Editor's Comment

Dons must listen to Luo’s lecture


ZAMBIA has in recent years seen an unprecedented increase in the number of universities being established.This is good considering that for a long time the country only depended on two public universities, University of Zambia (UNZA) and Copperbelt University (CBU) which proved inadequate to cater for the growing number of Grade 12 school-leavers ably qualified for degree programmes.
While it is commendable that a good number of private universities have come on board to supplement public universities in offering tertiary education, the sad reality is that most of these institutions depend on part-time lecturers, mostly drawn from the two public universities.
This has entrenched a culture of moonlighting among public university lecturers who take advantage of the opportunity to make extra earnings by rendering their services to private universities.
As long as lecturers from public universities stand to benefit from moonlighting, the natural instinct is to turn a blind eye to the negative effects that come with moonlighting, especially for a profession in lecturing, which places a high demand on quality time.
We know that being a lecturer does not start and end with delivering lectures, seminars or tutorials in an auditorium.
A lecturer is also responsible for designing, preparing and developing courses and teaching materials.
In the same vein, a lecturer is expected to study the trends and develop new methods of teaching accordingly.
Other responsibilities include assessing students’ course work, setting and marking examinations, supervising students’ coursework activities, including final year undergraduate projects, masters or PhD dissertations.
Still within their responsibilities, individual lecturers are expected to undertake personal research projects and actively contribute to their institutions’ research profiles.
They are also required to prepare bids to attract funding for a range of research projects in their departments and carry out administrative tasks, among many others.
No matter how well one manages their time, this is a handful to allow one to moonlight without any repercussions on service delivery.
Assertions by Minister of Higher Education Nkandu Luo that moonlighting is contributing to poor performance of the universities’ rating on the continent and globally cannot be disputed.
Professor Luo told Parliament that it is unfortunate that some public university lecturers have stopped researching because much of their time is spent conducting private lectures.
Research is one of the key criteria used in ranking universities globally.
For instance, an institution is assessed on the volumes of research conducted; the income generated from research and influence of the research in a particular field or the extent to which the study is cited.
Just this criterion is indicative of why our two top universities have continued to fare poorly on the continental and global rankings.
In 2017 UNZA was ranked 60 on the continent and 2,598 in the world.
CBU, on the other hand, was ranked 190 in Africa and 5,462 in the world.
As rightly noted by Prof Luo, the output of lecturers is key to improving the rankings of universities.
However, moonlighting divides the attention of lecturers, thereby compromising service delivery.
In such instances the public universities are on the losing end because lecturers give priority to private jobs where they are paid according to input, knowing that with their employers, salaries are guaranteed.
This certainly has a bearing on the quality of education offered.
Private universities should also understand that depending on part-time lecturers has a negative bearing on their rankings as the number of teaching staff and qualifications are determining factors.
We certainly welcome the minister’s pronouncement that Government will soon compel private universities to employ at least 75 percent permanent staff.
This will not only raise the bar for our universities, but enhance the quality of education and graduates churned out.
Stopping moonlighting completely may be a difficult undertaking, considering that proponents claim it is done outside work hours.
It is however up to public universities to set targets, especially in areas of research, which lecturers should achieve.
The targets should ensure lecturers add value to their institutions through quality service delivery.
If this is done, perhaps it would be justified for them to say that what they do in their spare time is their business.

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