Editor's Comment

All should draw lessons from CBU closure

WHEN he was appointed minister of Higher Education barely a week ago, Brian Mushimba promised to prioritise the re-opening of the Copperbelt University (CBU).
And true to Dr Mushimba’s pledge, CBU, which closed in April, will re-open on August 19.
This is a welcome decision by the new minister. This announcement will please students, lecturers, CBU management and parents/guardians because the minister has cleared the anxiety regarding the institution, which was on forced recess for almost four months.
Former Minister of Higher Education Nkandu Luo closed CBU indefinitely due to continued riots by students.
Now that the date for re-opening is known, Government and CBU management should put measures in place to ensure that factors which contributed to the closure are taken care of.
In this case, Government should prioritise education and provide the needed funding so that students and lecturers do not spend more time demanding what they think they deserve.
Students and lecturers alike must always look for better ways of expressing their grievances rather than violence or strikes.
The four-month closure has affected students because they have lost out in terms of learning. Had the university not closed, they could have covered more ground academically with those in the final year preparing to graduate with the others proceeding to other semesters and applicants looking forward to joining.
All this is now water under the bridge. Lost time can never be recovered because neither the students nor lecturers can rewind the clock of lost time.
The other downside of the frequent closures of public universities such as CBU is that they diminish their rating. This must be avoided by all means.
Moreover, they are a waste of time and resources because while students are away, lecturers continue getting salaries. That’s wastage.
That is why there is need for restraint by students because they end up being the biggest losers in the equation.
CBU and UNZA have earned the notoriety of impromptu closures due to either riots by students or sit-ins by lecturers.
Closures of universities cause a strain on parents because they have the burden of looking after students who should have been studying.
Some students end up taking menial jobs as a way of keeping themselves busy while awaiting the re-opening of the universities.
The other downside of the closures is that internationally, they are misaligned. That is why UNZA and CBU do not have five academic calendars like elsewhere.
They seem to have rolling calendars according to circumstances. In 2004, UNZA was forced to take two streams of first-years because it had lost a full academic year due to persistent closures.
Closures are indeed very destructive.
And this is evidenced by their poor rankings on the African continent. CBU should do more to become recognised as a reputable centre of academic life.
Staff must conduct research and publish in reputable journals. Staff at CBU should be visible on Google Scholar.
People need to see CBU on the list of the top 100 African universities.
The common denominator of the problems at UNZA is that academic staff and students have this mistaken sense of entitlement.
The problem at UNZA and CBU is not funding. It is not government. The problems are UNZA and CBU themselves.
So, UNZA and CBU must change their organisational culture and psychology.
Many of the answers to the current challenges facing UNZA and CBU lie within UNZA and CBU themselves.
As CBU prepares to re-open, there should be no political interference at the institution.
CBU management should also provide collegial leadership. This means that a good leader ought to be consultative, they should be led by the people they lead.
There is need for transparency and accountability because CBU cannot enjoy administrative autonomy if the university is not accountable to those that fund it.

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