The University of Zambia has become synonymous with stone throwing and breaking people’s cars. This is what the highest learning institution in the country has been reduced to. A single year does not pass by without an incident occurring. It is always very easy to label the students as hooligans who are not worthy to be called intellectuals. However, the question that we should be asking is why do the students resort to riotous behaviour whenever they are aggrieved?
The university is supposed to be filled with the brains of the nation. These are individuals who are supposed to be the future scientists, engineers, policy makers and educators. The nation should be looking at them as a voice of reason. Therefore, when they have something bothering them why don’t they dialogue and sort out their problems? It is definitely not difficult to table and air their views and have them sorted out instead of breaking innocent people’s vehicles. Indeed this should be the logical and best solution to the numerous problems that UNZA faces. The only trouble is that dialogue has not always been the best solution.
It is only people who have been to the University of Zambia who truly understand the situation and can probably empathise with the students when they go to the Great East Road in protest. Students do not just wake up one morning and decide that today we are going to block the road until our grievances are heard. It is always the last resort. Before that is even decided dialogue is opened, however, for some reason this dialogue is either lost in the corridors and it never gets to the right people who make decisions. A very simple problem somehow develops into a complex matter which later opens up a Pandora’s Box. The sad part about it is that these are situations that can easily be resolved but someone somewhere decides to take their time in addressing them.
When the students decide to discuss their problems no one seems interested in hearing them. When they throw a stone all of a sudden they have everyone’s ears. When the students complain about water problems they are lucky if they get an article in the paper but when they throw stones they make the front page headline. When students complained about closing early to make way for the zone 6 SADC games all ears were deaf, when they took to the road finally they were told they would not close. While I was at the University of Zambia two lives were lost while crossing the Great East Road. The students had been lobbying for a bridge to be constructed for so long but no one paid attention. It had to take two lives lost, a burnt bus, blocked Great East Road, tear gas and running battles with police. Lo and behold, that is the only time the bridge we see today was built.
Now this does not need any research or psychologists to interpret that if you talk no one hears but if you throw a stone then you will be heard. This is the deduction that the students are left with. The only way they will get their voices out there is to be aggressive. Why on earth should they stop what has been a winning formula for decades?
In my opinion as long as students are continued to be taken for granted and their views ignored, we can brace ourselves for more stone throwing. The stakeholders need to be open to dialogue and act promptly upon whatever resolutions are reached. We also need to address issues before they have escalated to alarming levels. It is time that government, the university administration and the students decided whether the ladders of bureaucracy are worth it. Perhaps each institution should have a committee of mediators who will be a bridge between the students and related stakeholders. Some of the problems that occur at UNZA are long outstanding, lecturers striking, water problems, poor accommodation, delayed meal allowance, hiking of tuition fees and poor security. Surely we do not need an Einstein to solve these problems. Allow me to borrow my friend Alinani Mugala’s words, “I look forward to day when UNZA will make news because students have made an invention, lobbied for a good piece of legislation, cabinet models UNZASU leadership, management makes its own money, etc. it can be done. Enough of the deterioration of what’s supposed to be the pride of the nation.” Until then kindly insure your cars and may we pray that UNZA students remain happy.
Is rioting a justification to getting the publics attention?