(By Oliver Chisenga and Charles Tembo)
CLOSE universities and tell the nation that you have failed to fund higher education in Zambia, unpaid members of staff have demanded. Meanwhile, lecturers at Copperbelt University have suspended classes over delayed February salaries. In an interview after addressing members of staff who have gone on go-slow demanding their February salary, University of Zambia Professional Staff Union president Michael Kaluba said it was absurd that the government would without difficulty fund by-elections while neglecting higher education.
He noted that the government had the money but had misplaced priorities. A check at the university found members of staff gathered at the graduation square singing and chanting against their delayed salaries.
“As union officials, we are concerned with the way this university is being managed in terms of financing it. The staff of this university ideally should have received their pay before 28th February but you may notice that today is the 11th and they have not been paid and there are no indicators whatsoever whether from government or university management when they will be paid,” he said.
“Surely even slaves, once in a month, expect either to rest and eat something. We can’t allow, as union officials, this situation to continue. We are aware that this government has got money but we are also aware that what is missing within the government circles are priorities. To them they can easily find money to fund a by-election in Roan Constituency, they can easily find money to fund a by-election in Bahati Constituency but they can’t find money to fund just two institutions, UNZA and CBU. These are critical institutions in the development of this country,” Kaluba said.
Kaluba schooled government that countries that had developed in the world were those that invested in the development of human capital unlike what was obtaining today in Zambia.
“So our position for now, as a union, is that we are waiting for this government to tell us whether they are interested in running this university of not. If they are not interested, let them close it and tell the nation that they have failed to fund higher education in this country. As it is, there is no motivation to work.”
Later, the members of staff and all the three University of Zambia unions, UNZALARU, UNZAPRO and University of Zambia and Allied Workers Union reconvened to chart the way forward.
The gathering demanded to be addressed by the vice chancellor who promised that the salaries would be paid on or before Friday.
He said following a meeting with the education permanent secretary, salaries would be paid but asked the workers to resume work.
However, the workers who complained that the government was not taking their plight seriously vowed to stay away from work until their wages were paid.
Meanwhile, lecturers at Copperbelt University have suspended classes over delayed February salaries.
CBU Academic Union secretary general Willlie Ngosa said lecturers could not put water in their vehicles for them to move to and from the institution.
“Our members are stuck and don’t know what to do. The only information we are getting is that management is still waiting for government to fund which for us is strange because these people have been employed to source funding and not just sit in their offices and waiting for funding. So we wrote to them and told them that our members won’t be available because they don’t have means of coming to work. We can’t put water in our vehicles, others come from far places like Ndola, Kalulushi and it is not just impossible for them to move. So the situation remains the same; no classes,” Ngosa said.
And the students’ union had asked the government and management to work on a lasting solution to end the challenges of salaries for staff at the institution.
Copperbelt University Students Union acting president Christopher Mutami said students were very unhappy with the decision by unionised staff, including lectures, to boycott work due to none payment of their February salaries. He said the lecturers’ decision was disturbing.
“This is very disturbing to our academic learning. We came here to learn and not to sit and wait for nothing. So we appeal to government and management to sit down and find a lasting solution to this,” Mutami said.
A check at CBU found students moving about while lecturers were not seen.