ZAMBIA: Brain drain stemming plan in tatters

A plan tabled in Zambia's parliament in 2007, aimed at curbing the brain drain among science lecturers and researchers, lies in ruins amid ongoing academic disgruntlement. The plan included adjusting salaries regularly, introducing a home-ownership scheme, retention allowances and increased research grants for state institutions. But strikes have dominated Zambia's academic year and they have included science lecturers.

The brain drain has been hitting science departments the worst but there appears to have been little movement on the parliament-endorsed plan to pay scientists adequately. Lecturers went on strike three months ago over poor salaries and the action only ended last month.

In an interview with University World News, Zambia's Deputy Minister of Education Eustasio Kazonga said targets had been missed because the funds provided in the budget were inadequate.

"We never said the plan would cure all the problems but we have seen improvements in some areas," Kazonga said. "It's not like we have not done anything. We did our best under the circumstances."

The Deputy Minister could not give details on the number of science lecturers who had benefited from the home-ownership scheme but confirmed that not all had.

Regarding industrial action by lecturers, Kazonga said the government hoped this issue would be resolved in next year's budget: "It's mainly to do with funding problems."

There has also been unrest among students in Zambia, with several demonstrations in recent months and some students shot and wounded b the police.

Zambia's parliament, which adjourned indefinitely last month, will resume sitting on a date to be announced after a presidential election due to be held this week. The presidential election was necessitated by the death of the late President, Levy Patrick Mwanawasa, in France last month.