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CBU authorities, lecturers must bridge rift

WHILE it is good that the Copperbelt University (CBU) has finally reopened after an indefinite closure due to cholera threats, there is need to also put a closure to the stand-off between management and unionised workers.
This is the only way to ascertain stability at the institution and prevent further disruptions of the academic calendar.
We have over the past few years observed with disappointment the continued battles between CBU management and unionised workers.
The unionised workers at the institution have been calling for the removal of vice-chancellor Naison Ngoma, citing incompetence.
While management has been willing to strike a compromise with the dons in finding a lasting solution at the institution, the latter party has been uncompromising on their demand.
They accuse Professor Ngoma of misplaced priorities and thereby failing to pay them salaries and gratuity on time.
As far as the dons are concerned, the solution to their challenges lies in one person leaving the institution and that is Prof Ngoma.
It is worrying that the rift between the two parties seems to be deepening by the day.
In January, the lecturers went to an extent of locking up Prof Ngoma in his office, an act that should not be allowed in a civilised set up.
Some unionised workers were charged and suspended until recently when all the charges were unconditionally dropped, as reported in our publication today.
As things stand, unionised workers have vowed not to resume work until Prof Ngoma is removed from the institution.
Now, this is a sad state of affairs. This perfectly suits the saying “when two elephants fight, the grass suffers”.
In the battle between management and unionised workers, the major victims are the poor students.
As long as the stand-off is not resolved, chances of the institution being closed again are very high.
This would be a huge blow on the students who are just returning to campus after an indefinite closure of close to three months.
The academic calendar has already been disturbed and the study period for students prolonged.
The way the academic calendar has been affected is bad enough to allow another closure.
This will be too much to bear for students, especially parents who have to struggle to provide tuition fees.
For those poor parents who manage to enrol their children into university, from day one, they look forward to the graduation as relief from the burden of scouting for tuition fees.
It, therefore, goes without saying that the longer students take to graduate, the longer the struggle for their parents.
Besides, it also means delaying the contributions these students are supposed to make to society.
It is disappointing that intellectuals who we look up to to provide solutions to challenges the country is faced with are failing to find an amicable solution to their own challenges.
What is even more saddening is that these intellectuals do not seem to care about the impact of the stand-off on the quality of education offered as well as the ranking of the university.
Currently, CBU ranks 239 and 8,174 in Africa and the world, respectively. That, by any standards, is very poor.
Certainly, these are not rankings to be proud of. The stand-off and continued closures will only do more harm by lowering the standards further. Both lecturers and Prof Ngoma must care about such a ranking.
It is for these reasons that we join CBU students’ union president Patience Mukonko in appealing to the unionised workers and management to amicably resolve their issues to avoid further confusion at the university.
Ms Mukonko said students are concerned about the stand-off between lecturers and management because if left unresolved, it will affect their studies.
“The last thing we want is for students to get involved in this fight. But you know that if students come back at campus and find these prolonged fights, they will obviously react and we don’t want that,” she said.
As Ms Mukonko rightly observed, leaving the impasse unresolved will worsen the tension.
The two parties should, therefore, resolve this issue amicably through dialogue and the best approach is “give-and-take” as management has done.
Everyone should be a winner.