Friday, 12 July 2013

Zambia’s Evelyn Hone College Vandalism Analysed

Bad politics has denied students any open means of intellectual critical thinking to engage or behave in any intellectual standard of behaviour over their welfare
Riot Police keep vigil at Evelyn Hone College (Picture: Zambia Watchdog)

By Nyalubinge Ngwende
Students at Zambia’s commerce and arts college Evelyn Hone on Thursday rioted burning down six lecture theatres at the institution to protest over unfulfilled bursary promises by government and poor sanitation.

Police in riot gear raided the institution firing teargas and brutalizing the students using buttons to quail the situation.

More than 70 students were arrested and detained at the Central Police station that shares the perimeter fence with the college on Church Road.

Government confirmed that K540, 000 worth of property was damaged in the students’ riot.

The Education Minister John Phiri has hinted that government suspect students were being incited to riot by elements outside the institution.

The students demonstrated against government’s failure to place them on bursaries and improve the poor sanitation standards at the institution.

A statement from the college spokesperson Mwelwa Mandona says management was saddened by the conduct of the students.

There was immediate outrage poured on all sorts of Facebook pages outright condemning the students’ actions.

On Zambia People’s Pact Walter Mwambazi, I presume a pastor of a Christian Church asked:

“What is wrong with our students? It’s an "entitlement" attitude behind all this mayhem...
I do not sympathize with anyone who chooses to go and destroy public property in the name of "making a point". Firstly this can only be perpetrated by those who do not appreciate the cost of education."

Further Mwambazi believes the students acted in that manner because they study on government bursaries and “so they have no sense of responsibility! As the saying goes, what you do not pay for, you cannot appreciate, therefore, when you have an issue of any kind, resort to damaging property”. This is an entitlement mentality, that as students and to a larger extent as a nation, we are "entitled" to whatever we want, when we want it. I refuse to have this mentality. Instead I have an attitude of gratitude that is thankful for every opportunity, considering it a privilege to be utilized fully."

Marie Chibs called the students’ mayhem ‘childish’. “Infrastructure is quite expensive to build. They burnt the building without thinking of the costs that was selfish…”

She suggests that as punishment, management must let them learn in the same classes they 
tempered with so that they see the nonentity of their reaction!”

Another blogger, Emmanuel Tholosi, went straight to hit on the mob psychology of the students, demanding “Destroy and pay back for rebuilding or repairing. Individually they never destroy property from their home. But with mob psychic they don’t treasure what other people hold dear.”

He suggests that students find better ways of expression. “What about lobbying MPs, appointment with ministers, National assembly, President, etc. Are there no nonviolent methods of pressing for solutions in the heads of students?”

And Christopher Hlupo Mavimba sees the action by students as a result of the absence of 
love of the country and lack of civilization among students.   

We need to love our country if we are to see progress. The attitude of venting anger on our national infrastructure should be dispensed with…Rome was destroyed by such groups like the Vandals, Ostragoths and yet it was not built within a day. It is a pity that vandals are produced in institution where civilisation should start from.”

If the thing is about these students acting in the riotous and destructive manner as exhibited because their parents did not contribute anything, Brutal Journal feels we should look deeper into this part of question to the whole problem.

Parents do contribute to the improvement and expansion of this college through the fees they pay and taxes. Do the students know this? They do. But what makes them to take out their anger on being destructive? The answers are many, but it starts with how an institution handles its problems.

Even in a home, a couple will resort to fighting because of communication breakdown and more so failure to contain the fighting tampers. This goes back to looking at how this fighting couple engages in dialogue.

Let us not rush to just condemn these students and think the authorities from the concerned ministry to the lowest unit of leadership in the college have done their part.

We know that the issues raised by students are poor sanitation and a report that they feel betrayed by their union leaders who mobilised students to support the government move to scrap subsidies on fuel and maize. It is in the public domain this was done so that the college would attract government sympathy to address the two mentioned issues…bursaries and sanitation.

But time has been running out, students felt misused and neglected. In the end they have reacted in a violent way.

This is called using power without love. It is justice without a sense of caring about what belongs to society. This behaviour comes about because there is no one to give space for those who are aggrieved to be properly listened to and their concerns appreciated.

Remember, government said it was removing subsidies to build infrastructure. Overzealous union leaders used fellow students for political mileage into believing that their concerns at the school would be helped out. Now that has not been forthcoming, and the minister of education added salt to the injury by saying that Evelyn Hone is not in the budget.

What is surprising is how government has found money (about K500,000) to repair the lecture theatres that students have destroyed within two weeks.

This does not make sense in all places, not even in the first place. Why didn’t the government respond to the needs of students much earlier than this if they had money to spare? Now they need to do double jobs at double a cost, repair the burnt down infrastructure and resolve the outstanding problems that led to the riot.

Due to this same negligence of always trying to mop after problems is costing the country a lot of money.

If it is politics that education minister John Phiri thinks is to blame for the riots, the government equally shares its blame for bad politics…politics that in such a broader society of citizens like Evelyn Hone decides that only one political opinion of the ruling Patriotic Front  must be heard. What happens to others whose participation is suppressed? They seek the alternative valves of voice, one of which is to become passive and the other is to fight. They students chose to ‘fight’.

There is much to this confusion at Evelyn Hone and all institutions of learning to do with the failure to promote a civilized voice in politics—knowing that politics is about issues of the citizens’ welfare, which affects all regardless of political choices.

Even if one blogger. Tholosi, is suggesting that students must find some other avenue of expressing their grievances through their elected leaders, the first reaction from government
Victim of political harassment: Clayson Hamasaka
when such happens will be to accuse the students of being influenced by the opposition.
At Evelyn Hone government already fired a journalism lecturer Clayson Hamasakawhom they accused of allowing UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema access to the school, in the midst of a dysentery outbreak. Hamasaka is still being tormented by the Patriotic Front who recently set police to search his home at 02.00AM for drugs. Instead police ended up confiscating his computers and incarcerating him overnight before being released without any charge.

You cannot expect students to engage or behave in any intellectual standard of behaviour over their welfare if the state denies them any open means of intellectual critical thinking, which often takes the political form.

It all boils to lack of well seated civic education programmes that can help develop the civilized skills of engaging and seeking audience among themselves with management and government.

Bad political orientation is to blame.  It has done very little to promote among our young people the discipline of self governance, required for people to set high standards of behaviour that makes one to weigh their actions and consequences.

The Patriotic Front has to break away from this legacy which has been perpetrated over and over and over in succession by past governments.

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