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Closing universities is not a solution

Edgar Lungu and his ministers should learn how to handle student grievances efficiently, effectively and in an orderly manner. It’s not right for them to deal with students in a heavy handed way. It’s not right for them to deal with students in the same cruel and vindictive way they handle the political opposition. These students are at a very special phase of their development. Everything they say or do must be taken as part of their learning process.

And if one is not militant, revolutionary or progressive as a student, they can never be that in their adult life. Closing colleges or universities whenever students have a grievance and are expressing it in a militant or aggressive way is not a solution. They should learn to engage students in a more rational and meaningful way. Closing an institution of learning is the easiest thing but not the best solution. Any fool, idiot, in power can easily order the closure of a university and it closes.

What is difficult is to keep the university open and address the grievances. The closure of Copperbelt University was expected. First Edgar issued threats of closing, accusing opposition politicians of inciting students to riot, revolt.

Students have always been and will always be part of our politics.

All over the world, it is young people who are the first to resolutely rise against injustice, oppression and exploitation; they are the most sensitive to injustice and are more courageous to take on their abusers, oppressors and exploiters.

Knowing how to handle students can reduce the tension and increase the chances of a favourable outcome.

The best defence against a grievance is engaging students, respectfully and compassionately talking to them.

It is very important to treat students with respect and understanding. Listen to their concerns and help them find workable solutions. Students in precarious situations feel stressed and upset, and will not respond well to being treated coolly. Be patient with students, even if a problem is due to their own actions. Help them understand their options and let them know that you will help to the best of your abilities.

Receiving grievances from students is not a position any government wants to be in, but knowing how to handle these situations can help mitigate potential negative outcomes.

To prevent grievances, have clear policies that are acceptable to students, stick to your policies. Treat students with respect and be empathic to their situations. Help students find workable solutions that are fair to the rest of society.

If students bring forth grievances, buy time and consult. Attempt to find solutions that are fair and defensible. If students refuse to accept your solutions and escalates the situation, involve other sectors of society like the church.

Closing colleges or universities is a fascist approach that doesn’t solve the problem. But we have a government that doesn’t listen to anyone and has no respect for anyone who differs with it. This is a government that everyday belittles and insults lecturers.

Even that monster Adolf Hitler recognised the value of young people: “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.”

This country is theirs, as well as ours, but in the last analysis, it is theirs. These young people, full of vigor and vitality, are in the bloom of life. Our hope is placed on them. Zambia belongs to them. Zambia’s future belongs to them.

We must help all our young people to understand this.

The young people are the most active and vital force in society. They are the most eager to learn and the least conservative in their thinking. This is especially so in this very complicated era in which we live. We should not treat them in the same way as everybody else and ignore their special characteristics. Of course, the young people should learn from the old and other adults, and should strive as much as possible to engage in all sorts of useful activities with their agreement.

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