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A government of misplaced priorities

University of Zambia Professional Staff Union president Michael Kaluba says it was absurd that the government would without difficulty fund by-elections while neglecting higher education.

Kaluba says the government had the money but had misplaced priorities.

“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 [March] and they have not been paid and there are no indicators whatsoever whether from government or university management when they will be paid. 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,” says Kaluba.

“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 or 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.”

Indeed, university education and education in general doesn’t seem to be a priority of this government. Retaining power and enriching themselves seems to be their only discernible preoccupation. Anything to do with their hold on power seems to be a priority in funding.

Gandhi said, “Action expresses priorities.”

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.
Dallin Oaks said, “Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions.”

We’ve all had moments when our priorities weren’t quite in line. And then there are people who make those decisions seem rational and appropriate.

It may not surprise a lot of you that there are people out there who treasure their cell phones. Hell, it’s not uncommon to hear of people risking death to retrieve their dropped gadgets or save it from being stolen.
One of the more interesting but least read sections of the Old Testament is the history of the Jewish people in exile in Babylon. Their exile was a result of their failure to live according to their covenant with God. After the prescribed time of exile, God provides the leadership and the resources to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the altar, the city walls and the temple.

God came and told the people: “I’m sending you back to Jerusalem. I’m not just sending you back to Jerusalem to be safe, but I’m sending you back to Jerusalem to live a saved life; to be a different kind of person among a foreign people, to be My temple.” They got excited about that and began the journey home. Then came the distractions.

For 16 years nothing happened. Work stopped. God’s people had forgotten their initial passion. We’re not doing much better.

We have never been more sophisticated, more educated, more advanced as a country, yet we have never been more broke. It doesn’t help to point a finger at Edgar Lungu and his minions or wherever. The finger must be pointed at ourselves. God’s prophet Haggai brings a message to the people of that time and us at this time saying “Consider your ways.”

With the passage of time comes the diminishing of passion; tithing becomes tipping and prayer becomes rote quotes and church attendance becomes an obligation.

Current criteria for a person to be considered very active and involved in a local congregation is that they attend worship services 70 per cent of the time. Using 70 per cent as the standard for being very active and involved produces some interesting thoughts: That works out to 36.4 Sundays or 36 to 37 Sundays out of 52! You can’t be considered an active member of most service clubs with that kind of attendance.

The average year has approximately 261 work days (not excluding holidays). If someone only makes it to work 182 of those days, do you think they would be working there very long?

We have many churches closing every year.

Fortunately, new churches are being started. For a time, church closings and church starts were equal, but that is beginning to decline.

The point is this: it is a matter of the heart! It is not simply a matter of attendance, giving and behaviour. Those things have their place. They should come as a result of our relationship with God. Where do the things of God and our relationship with God fit into our lives?

We are certain that we don’t really forget God; it’s just that we want to put Him in a closet and bring Him out on holidays, special occasions or when we really need Him.

The message of God is, “I don’t stay in anyone’s storage closet.” Let’s not think that we can put God in a storage closet and acknowledge him when it is convenient or we’re in serious need.

Thomas Jefferson said, “I know of no safe repository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.”

Malcolm X said, “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”

We are a society that really doesn’t seem to respect its scholars or really care for its thinkers. If we did, we wouldn’t be treating our university lecturers the way we do. A ruling party cadre is treated with more respect by those in leadership than a university lecturer.

Muhammad said, “The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.”

John F. Kennedy said, “Modern cynics and sceptics see no harm in paying those to whom they entrust the minds of their children a smaller wage than is paid to those to whom they entrust the care of their plumbing…
Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource…Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.”

In his most memorable quotes on education Nelson Mandela said, ” “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world…No country can really develop unless its citizens are educated.”

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