
It is important to note that the concerns raised by the students at the Copperbelt University will not be resolved by the expulsion of the Student Union leaders. Instead, they can only be resolved through dialogue and mutual respect. As a Coalition we would like to advise management at Copperbelt University to be flexible and open to divergent views. Ultimately, they should know that the long term solutions hinge on the need for government to adequately finance CBU to allow for the effective delivery of quality education at the institution.
Such harsh decisions have been tried before but have proved to be ineffective in addressing the root causes of student riots. Anyone who has been to the Copperbelt University or the University of Zambia knows that Student Union leaders do not advocate for riots. Riots happen mainly because some students get frustrated when their issues are not given an audience by either University Management or government. Student union leaders in such situations try by all means to calm the students but in vein. We therefore urge government and university management to promote a culture of dialogue with student union leaders on matters affecting them. This is the only way to resolve the problems that CBU is facing. As rightly contended by Jane Goodwill “Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don’t believe is right”.
We therefore call upon government through the Ministry of Higher Education to re-instate the Student Union leaders that were expelled, re-open the Copperbelt University immediately and provide dialogue platforms for resolving the issues at both the Copperbelt University and the University of Zambia. We re-iterate the fact that expelling the student union leaders and keeping the Copperbelt University closed will not solve the funding challenges that the two institutions are experiencing. It is for this reason that as a Coalition, we propose for the convening of a dialogue meeting involving the Minister of Higher Education, university management and student union leaders to be mediated by ZANEC so as to address the current issues affecting service delivery at the two higher learning institutions.