The University of Zambia has been closed indefinitely by a lecturer strike for better pay and working conditions. The academics have resolved to withhold examination results from students pending a favourable outcome for their demands.
The university had been slated to open for the new academic year on 24 June, but studies could not resume due to the industrial action.
In a notice that appeared in several Zambian newspapers, the University of Zambia authorities urged students not to report for class.
“This is to inform all first year and returning students that senate, at its sitting of 21 June 2012, resolved to postpone the opening of the 2012 Academic Year which was scheduled for 24 June 2012 and 8 July 2012 respectively, till further notice,” reads part of the notice.
“This is due to unforeseeable circumstances. Students shall be informed of the new opening dates in due course. In this regard, all students are advised not to travel to the University of Zambia Great East Road campus.”
As part of the industrial action, lecturers have refused to release exam results for the last semester and the end of the last academic year.
The dons have also turned down requests by the university council and government to return to work while negotiations to reach common ground are under way.
The strike by the lecturers underlines the problems African governments face in efforts to improve the higher education sector. Before his election last year, Zambian President Michael Sata promised to break with the past – a pledge that is now being tested.
In an editorial on Tuesday, the Daily Mail newspaper said intermittent closures of the institution, which it described as the pioneer and torch-bearer of Zambian higher education, were compromising quality, among other negative effects.
“The strike will not just be a blow to the spirit and soul of proper collective bargaining. Zambians will have to pay a heavy price in spending more on educating their children,” the newspaper said.
“Many are the times when courses that could be completed in four years have ended up taking up to eight years. The same goes for the costs. Study programmes that could have cost ZMK20 million (US$4,190) to complete have in some cases gobbled up to ZMK50 million, as a result of disturbances at the institution.
“The intermittent closures also compromise the quality of graduates being churned out of the university. With every closure, students easily resort to all sorts of vices including drinking, which make them 'rusty' by the time they resume studies.”
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