AFTER an indefinite closure for over three months which has affected the students’ academic calendar, the Copperbelt University (CBU) will finally reopen on August 19 this year. On April 5, then minister of Higher Education Nkandu Luo indefinitely closed the institution following violent protests by students. The learners ran amok and damaged property after the lecturers’ decision to down tools and management’s resolve to stop them from writing examinations for failing to
After the closure, the students apologised for their actions and pleaded for the reopening of the institution. However, early last month, Professor Luo said CBU would only be reopened after adequate security measures were put in place. But yesterday, Minister of Higher Education Brian Mushimba announced the reopening of the university at a media briefing, a development which comes barely a fortnight after his transfer from the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
After being transferred, Dr Mushimba said among his many pressing and immediate interventions was to ensure that CBU was reopened soon. The minister said the university will reopen in three weeks’ time and urged students to avoid being used by selfish individuals to cause mayhem when airing their grievances.
Dr Mushimba also said suspensions of students who were involved in the riots have been lifted. He said the decision to reopen CBU earlier than anticipated was because students showed remorse for their actions. “The continued closure of the institution may affect the ranking of the university internationally,” he said. Dr Mushimba said CBU will be reopened because students are an important ingredient to the country’s future human capital.
He warned that students who like engaging in riotious behaviour and breaking private and public property will not be tolerated. “Students should stop interacting with elements which will negatively affect their education calendar and future,” Dr Mushimba said. And the minister said suspensions of students who took part in the riots have been lifted. Last month, six students, including union leaders, were expelled while four others were suspended after being found guilty of taking part in the riots.
“All expulsions have been reduced to suspensions for one academic year. These students will be expected to report back only after their suspensions have been served and they have successfully applied for readmission,” Dr Mushimba said. Students whose suspensions have been lifted will be observed for one academic year and any future involvement in unrests will result in their automatic expulsion.
Dr Mushimba said when CBU reopens, all students will be surcharged and the money will be spent on repairing the damaged property. He said Government will continue enhancing security at CBU and devise various interventions to curb student riots.
Closed-circuit television will also be installed at the institution to easily capture those who incite students to riot. Dr Mushimba said Government will continue promoting an open door policy with institutions of higher learning to prevent student unrests. Meanwhile, Zambia National Students’ Union secretary general Isaac Mwanza has commended Dr Mushimba for keeping his word about reopening CBU.
Mr Mwanza said Dr Mushimba should open a new chapter of engagement with students, academic and nonacademic staff at all universities to address some challenges which make students to riot. And Copperbelt University Stakeholders’ Union chairperson Derrick Ntalasha said the reopening of CBU is long overdue.
Dr Ntalasha said the minister should regularly meet university management to listen to their grievances to avoid student unrests. Copperbelt University Student Union information minister Emmanuel Banda said students have learnt a lesson from the closure of the institution and are eager to go back and complete their studies. “We hope that the expelled students whose expulsions have been reduced to suspensions will be cleared so that they too can continue pursuing their studies,” Mr Banda said