Monthly Archives: November 2015

On ZIALE: Questions, concerns and the way forward

By Elias Munshya, LLM, MBA, M.Div.

When the Zambia Institute of Advanced Legal Education (ZIALE) released its results two weeks ago, I expressed my concern at the low passing rate. I am not alone in this concern. Several citizens of this great nation are expressing similar concerns: the low passing rate at ZIALE does not make sense. In the last sitting it was a paltry 18 students out of a possible 206 that passed the bar admission course. This represents about 9% pass rate and a failure rate of 91%. I have been asked some questions. I would like to answer them in turn.

  1. Do you want ZIALE to pass all of the students? It is not practically desirable for ZIALE to pass all of its students. But a failure rate of 91% does not make sense either. ZIALE does not have to decide between passing everybody and failing everyone. It has the duty to be fair in its teaching methodologies and expectations. Failing 90 out of every 100 students does not make sense.
  2. What impact if any, does the low calibre of students play in the results at ZIALE? This is perhaps the grand excuse ZIALE is using to justify its high failure rate: student calibre. I agree that some law graduates are of low calibre. But student calibre alone is inadequate to explain a 90% failure rate! ZIALE might be biased against the proliferation of private universities which seem to give law degrees to anyone with a pulse. But ZIALE cannot do indirectly what it cannot do directly. It cannot retaliate against private universities by making it impossible for private university law graduates to pass ZIALE. ZIALE has the duty to provide fair training and education to those students it accepts in its ranks. Some law graduates do not know how to spell or string a sentence together, I do get that. But that would still not explain how 90% of ZIALE students fail.
  3. Do you want ZIALE to lower standards? ZIALE can raise its passing rate and still uphold high professional standards. It is a false choice, to think that if more people pass at ZIALE then legal standards will be lowered. In fact, a high failing rate could be symptomatic of low standards rather than high standards. ZIALE cannot uphold high professional standards by failing nearly all of its students. Let me hasten to mention one more thing. It is not a sign of progress that 51 years after independence we only have 1,500 lawyers in a population of 15 million. Limiting the number of lawyers in a country that needs more lawyers is ridiculous.
  4. How can you criticise ZIALE when you have never been a student there? We daily criticise President Lungu, and yet 99.99% of us have never been president before. You do not need to be part of a public body in order to criticise that public body. As an ordinary citizen of our republic, I have the right and responsibility to hold public bodies to account. Those public bodies include statutory creatures such as ZIALE and the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ). Public bodies are not above the law, common sense or fairness. Public bodies are not beyond criticism. Zambians question the president and the parliament daily, why should ZIALE believe that it cannot be questioned?
  5. Why are you more concerned about lawyers and not medical doctors? It is true that in Zambia, there is a shortage of both medical doctors and lawyers. In fact, Zambia faces a deficit in nearly all professions. I leave the issue of doctor shortage to those who are eminently qualified to tackle the issue than I am. As a legal professional myself, lawyer shortage in Zambia might be more visible to me than other professions. Interestingly though, it appears like the University of Zambia School of Medicine graduates more doctors than does ZIALE. More graduates of the Schools of Medicine actually get the licence to practice medicine than do ZIALE students. The shortage of doctors in Zambia has nothing to do with failure rates at UNZA, but has everything to do with graduates leaving for greener pastures. ZIALE on the other hand just does not pass enough lawyers. If Zambia faces a shortage of professionals it should never be because our schools are not passing enough professions, as is the case with ZIALE.
  6. What do you have to say about other ZIALE programs? Ironically, ZIALE records almost 100% pass rate in the other professional courses it provides. Statutory bodies such as National Pension Scheme Authority (NAPSA) have the authority to prosecute those who do not comply with the NAPSA Act. NAPSA sends its prosecutors to ZIALE for training. Almost all of the prosecutors sent to ZIALE by NAPSA do pass the ZIALE prosecutor’s exams. What is true for NAPSA is also true for other bodies such as ZESCO, ECZ and other bodies. There can only be one explanation for the discrepancy in the pass rates between the bar exam and the other programs provided by ZIALE: when NAPSA sends its prosecutors to ZIALE, it makes it very clear to ZIALE, that the students need to be taught and trained and not tricked and trimmed.
  7. Would you consider enrolling at ZIALE? This question is brewed within the “nchekelako” culture. A culture that seeks to corrupt all those that criticise public bodies. The reason why I am dramatizing ZIALE is not so that I can benefit from it, but rather so that ZIALE serves the public good of Zambians. It is not for me, but for our people. I am grateful for the bar admission process I am currently undergoing in the jurisdiction of Alberta. It is stringent, stressful but quite fulfilling. But my passion still remains for many of our people in Zambia who need legal representation. Currently, the entire provinces of Luapula, Northern, Eastern, Muchinga, and Western provinces do not have a single private lawyer operating there. This is unacceptable. ZIALE plays a huge role in determining who gets to have the certificate to practice. It must be held accountable.
  8. What is the way forward? The legal profession is by nature quite arrogant, egoistic and ironically, very faithful to tradition. Lawyers do not like to change and they never enjoy change. The legal profession subsists on stare decisis (Do what Lord Diplock said in 1960). I do not believe change in Zambia should be left in the hands of lawyers alone. Any changes at ZIALE can only be effected by political and legislative action. Our parliamentarians must be stern on ZIALE so that it effects the changes needed. If ZIALE does not change, our parliament can remove its monopoly and perhaps create several provincial bodies that would train lawyers. I would be very reluctant myself, to propose this as a solution, but if our profession does not change, then politicians will have to intervene. But we have a choice to make to keep the integrity of a self-governing profession.

