THE University of Zambia Lecturers’ and Researchers’ Union (UNZALARU) has welcomed President Edgar Lungu’s decision to remove Nkandu Luo from the position of Minister of Higher Education.
In a statement welcoming the removal of Prof Luo from the Ministry of Higher Education and the appointment of Dr Brian Mushimba as her successor, UNZALARU stated that it wished the Head of State had taken the decision much earlier because the damage that she had inflicted on the country’s higher education sector over the last two years would take a long time to repair.
“Luo was frighteningly arrogant, impervious to advice, incapable of humility, unaccepting of criticism, enthralled by vanity, and oblivious to all these shortcomings with little capacity to recognise or overcome them,” according to a statement issued by UNZALARU secretary general Dr Kelvin Mambwe.
“At almost every turn, the former Minister of Higher Education demonstrated an aversion to reason that was totally inconsistent with someone who nominated herself as the custodian of knowledge about universities. Although we ultimately hold President Lungu and his entire Cabinet responsible for the unresolved crisis of university education in Zambia, we believe that Luo outdid her colleagues in taking matters into her own hands to destroy higher education.”
Dr Mambwe stated that it was ironic that someone of Prof Luo’s level of education was so hostile to knowledge and intellectualism.
“Luo was simply horrible at the Ministry of Higher Education. Her pedestrian educational reforms and ill-advised plans to amputate the University of Zambia into several small colleges, her proposed harmful amendments to the Higher Education Act, her decision to abolish meal allowances for students in public universities, and her silence in the face of renewed police brutality against students which resulted in the death of Vespers Shimunzhila, a female student at the University of Zambia, serve as haunting reminders of her unfortunate stint at the ministry,” he stated. “Her illegal indefinite closure of the Copperbelt University, her unlawful suspensions of student union activities at both UNZA and CBU, and her needless but repeated clashes with the very people she was employed to serve – lecturers and researchers, university administrators, students and other stakeholders – means that Luo’s removal can only be good for the future of Zambia’s higher education sector and calls for celebration. We wish Luo well in her future endeavours and will certainly not miss her at all.”
And Dr Mambwe stated that UNZALARU warmly welcomed to Dr Mushimba, the new Minister of Higher Education.
“We pledge to work with him to rid the higher education sector of the ghost of Luo’s destructive legacy and find a lasting solution to the numerous challenges that affect public institutions of higher learning in Zambia,” he stated. “These include the regrettable frequent closures of public universities, the inadequate financial support from the government to these institutions, the crumbling and insufficient infrastructure within them, the acute shortage of visionary, selfless and independent university administrators, the lack of government support for meaningful academic research and innovation, and the delayed payment of salaries, outstanding gratuities and terminal benefits to deserving recipients.”
UNZALARU urged Dr Mushimba to embrace dialogue, develop the capacity to listen, and build constructive relationships with other key stakeholders involved in the running of higher education institutions, as he seeks to address these surmountable challenges.
Dr Mambwe stated that UNZALARU was keen to meet Dr Mushimba at his earliest convenience after he has settled in his new portfolio to share ideas on the way forward, including on how progress could be made in dismantling the debt that the government owed the university.
“We in the UNZALARU have very high expectations of the new Minister of Higher Education. We would however like to warn Hon. Mushimba that should he choose to adopt the quarrelsome attitude, toxic tendencies and other self-perpetuating petulancies of his predecessor, UNZALARU retains sufficient ammunition within its ranks to defend the fundamental interests of its members to the hilt,” stated Dr Mambwe.
“We consider the Minister of Higher Education, the university administration, students, and ourselves (lecturers and researchers) as a community of people ultimately in pursuit of the same thing – the restoration of the provision of higher education in Zambia to its glorious past and even a better future. Let us work together to deliver that aspiration.”