Minister of Education Douglas Syakalima has challenged the University of Zambia (UNZA) to expand undergraduate and postgraduate enrolments only to areas that will address the skill requirements and labour demands of employers and agenda for national development.
Speaking at the 51st UNZA Graduation Ceremony held today at Heroes Stadium, Syakalima also said that the University should review academic programmes if it is seriously searching for ways of cutting costs.
” I am convinced that there could be programmes in this University that duplicate other programmes and are pushing teaching and other overhead upwards,’’ Syakalima said.
He also called on the private sector to participate in proposing solutions through Public-Private Partnership Initiatives to resolve the accommodation challenges at UNZA.
”I am also aware that there is a challenge of student accommodation at the University of Zambia. As government commit to ensuring that we put in place a mechanism to fund the completion of the 4,160 bed spaces for students in the fiscal year 2023.”
”Our country will not be immune to either the global economic challenges or some of the internal economic challenges we face. And so funding to higher education will continue to be limited and it is here that public universities must pay attention to out-of-the-box financing mechanisms,’’ the minister said.
Meanwhile, UNZA Vice-Chancellor, Professor Luke Mumba has appealed to government to make adequate provisions in the 2023 National budget to cover funding to complete the construction of hostels covering a total of 4,220 new bed spaces.
”Out of the approximately 24,000 residential students, only 3,900(16%) can be accommodated, leaving a deficit of 21,100 students unaccommodated. The government project to 26 in number four storey blocks at the University of Zambia covering a total bed space of 4,160 has stalled on account of limited disbursement of funds to complete construction works.”
”Additionally, there are four incomplete Cojar hostels with a bed space capacity of 640 which were abandoned 11 years ago. These abandoned hostels were a project of the Ministry of Youth and Sports and they remain public assets,’’ Mumba said.
The Vice-Chancellor also urged government to consider awarding more student loans to students in non-science based schools at the institution.
“We recognise the significant improvement in the award of student loans to students by government and acknowledge the significant increase in student loans awarded to UNZA this year, especially in science based programmes,’’ he said.
Mumba further expressed gratitude to government for helping the University in dismantling its debt.
”I particularly wish to acknowledge the following: the government disbursement of funds towards settlement of contract and retirement obligations (K221 million in 2021),” the vice-chancellor said.
He added that the timely remittance by government of the monthly grant and tuition fees from the Higher Education and Scholarships Board (HESLB), amounting to K 504 million in 2021, has helped minimise the likely occurrence of employee unrests as it has stabilised the payment of salaries.
”Further, a 15 percent increase in the grant from K200 million per year to K230 million per year in the year 2022 budget,” the vice-chancellor said.
A total of 4,053 graduands are expected to graduate over the next three days from UNZA’s 14 schools.