Editor's Comment

UNZA can overcome its challenges


THE University of Zambia (UNZA) has over the years been beset by so many challenges.
The institution of higher learning has struggled to meet its financial obligations due to inadequate funding. This has in some instances led to work stoppages by lecturers and other members of staff.
In other instances, it has resulted in student protests.
Due to inadequate financial resources, the institution has also faced limitations in its research functionality.
Inadequate infrastructure is also among the major challenges the institution has been grappling with for years.
While the student population has kept swelling in proportion to the national statistics, the institution’s infrastructure has remained static.
For instance, the university only has 3,670 bed spaces against over 18,000 students.
This also applies to the library, computer labs and lecture theatres. The infrastructure available is not adequate to cater for the growing student population.
These challenges, among others, have unfortunately compromised the ranking of the institution both on the continent and the globe.
According to Webometrics’ ranking, UNZA ranks 55th in Africa and 2,630 in the world.
This has been a source of concern for various stakeholders who have implored the institution to find alternative sources of income to improve operations and service delivery.
In trying to find solutions, Government has put in place plans to fragment the institution into specialised colleges for effective management.
Living in an era where human resource is at the centre of development, it is detrimental to Zambia’s development to watch the highest learning institution and other universities’ standards of service delivery deteriorating.
Needless to say, university education is more than just the next level in the learning process; it is a critical component of human development worldwide.
It provides not only the high-level skills necessary for the country’s labour market but other countries as well.
It is at these universities that critical personnel needed for the social and economic development of our country such as engineers, economists, agriculturalists, medical doctors, teachers, nurses and a myriad of others are equipped.
It is therefore highly likely that the rankings of Zambia’s learning institutions on the global, regional and national level have a bearing on the credibility of graduates, research, knowledge and other products churned out from these universities.
It cannot be business as usual when so much is at stake.
It is therefore heart-warming to learn that amid the many challenges, UNZA management is not sitting idly by, but working around the clock to find solutions.
As the year closes, the institution already has its foot set in 2019 ready to boost its operations through various initiatives.
To alleviate the shortage of infrastructure, the university is expected to construct two lecture theatres at the Great East Road campus at a cost of US$2 million. Each lecture theatre will have a sitting capacity of between 400 and 450 students.
“The bidder has been selected and is awaiting contractual obligation formalities before the construction works commence in 2019,” UNZA Vice-Chancellor Luke Mumba has said.
Within next year, the university is also expected to operationalise a special purpose vehicle called UNZA Investments Holdings.
The entity will be the university’s hub for operating commercial activities for purposes of raising revenue.
UNZA is in the process of setting up a milling plant under Liempe Farm with the support of the Chinese government.
The plant will be used for teaching and research purposes in food science.
The university has also purchased and installed an industrial printing machine worth K10.5 million. The machine, which will be commissioned next year, will certainly provide alternative revenue for the university.
More of such initiatives should be encouraged because of their potential to set the university on a firm financial footing.
And when the university is financially sound, quality service delivery is assured.
It is also good to know that Government is currently working on a project to construct 4,163 bed spaces at the institution. Though not sufficient, the project is certainly a huge step towards meeting the student accommodation at the university.
We urge other stakeholders such as the private sector to come on board and help build more hostels as part of their corporate social responsibility or through a public-private partnership.
It is hoped that the university management will keep its eyes focused on the many initiatives it has embarked on and ultimately spur the institution to higher rankings on the continental and global stage.

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