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Suggested citation: Munshya, E. (2015) On ZIALE: Questions, concerns and the way forward. Elias Munshya Blog (www.eliasmunshya.org) (November 25, 2015)

“Boasting na njala”: Why ZIALE results don’t make sense

E. Munshya, LLM, MBA, M.Div.

Fifty-one years after independence, we are a nation of “njala” and legal “load shedding”. In this context, it is not physical hunger I am talking about, but legal hunger. In a population of 15 million people, a paltry 1,500 are members of the Zambian bar. This is a crisis. It cannot continue any more. We need drastic measures to change this. Provinces such as Luapula, Western, Northern and Muchinga do not have a single private lawyer practicing there. My relatives in Milenge who get charged with possessing a ball of cannabis, will have no access to sound legal advice because the closest lawyer is in Ndola. This makes legal representation impossible and out of reach for a majority of our people. This state of affairs is a disaster!

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Elias Munshya, LLM, M.A., MBA, M.Div.

The Zambia Institute of Advanced Legal Education (ZIALE) is the statutory body established to provide the critical training needed to practice law in Zambia. It is a monopoly. It has a nine-month training program. The latest results are consistent with what we have seen over the years, a 5% pass rate, or in other words a 95% failure rate. Out of every 100 students, only 5 get to clear the ZIALE program to become lawyers. There has been a lot of discussion about what should be done to improve this pass rate. Clearly, passing 5 or 15 lawyers each intake will not cure the lawyer deficit that Zambia faces. Zambia needs to be adding at least 100 new lawyers a year if we are to have a professional legal service that would serve the legal needs of all Zambians. At this rate, we will never catch up, not even in a 1000 years.

The Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) president, issued a statement last week, stating that he finds nothing unusual with ZIALE results. He went on to say that students fail because ZIALE is tough. But the question is, to what end should ZIALE be tough? Mr. Chisanga said that ZIALE has a very compressed curriculum, and as a result students find it very difficult to master. He gave an example, “most of the students are used to taking 4 subjects in a year, so they find it difficult to master 9 subjects at once.” I have a question, are these 9 subjects, taken over a period of 9 months, necessary to the practice of law? What exactly do these subjects teach? If you have a program of study that is so tough as to fail a good number of people you need to practice law, it is necessary to change your program. Perhaps, ZIALE should stop to blame the students, it must accept responsibility for once and admit that its methods and its curriculum are archaic, and its basis is unsustainable. ZIALE is not helping advance the legal profession in Zambia, it is helping stifle the development of law in Zambia.

A bar admission course in Zambia must teach basic skills that impart practical abilities that would help law graduates meet entry level requirements to practice law. A bar admission course needs to teach things such as advocacy, drafting of pleadings, professional ethics, and procedural matters. It is absolutely unnecessary to teach substantive law to students because they are supposed to have studied substantive law at law school.

It is true that a bar admission course acts as a gate keeper in some situations where you have too many professionals and you want to deliberately control how many people get called. In Zambia, we have a serious deficit of lawyers, having ZIALE become a gate keeper makes no sense. As I have stated, it is tantamount to “boasting na njala” to insist that we should limit the admission of new lawyers when our country faces a serious hunger for lawyers. In Japan, the pass rate for the bar admission course is around 5%. However, Japan has a good number of lawyers and they can afford to limit how many new lawyers they admit. We are not Japan. The number of lawyers in Zambia can not compare to the Japanese situation. We need to use systems that are relevant to Zambia. We should not do things simply because other rich nations do that.

I do understand that some professors at ZIALE have said that law schools are graduating very low calibre of students. I agree. My interaction with some law students, yields a very sad picture. But that still does not explain the 95% failure rate at ZIALE. Student calibre could be justifiable if the failure rate were 50%, not when it is 95%. Out of curiosity though, why is it that the politically connected and the relatives of judges and senior lawyers almost always pass at ZIALE? Are they of a better calibre?

This is the problem when you make a training program unnecessarily difficult, you open the door to corruption, bribery and nepotism. When few can pass ZIALE fairly, the best category that would pass it are the extremely intelligent people, the geniuses. Since we have a very small supply of geniuses in the world, the next category of people to pass are the politically connected and friends and children of those who teach at ZIALE!

In the next intake at ZIALE another naïve group of students will enrol and pay millions in fees. It is like we are a nation addicted to gambling. Even when you know that ZIALE is a casino, we still have 200 to 250 new students who will end up paying millions to be part of the 95% failure rate. Zambian law graduates should one year boycott ZIALE. Without the billions of kwacha, they get from students, ZIALE might just change.

The Zambian government has the duty to ensure that the people of Milenge and Mwinilunga are provided adequate legal advice. It is their right. If ZIALE resists change, government can simply go to parliament, strip ZIALE of their monopoly and ask the people of Milenge to directly train their own lawyers. Both ZIALE and LAZ are just concerned about perpetrating their monopoly and “boasting na njala”. They do not care about the accused of Milenge. And that’s a serious legal hunger our nation faces.

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Suggested citation: Munshya, Elias (2015). “Boasting na njala”: Why ZIALE results don’t make sense. Elias Munshya Blog (www.eliasmunshya.org)(November 19, 2015).