(By Charles Tembo in Kitwe)
HIGHER education minister Professor Nkandu Luo has indefinitely closed the Copperbelt University with immediate effect. Prof Luo has described the students, who rioted on Wednesday evening, as a group of hooligans who should not be in university. Meanwhile, Prof Luo has banned all unions at the campus, ordering students to leave the institution by 18:00 hours on Friday evening. Prof Luo announced this at a press briefing at Sherboune Hotel in Kitwe yesterday.
“It has not been my desire to close any university in Zambia. I have been pushed against the wall and I say this with a very very heavy heart because the majority of students who are innocent and know why they are at CBU will be affected. But I have no choice, this morning, but to close the university with immediate effect and indefinitely,” Prof Luo said.
“I will not even talk about when it will be opened. We are closing it indefinitely. There are only two areas that will not be affected. I will be unfair if I extend this to the medical school, the Michael Chilufya Sata, so it will remain [open] and the course of International… Every student leaves campus by 18:00 hours today.”
She added that unions at CBU have been banned.
“Nobody is remaining at campus. I know the practice that when campus is closed the unions remain. I’m banning the unions for the Copperbelt university with immediate effect. Students will be back when we secure the security system, high security systems. We cannot continue to have infrastructure destroyed by hooligans, to say the least. To the vice chancellor, we will work with you and CCTV will be installed and security features that will only allow registered students in and out. Only then shall we open CBU. All these features will be extended to all our universities. Every time we have problems, it’s CBU, it’s UNZA [University of Zambia]. I think even the leaders and managers must accept that there is a problem. You can’t continue to be defending hooligans and defend that which is wrong.”
Prof Luo asked management to quickly identify the rioters.
“I hope you have identified the culprits. They should be charged to repair this. Take disciplinary measures to the students that will be identified,” she said.
Prof Luo said it was shocking that despite the students meeting with President Edgar Lungu on Tuesday, they still went ahead to riot the following day.
“On Tuesday night the union leaders met the President and they apologised for their conduct. But the following day, they rioted again. So you wonder if their apology was genuine when they had burning issues in their hearts,” said Prof Luo.
The students rioted on Wednesday evening following the decision by management to suspend union leaders.
This came barely hours after President Lungu and Prof Luo warned that CBU would be closed if the students continue with their riotus behaviour.
President Lungu, who was on a three-day working visit on the Copperbelt, sounded the warning when he inspected the rehabilitated Zambia Institute of Business Studies and Industrial Practice hostels in Kitwe yesterday morning. He said government would firmly deal with students at both UNZA and CBU who were engaging in riotous behaviour.
President Lungu said he was concerned with the behaviour of students of using violence to demand for certain incentives.
“Same goes on vandalism. You can’t have children coming from good homes to destroy property in that manner I have seen, no! We need to change with the mind right from home,” he said.
“We will deal with them (students), don’t worry. If it means closure, we will. I was sad to see the extent of the damage. Even if it’s closure we will close.”
He said no amount of vandalism on public infrastructure would be tolerated.
Earlier when President Lungu commissioned the first phase of the expansion of Mukuba University in Kitwe, Prof Luo said she will crack the whip on students and lecturers who misbehave.
Prof Luo said she does not care how much she is criticised because she has bullet proof.
“Let me say it here Your Excellency, that I am extremely disappointed with the conduct of students at CBU. I will crack the whip on students or lecturers who misbehave,” Prof Luo said. “There should be discipline. University is not a place of riots. Even the lecturers are supposed to be advisors and not critics. Even if they complain about me in all the radio stations, I have bullet proof and they can talk the way they want.”
Prof Luo said CBU and UNZA had become so comfortable.
“Let me state how disappointed as minister [I am] by the students. Students have misbehaved at CBU and I am very disappointed. CBU and UNZA has become so comfortable and they have the audacity to go and break things since they will be fixed,” said Prof Luo.