University suspends 50 students for a year over protests

The country’s Mulungushi University has suspended 50 students, including student union leaders, for a year following recent riots over fees that students say are unaffordable.

At the same time the Zambian government has announced that all student union activities at the institution have also been suspended for a year.

The fees protests that recently rocked the public university resulted in the arrest of 59 students, who were later released. The students were protesting over a fee increase of 6.5%, according to a local news report.

Early last month, the Minister of Higher Education Professor Nkandu Luo announced the university’s closure for 10 working days on the grounds that protests had turned violent.

After the university reopened on 15 May, the university announced that students would be screened before readmission.

Written commitment

Parents and guardians were told that they would need to deliver a written commitment to the university pertaining to their willingness to pay the fees required by the university.
Currently, students are sitting examinations but those that have been suspended have been barred from writing.

Former Zambia National Students’ Union, or ZANASU, vice-president and former Mulungushi University students' union president Prince Ndoyi told University World News that university authorities and the Zambian government were getting it wrong by suspending students.

“Suspending students as they have done is not the solution. If you suspend student leaders, how do you then negotiate with students? This thing must be resolved by dialogue, not suspension,” said Ndoyi.

ZANASU has since condemned Mulungushi University management for the manner in which the students’ grievances were handled and has said all suspended students should be reinstated.

‘No over-reaction’

In a recent statement, the union’s Deputy Secretary General David Shauli also said the minister of higher education was wrong to say students overreacted over the issue of fees.

“We as a student mother body wish to express our greatest disappointment with the manner in which the management at Mulungushi University has handled the issue of tuition fees. This tendency by management to hike fees overnight must come to an end because they need to realise that the fees they hike are not obtained on a silver plate by students.

“Secondly, this same tendency of not engaging students through their leaders in the consultation process is leading to students revolting against management’s decisions,” he said in a statement.

“We thank God that our students have been released but there’s need for proper dialogue between management and students in decision making in order to avoid such incidences in the future. In as much as it is not our desire as ZANASU to see students riot, we are of the considered view that it is a constitutional right to demonstrate peacefully.

"However, we want to advise the police to stop this tendency of using excessive force on the students and make the situation seem as though our students are riotous.”