EXCITEMENT was in the air at the 19th Copperbelt University (CBU) graduation ceremony, as the institution churned out an historic 825 graduands for the single academic year.

Notably, the school of mathematics and natural sciences, which is among the new degree programmes developed at the university, produced seven graduands for the first time in history.

And 27-year-old Malumo Mwiya says it feels good to graduate, stating that school life had been challenging.

Malumo, a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration graduand, explains that successful completion of the four-year study was not easy.

"It feels good. School has been hectic and hard. It is that chapter of studying. Let me face the next challenge in life," he says.

Malumo bemoans the high unemployment levels in the country.

"Job search, it's a new challenge hopefully I will find a Job because nowadays jobs are very difficult to find. Employment is just hard to find regardless of the qualifications," he says.

Malumo notes that obtaining a degree at any university is no mean achievement in life.

"Education is the sweetest thing in life. It is not only for the rich but also for the poor," he adds.

Malumo urges the government to improve the quality of university education in the country.

"The government should improve the quality of education in the country. In most universities, there are few learning materials and libraries are poorly stocked countrywide. As you can see, a lot of my friends got 16 points at Grade 12, but are sent back home in the first year, one wonders why," observes Malumo.

Meanwhile, 23-year-old Ethel Musonda notes that the graduation ceremony was long overdue.

"I am excited because I have waited for so long and beside there were a lot of challenges here for instance; the accommodation was not enough to cater for all students; in the library, there were no books. Therefore, we were forced to source for other materials," says Ethel, a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration graduand.

And 25-year-old Bwalya Silwamba reveals that the academic work at the institution is challenging.

Bwalya, a Bachelor of science in Agro-forestry graduand, complains that the four-year study period is characterized by academic work load.

"In the first year, it was hard for me, it became easy as we progressed. For someone to complete the course you must be hard working and committed to school work. I saw a lot of my colleagues with better backgrounds which I didn't have quitting," observes Bwalya.

Meanwhile, 24-year-old Grace Njoloma says graduating at the university is a dream come true.

"It is graduating a thrill. It's one of the dreams to a bright future. Finally, I have something at the end of the four years. It's been long over due because I can't wait to start working and contribute to the development of Zambia," Grace says.

She bemoans the poor education system in the country.

"Imagine here in Zambia, we learn a lot in a short period of time. Our libraries are not up-to-date and we are expected to do a lot of researches during the training. There is also limited access to internet as the computers that we have here are not enough because the population can't cope up with the computer labs," explains Grace.

And in a vote of thanks, Kapumpe Shikaputo said graduation ceremonies present special moments to not only students and lecturers, but also to parents and family members.

"Your effort, your time, your unending commitment has today borne fruit and on behalf of all the graduating students I wish to extend my sincere most gratitude," Kapumpe said.

She observed that the existing high unemployment levels have contributed to the high poverty levels in the country.

"Our plea today is for our government to seriously address the issue of unemployment not only amongst university graduates, but also youths in general," said Kapumpe.

Meanwhile, CBU Vice-Chancellor Professor Mutale Mike Musonda said quality assurance in higher learning institutions is a complex and elusive concept.

Prof Musonda noted that in higher education quality assurance is associated with a number of factors such as; the caliber of teaching staff, adequacy of pedagogical infrastructure, consumables and quality of library holdings.

"All these factors play an important role in determining the quality of programmes offered and hence the caliber of graduates. At present, most institutions believe that although their staffing levels may be adequate, they face challenges of resource availability in the other areas to ensure the necessary quality of graduates," observed Prof Musonda.