New university to boost higher education sector expansion

Zambia has started the process of building a US$110 million university in honour of its late second president Frederick Chiluba as part of national efforts to expand access to higher education and accommodate the increasing number of young people emerging from the growing secondary school sector.

Recently, Zambian President Edgar Lungu said Chiluba’s memory should be honoured because he contributed to the re-introduction of democracy in Zambia. Chiluba was the second president of Zambia from 1991 to 2002. He was a former trade union leader who won the country's first multi-party presidential election as the candidate for the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD), defeating long-time president, Kenneth Kaunda. Chiluba died in 2011 about a decade after his rule ended.

Lungu said the construction of the university will commence as soon as the procurement process is complete. The government had planned to build a university at the site and name it Luapula University, before Lungu renamed it the FJT Chiluba University after the “father of democracy”.

An environmental and social impact assessment report for the project estimated that construction would be concluded before 2020.

“The university will be constructed at a cost of US$110,000,000 and will accommodate 1,500 students … With regards to the location the preference for the current location was arrived at due to availability and-or scarcity of land. Chief Nkolenfumu offered 400 hectares for construction of the university despite the university needing only 120 hectares,” reads the report.

It said due to the unprecedented number of government high schools constructed across the country over the past few years, the objective of the construction of FJT University and other similar projects is to increase equitable access to quality tertiary education and skills training.

Construction projects at universities are aimed at ensuring that appropriate skills, knowledge, attitudes and values are imparted in all graduates as a key requirement for the attainment of national social and economic development, the report said.

“The aim … is to … hand over to government through the Ministry of Education before the year 2020 and help cushion the ever-growing student population in the country,” the environmental and social impact assessment report said.

According to the report, during the 75 years of colonial administration, provision of education in the country was mainly in the hands of missionaries. Prior to independence in 1964, Zambia (then known as Northern Rhodesia) had only 100 African university graduates, 1,500 Zambians with school certificates and only 6,000 in junior secondary education.

This posed a challenge in terms of human resource for development, resulting in government engaging in reforms and construction projects that have seen the total student enrolment in the public universities increase from 7,933 in 2008 to 59,272 in 2015.

The report said the government continues to attach great importance to higher education and is committed to building at least one university in each province.