UNIVERSITY of Zambia Lecturers’ and Researchers’ Union president Dr Evans Lampi has said politicians do not like unions and resort to branding union leaders political.
Speaking at a media breakfast meeting in Lusaka yesterday, Dr Lampi noted that politicians did not like unions, hence the perpetual push that academicians should never be political.
He further said the unions, depending on the situation, should talk about national issues affecting the people in the country.
“Politicians don’t like unions, there is always this push that you should never be political…it comes with a territory. When you talk about the stomach, eating, surviving and the economy, it is kind of political; not trying to run a political party as such but you have to make comments when national issues come about. As a Union, depending on the situation, we should be able to talk about national issues if they affect the people of Zambia because we are all working for the same nation,” Dr Lampi said
He said his union now wanted to have a bigger profile on national issues through his office and that of the general secretary.
“We feel that working with the press, working with media houses, we can on occasion either come into your studios or get one of our experts in various fields, we have got experts on national development, political science who can come in so that you talk to them face to face and they give an opinion on whatever is happening in the nation. We feel that we want to have a bigger profile on national issues either through my office; the general secretary who is here can sometimes talk about national issues because somehow, both the press and the academicians are the consciousness of the nation. When things are starting to go wrong, those are the people who can get up and start talking about them without having to appear as though you are a part of a political party,” Dr Lampi.
He said apart from fighting for better conditions for the University of Zambia lecturers, his union was an advocate for academic excellence.
Dr Lampi explained that with the many activities happening at the University which went unnoticed, UNZALARU decided to ignite its relationship with the media.
“One of the reasons we decided to call or interact with the press is first of all to get to know each other because there are many things happening at the University and one thing or the other, they are either not reported or they are misreported or they get lost in the national debate. I am sure you have heard that there was that talk about witchcraft recently and it created a huge uproar and when you don’t have a way you can liaise with the press and work with them, your message may get lost in the process. This is one of the reasons UNZALARU is trying to make concerted efforts to work with the fourth estate, the press,” Dr Lampi said.
He further said unions and the press have the potential to make a change in society, particularly to push for economic empowerment of the people.
Dr Lampi said it was unfortunate that the University was popular for negative activities as opposed to “the many good things happening which go unreported”.
“Even historically in Zambia, you know very well that the unions were instrumental in the independence struggle, were instrumental in the change of government in the early 90s to multi-partism. The unions and the press working together do make changes in society, especially social justice push for economic empowerment for the people and many other things. One other objective is to change the image of the union and the University itself. You know that University of Zambia is very well known for strikes, riots and a lot of negative press but there are quite a number of good things happening at the University of Zambia and most of them are not reported,” Dr Lampi said. “For example, my colleague here in the School of Veterinary, I think it got an award recently as the best international collaborative entity in terms of veterinary in Africa but most people don’t know things like this. One of the functionalities we are thinking about is the press to be able to have experts at the University of Zambia whenever things of national importance come…for instance we have an issue of GMOs, we have experts at the University of Zambia, issues of refugees, University of Zambia, army worms issues, University of Zambia and sometimes you would listen to a radio talk show but you may not even have brought the best experts there. There might be a minister and so forth but sometimes an academic might be of great use to the nation in that sense,” he said.
Dr Lampi further said UNZALARU was pushing for greater research output in projecting the nation on an international scale.
“A few other things the union is doing is pushing for greater research output, it’s very critical in projecting the nation internationally on many issues. You may want to be represented on international forums, the UN and so fourth, we feel that the University should be spearheading all these. We have also gone in Corporate Social Responsibility, most of you may be aware we had an event at the Cancer hospital. The idea there is that give back to the nation. The nation has given us quite a lot in terms of…some of us got free education under the previous regime and yes we are working but we feel that we need to give back to the nation. We are thinking of assisting the prisons etc, needy students; as you know the situation has become quite critical…quite a number of students are not going to write exams simply because they don’t have the means. They have not registered, they have not paid; their parents don’t just have the money and though this not really our baby… but as concerned members of the University community, we feel that it’s a very important thing to talk about,” said Dr Lampi.