THE Commonwealth Students Association says it is disappointed with the high levels of intolerance exhibited by stakeholders at the Copperbelt University, which led to the indefinite closure of the institution.
And University of Zambia Students Union president Stephen Kyengula says squatting at UNZA is not conducive for a mature institution of higher learning.
Commenting on the decision by the university senate to indefinitely close CBU following a spate of violence at campus, Commonwealth Students Association Zambia chapter secretary general Gideon Mzamba said the events that led to the closure of CBU must be investigated and corrective measures adequately taken to address the plight of students and their concerns over the ban on squatting.
"We know that it all started on June 10 this year. We have observed serious levels of violence perpetrated from all the stakeholders, students and management to be specific. We feel they are all to blame for the close of the institution and the unfortunate incidents where property worth thousands of kwacha was damaged. We believe all the stakeholders lacked leadership looking at their failure to sit and dialogue over the ban on squatting," Mzamba said.
He said there was need to avoid further damage to the students' academic life and their stay at campus.
Mzamba said there was need to convene a caucus to discuss the future and determine long lasting solutions to the spate of riots that led to the closure of CBU.
"The closure is not good for the nation, for the individual students and for management as it dents the name of the institution and the manner it is being managed," said Mzamba.
And CSA president for Africa Thompson Luzendi said the umbrella body of students would meet all the students at CBU tomorrow to analyse the challenges facing the institution and come up with proposals on how best they could be addressed.
Luzendi said the resolutions of the meeting would be presented to relevant authorities and all stakeholders in CBU.
"Our hope is that this meeting would set the way forward for the future of CBU because we do not want this closure to prolong. We remember the last time the institution was indefinitely closed was in 2009and it was closed for four weeks. We do not want to see time lost out in the students' academic life," Luzendi said.
The senate of the Copperbelt University decided to close the institution on Friday following the riots that rocked the university for two weeks.
The controversial decision by management to ban students that have no rooms from squatting with their colleagues within campus triggered the violence.
Management at CBU had maintained that squatting would not be allowed as it was a breach of university guidelines and regulations and further posed as a serious health risk for the students as their hostels were congested.
And Kyengula said the current accommodation crisis at UNZA equally needed attention.
"You can find six people not in a room, but by a bedside. On one bedside you have six people squatting. Even when you are sleeping you have to strategise," he said.
The University of Zambia currently has approximately 3,750 bed spaces but has around 15,000 full-time students.
"Of this you will find that around 75 per cent are accommodated leaving 25 per cent without accommodation.The university management enrolls more students than the infrastructure can hold. Actually they (management) don't care about what the infrastructure can hold, they care about what they are getting," Kyengula said.
He further said since1991, UNZA only built 180 new bed spaces on main campus. Kyengula, who is also secretary-general of the Zambia National Student's Union (ZANASU), however, noted that UNZA was planning on creating around 4,594 new bed spaces for undergraduates and 840 bed spaces for postgraduate students.
Kyengula also attributed the poor sanitation conditions to over-enrollment.
But UNZA public relations manager Mulenga Musepa said in an interview that the university's policy had always been to allow more students access to higher education.
"The issue was always to give more people access to higher education. It is not an issue of generating more income, but it is an issue of allowing more Zambians to access the institution," he said.
Musepa further said the university management had embarked on a public-private partnership programme with the private sector to address the accommodation problems.
He said the Nkwazi hostel at the School of Medicine completed around two years ago served as an example that management was making progress to address the issue.
"Currently there is another one nearing completion at the Ridgeway campus," Musepa said.
He further refuted claims that management was not proactive in resolving the accommodation crisis at UNZA.
''The Levy Mwanawasa hostel was actually built with their (student union) involvement. We have an open-door policy where we encourage dialogue," said Musepa.