Editor's Comment

CBU students focus on studies

THE decision taken by management at the Copperbelt University (CBU) to reduce the surcharge fee imposed on returning students from K1,500 to K150, for the damage caused to property at the institution during riots early this year, is commendable but should not be misconstrued to mean acceptance of unruly behaviour.
Various stakeholders, including Minister of Higher Education Brian Mushimba, expressed concern over the K1,500 penalty fee imposed on the students, describing it as too much.
While it is agreeable that K1,500 was on the higher side, K150 also seems to be too low going by the damage caused to the school infrastructure.
The rationale behind penalty fees in such instances is to hold students accountable by making them pay for the damages caused.
However, it is good that those identified to have been in the forefront of riotous behaviour are being asked to pay more.
Professor Naison Ngoma says the general populace of the students will pay K150 while those that were on suspension will be charged K1,000.
For students who were initially expelled but reinstated will have to pay K1,500 and excluded from school for one academic year.
By this gesture, it is evident that Government has gone out of its way to compromise on the penalties.
Government is cognisant of the fact that some students come from vulnerable homes and were not going to afford the penalty fee.
And as Professor Ngoma rightly said, most students were innocent and were not involved in the fracas, which resulted in the damage of property at the institution.
While it is true that the majority of the students were not involved in the riots, they have an obligation to prevent others from doing so or indeed at least report the culprits to the authorities.
Keeping quiet after witnessing a wrong is considered as conspiracy.
As Prof. Ngoma notes: “There is a term called sinning by silence. Just because I am not the one doing it. It does not mean I am innocent, it is incumbent upon me to advise the other colleagues doing it.”
The innocent students should take interest in preventing or reporting riotous behaviour because they are not exempt from consequences that come after, Prof. Ngoma said.
For instance, all students have been affected by the four-month-long closure. Others would have completed their studies by now but are still stuck at the institution when their colleagues from other universities are now busy job-searching or already in employment or business.
Time lost through the closures will never be recovered. This is the bitter reality the students will have to live with, whether innocent or guilty.
Surely lessons must be learnt. By now students should know that airing grievances through riotous behaviour has never been a solution and will never be.
Dialogue is the right way to resolve any outstanding issues, much more for students who are intellectuals and upcoming leaders.
By taking to the streets at any slight misunderstanding, students are reducing themselves to the level of street boys without any education.
We expect students at their level to understand the implication of damaging school property. They should understand the challenges Government is faced with in trying to meet various needs on a constrained national budget.
Due to the damage caused to university infrastructure, Government has to allocate money for repairs at the expense of other needs.
Surely we cannot continue going in circles when we can avoid it.
Students must heed the warning of the Minister of Higher Education, Brian Mushimba. They must put a stop to this uncivilised behaviour.
“This behaviour ends here now and we won’t tolerate it. If they [students] are identified to be part of this, then they will never go to any university again,” Dr Mushimba said.
As students report back to school next Monday, let them resolve to focus on their studies and not unproductive behaviour.
Their parents who sent them to school are looking forward to them graduating and becoming independent.
It is also probable that the next time they will engage in such behaviour, Government and CBU management will not be as lenient.
As the university opens, we expect to see a repentant and more responsible cadre of students.

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