The Copperbelt University Students Union (COBUSU) has ordered students to go class-boycott.
The Union leaders have been forced to take that route to force management to listen to their grievances over accommodation crisis.
The students want the management to allow students to continue squatting until there is adequate accommodation for all deserving students.
In a statement signed by COBUSU president Oscar Mbewe and Secretary General Kingsley Chinyama, the students leaders said that ‘the implications of this decision are that if management doesn’t change its mind, the university will be closed.
See the full statement below:
THE COPPERBELT UNIVERSITY STUDENTS UNION – COBUSU
C/O Dean of Students P.O BOX 21692 KITWE
ACCOMMODATION CRISIS AT THE COPPERBELT UNIVERSITY
On 07th August, 2013 the students of the Copperbelt University were surprised to see a notice from the Dean of Students informing them that the policy of no squatting still stands and that security would pass through the rooms, hence those found wanting will face disciplinary action. As a union, this action caught us by surprise because we believed management and the students had resolved, even if impliedly to let this issue be. In response to this notice, we categorically stated to the Dean of Students to just let “sleeping dogs lie” as there was no need to raise tension on campus.
However, even after our efforts to remind management that any efforts to enforce this rule will end in violence. Despite this warning, the university security, after receiving instructions from the University Vice Chancellor went around the male hostels checking and searching for “squatters”. As warned, the situation in the wee hours of Sunday, 11th August disintegrated into chaos.
To try and draw support from the public after efforts to dialogue with the University Vice Chancellor were rebutted, the union decided to gather at the city square freedom statue. The gathering was extremely peaceful and at all points we were willing to comply with the authorities. In spite of our extremely peaceful conduct, some students including our union president were rounded up by the police and put into police custody. As a union, we condemn the arrests of our union leaders and we encourage the police command to always seek dialogue.
The arrests are not our major area of concern as we know it is the cost of serving our students. This never ending issue of squatting and intimidating students has to come to an end, once and for all. The actions of management are extremely regressive and not well thought through.
GENESIS OF THE ISSUE
This issue generated a lot of media attention and therefore comes as no surprise to most. We sought to get management to bend and continue to turn a blind eye to this issue until a feasible solution to this problem is found by both parties. Management, in its dictatorial ways chose to avoid the dialogue baby.
The union, called for a general meeting to cool the tension on campus and tell our students to continue squatting as we had neither been offered a viable nor feasible solution. The general meeting was held in the presence of the Dean of Students who gave us and the students assurance that things will remain unchanged. The students populace lived in peace from the time they were given this assurance. Therefore, this uncalled for action has caught all of us off guard.
We would first like to state that this issue of students squatting is not a new one. There has been very little infrastructure development at tertiary institutions for decades. This, coupled with the growing demand for quality education has caused extreme stress on the very little resources that these institutions, including CBU, have. This stress has caused students to make ends meet, and one way has been to allow our colleagues to be housed in our rooms.
Squatting, liked or disliked, has allowed many students that have no ready accommodation in Kitwe to access this highly sought after university education. It has allowed those that can’t afford the rentals charged in boarding houses to readily acquire the knowledge this nation so desperately needs.
Recently, at the University of Zambia, the Vice Chancellor assured UNZA students that management will not enforce the no squatting rule and the no “cooking rule”, a move that was welcomed by all.
As a union, we first propose to management to only enforce this rule when all stakeholders have found a solution to this problem of squatting. However, with the recent of display of lack of patience by university management, we are sure this proposal will fall on deaf ears. Therefore, to get management to listen, the student union has called for and ordered the students to go on a class boycott. The implications of this decision are that if management doesn’t change its mind, the university will be closed. Management should state to the students, in writing that this policy will be tolerated. Anything short of a written assurance from management will not be accepted.
As a union, we seek to be helpful and offer constructive criticism to management and the government, as they are our biggest stakeholders.
We seek to urge the government and management to invest heavily and immediately in infrastructure at the university. We also urge them to consider all the other public universities and tertiary institutions in this request. Accommodation, if not provided will place barriers on higher education. If our nation is to achieve major progress and have improved social mobility. Tried and tested economists have proved the value education has to any nation.
This government needs to get the ball rolling and change the face of education in this nation. This government has a great opportunity to do what all past governments have not done, investing tremendous amounts in higher education and improving greatly the conditions in the already existing public universities.
COBUSU PRESIDENT…………………… COBUSU A/ SECRETARY GENERAL………………………
MR OSCAR. MBEWE Mr.KINGSLEY CHINYAMA