I ENCOURAGE Brian Mushimba to learn from his predecessor Nkandu Luo and then add to that knowledge he is bringing to the table, says Rusangu University vice-chancellor Dr Pardon Mwansa.
In a letter to The Mast, Dr Mwansa offered his reflection on the recent appointment of Dr Mushimba as higher education minister, who replaced Professor Luo in a recent Cabinet reshuffle.
The removal of Prof Luo, who is now livestock and fisheries minister, has been welcomed by some students and most notably the University of Zambia Lecturers and Researchers Union, who offered a scathing critique of her tenure.
UNZALARU described Prof Luo as arrogant, among other unflattering terms.
Dr Mwansa said while he did not know where UNZALARU was coming from since he had not attended the union’s meetings with Prof Luo, his reflections over what they wrote were based on his personal experience leading an academic institution.
“It is encouraging when a person leaves office to thank them for the good they did and then point out areas where they could have done better,” wrote Dr Mwansa.
“Each person who serves has some goodness in their service. It is hard to find a person who is 100 per cent or almost 100 per cent just bad. I would wish and even appeal for good comments about Prof Luo in areas where she did well.”
Dr Mwansa said it could be tricky to praise the incoming person by proposing an agenda for them, especially an agenda created from the “failure” of the one they are taking over.
“My experience in my almost 30 years of leadership in senior offices is that those who take over from other people may be served well by learning from the people they take over first even before starting their own visions,” he said.
“Experience shows that what we say when we are outside the ring and or before we enter the ring is good rhetoric at best but only to be authenticated by experience. For this reason, I would encourage the new minister Dr Mushimba to learn from Prof Luo and then add to that knowledge what he is bringing to the table.”
He added that education in Zambia at all levels had need for improvement.
“As a researcher and an academician at heart and being, I would strongly encourage all of us scholars and researchers to save Zambia from the levels of education it has right now,” said Dr Mwansa.
“I look forward to seeing UNZALARU, and other academic groups to really intensify in both research and general academia to create a different Zambia. True education can change a nation.”
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,” stated Dr Mambwe. “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.”