Monthly Archives: February 2016

Education in Peril: How ZAQA can save Zambia’s tertiary education crisis

E. Munshya, LL.B., LL.M., M.Div.

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

It is a national crisis when you have university graduates who cannot read, cannot write and cannot spell. It is a national disaster if you have graduates who cannot reason or engage in critical thinking. In Zambia, we face a huge crisis in tertiary education. This column has for the past two weeks addressed the pathetic failure rate at the Zambia Institute of Advanced Legal Education (ZIALE). We stand by our comments and opinions. A ninety-five percent failure rate is ridiculously unjustifiable. Today, we would like to extend that debate a little bit more to address the issue of quality in higher education in Zambian institutions. Some time ago, a ZIALE lecturer contacted me to let me know that the quality of Bachelor of Laws (LLB) graduates in Zambian universities is so pathetic that most of them cannot spell simple words and cannot string a sentence together. I will take him at his word and contact him so that we can converse further on how we can together contribute to our country’s development.

I should not beat the ZIALE issue any further, though. Without doubt, ZIALE has its own role to play by training in such a way as to raise its passing rate. But universities, both private and public, also have a role to play in ensuring that they graduate candidates who have truly merited their qualifications. It cannot be justifiable for any university in Zambia to grant degrees to students who cannot write a single essay!

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Logo of the Zambia Qualifications Authority

Private universities in Zambia should be commended. They came in at a time when there was a huge demand for university and other tertiary education. The two universities, University of Zambia (UNZA) and the Copperbelt University (CBU), we have had for decades could not accommodate all of the many Zambians who needed a decent higher education. It really made sense that in the last decade, Zambia opened the higher education market to private players. These private players, such as the Zambia Open University (ZAOU) and the Northrise University, have changed the game. However, once a nation opens a market to private players, it is important to uphold some standards. After both ZAOU and Northrise, we have seen a proliferation of private universities, some are good and some are bad. The Zambian government has the responsibility to ensure that these private universities uphold the highest of standards. To achieve these standards, the Zambian parliament passed the Zambia Qualifications Authority (ZAQA) Act in 2011. In spite of its establishment in 2011, it is only very recently that ZAQA is taking any meaningful shape. We must encourage this body to work well and give it the support it needs.

According to Section 3 of the Zambia Qualifications Authority Act (2011), ZAQA is there to “develop and implement a National Qualifications Framework for the classification, accreditation, publication and articulation of quality- assured national qualifications.” Specifically, ZAQA has several statutory functions such as:

(1) develop, oversee and maintain a national qualification framework for Zambia; (2) develop and implement policy for the development, accreditation and publication of qualifications and part- qualifications, (3) accredit a qualification or part-qualification recommended by an appropriate authority if it meets the relevant criteria; (4) develop policy and criteria after consultation with the appropriate authorities for assessment, recognition of prior learning and credit accumulation and transfer; and (5) ensure that standards and accredited qualifications are internationally comparable.

Other functions of ZAQA are to determine national standards for any occupation; recognise and validate competencies for purposes of certification obtained outside the formal education and training systems; and recognise and validate competencies for purposes of certification obtained outside the country.

ZAQA should therefore, immediately engage all the stakeholders so that they begin adhering to minimum standards, before Zambian tertiary education gets pulled further into the quagmire. ZAQA needs to make it clear that universities and colleges should employ lecturers who are at least one qualification higher than the qualification for which they are teaching. Those teaching degree courses must at least have a master’s degree. Those teaching masters degrees should at least have doctoral degrees. It cannot be tolerated to have degree holders purporting to teach other degree holders. This is what some private universities are doing, and it is deplorable. It does not give Zambian education a good name.

ZAQA should also look into the fees that universities are charging. It could be a stretch to suggest that ZAQA has the sole responsibility to police university fees. But it has the responsibility to ensure that students get educational value for the fees they are paying. Some Zambian private universities are charging exorbitant fees for an inferior education. This is unacceptable. Some universities are universities in name only and they do not have the requisite infrastructure. ZAQA does not need complicated mechanisms to control this. It must begin working on this as soon as possible.

ZAQA should also call for a huge indaba to address the ZIALE failure rate. ZIALE has a seat on ZAQA board and it is an organisation subject to ZAQA jurisdiction as far as standardization of its qualifications is concerned. ZAQA should bring all the stakeholders together to find the way forward to ZIALE’s pathetic failure rate. Is there a way ZAQA can intervene to restrict how many private universities should be able to offer a qualifying law degree? If ZIALE is concerned with standards from private universities, it could be time for ZAQA to initiate discussions in that direction.

As the creature of our parliament, ZAQA has a singular role to redeem the tertiary education system in Zambia. By coming up with a consistent framework, it will be helpful for all stakeholders to know exactly what is expected of them and their qualifications. By upholding good standards, Zambian qualifications will be able to compete with international qualifications. Zambian tertiary education has a long way to go, and ZAQA should be encouraged to play its part.

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Citation: Munshya, E. (2016). Education in Peril: How ZAQA can save Zambia’s tertiary education crisis. Elias Munshya Blog. (www.eliasmunshya.org) (February 2016).

This article was originally published in the Munshya wa Munshya column of the Zambia Daily Nation in 2015. The column is featured every Friday in Zambia’s leading private newspaper.

Alliances of the Bizarre: The shape of Zambian politics towards the 2016 elections

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

Nothing can get more politically bizarre than the sudden announcement that Elias Chipimo, Miles Sampa and Eric Chanda would form an electoral alliance to defeat the incumbent Patriotic Front (PF) government. This Sampa-Chipimo-Chanda (SCC) alliance is bizarre on so many levels.

  • First, Elias Chipimo appears to be quite a level headed gentleman. But he has not had any traction at all since he formed his NAREP party a few years ago. The most damaging of his political life was when he came out with fewer votes than Eric Chanda in the 2015 presidential by-election. It is a serious indictment of Zambian politics that a reasonable aristocrat like Elias Chipimo would get such fewer votes than a little known Eric Chanda.
  • Second, the SCC alliance does not quite make sense. What is this alliance based on? Miles Sampa just launched his party last month. Before he even has had the time to introduce his party to the country, he is already getting small parties into ambiguous alliances with him. When is he going to spread the message of his orange party?
  • Third, the SCC alliance is also quite unusual in that all the three gentlemen are Bemba (or Bemba speaking). Alliances should make much more sense if they are trying to cross-pollinate some aspect of Zambian diversity. This SCC alliance falls far short of bringing any meaningful cross-pollination of our national politics. I do not therefore take the SCC alliance very seriously. It is going nowhere and adds nothing new to the national political dialogue.

Just this week though, United Party for National Development (UPND) president Hakainde Hichilema had very rave reviews of the SCC alliance. This is where I fail to understand the political reasoning of Mr. Hichilema. How can an SCC alliance be such a great thing to him? Unless of course, he has some hopes that this SCC will eventually join his UPND alliance at a later stage. In that case then, he is trying to oil the SCC alliance so that they could become useful to UPND’s battle for 50+1. On that basis it could be a smart move on his part. Hakainde Hichilema’s UPND needs to penetrate into the North-Muchinga-Luapula corridor if it is to dislodge the Patriotic Front from power, and getting the SCC alliance on board could be the first step in that direction.

President Edgar Lungu is reading the political mood very well. He seems to be quite open about it and I must commend him for that. To put it very bluntly: the Patriotic Front will lose the elections this year if their North-Muchinga-Luapula support wavers even slightly. To win the elections, the PF must do well in three areas: first, they must maintain a commanding lead in Lusaka and Copperbelt, second they must maintain the Luapula-North-Muchinga corridor and thirdly, they must get a steady inflow of votes in all the other areas of the country.

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MMD President Nevers Mumba

To achieve these three goals, the PF will need the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), particularly its president Nevers Mumba. A while ago, we wrote that the PF faces a Bemba revolt. It appears like the departure of Miles Sampa from the PF and subsequent formation of the SCC alliance would seriously challenge the PF’s domination of Bemba areas. Lungu must counter this coming assault by selecting a person like Nevers Mumba as his running mate, if the PF goes ahead with an alliance with the MMD. Nevers Mumba is not a powerhouse on his own. A running mate for President Lungu does not need to be a powerhouse. A running mate for President Lungu does not need to be an overwhelmingly popular person. President Lungu needs a running mate that will help him cover the three areas I have mentioned above.

  • First, Nevers can easily help Lungu rally the Copperbelt and Lusaka if he uses the Patriotic Front substructure, which in actual fact was stolen from the MMD infrastructure.
  • Second, Nevers would help cure Lungu’s Bemba problem. Very few would dare to admit that Lungu is facing a Bemba revolt. I must say it without hesitation: the Bembas within the PF are grumbling a lot at the moment. Nevers could help calm those grumblings. A Bemba running mate would almost certainly forestall the likely SCC invasion of a traditional PF stronghold.
  • Third, Nevers as a running mate could help garner the little infrastructure of the MMD country wide that might ensure the Lungu-Mumba ticket pick up a few MMD die hard votes across the country including the Eastern Province. The PF must particularly canvass for any votes they can get from the East. The MMD still has a good political organisation and infrastructure that Lungu could tap into.
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Elias Munshya, LLM, M.A., MBA, M.Div.

The above discussion might lead to the next important question. What should happen to Boma Inonge? I must put it very bluntly, Boma Inonge has done very well for the country. But even if she were to stand as an MP in her current constituency on the PF ticket, she would lose. The west had turned a page on the PF party, the UPND will dominate. Kaingu is also causing a lot of dust, but as a candidate on the PF ticket he will lose in the west. With a very dominant support in the south and the west, the UPND only needs a slight movement in the north to win the 2016 elections. It is that movement in the north that Lungu should worry about. But for now, there will be more alliances and rumours of alliances before the 50+1 finally gets to decide who wins on August 11, 2016.

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Munshya, E. (2016). Alliances of the Bizarre: The shape of Zambian politics towards the 2016 elections. (www.eliasmunshya.org) (February 2016).

This article was featured in the Zambia Daily Nation Newspaper in January 2016. Munshya wa Munshya column is featured every week in one of Zambia’s leading private print newspaper.

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Could we have a Lungu-Mumba candidacy?