Are demonstrations the only means of communication we know? The use of demonstrations as a way of expressing grievances at higher institutions of learning is more than a growing phenomenon. When it comes to the expression of grievances by the University of Zambia (UNZA) students the use of demonstrations cannot be overemphasized.
This is to say demonstrations are the order of the day whenever there is a misunderstanding between management and students.
UNZA students have always been recognised as a great resource. They are the future leaders. They are young, energetic and enlightened. In their optimism they set high goals for themselves. They are, no doubt, a sensitive set of people who do not like social and economic evils.
In our country however, there is a general problem of student unrest. The cause of this, in most instances, is unknown. Some people have put the entire blame on the students, while others blame UNZA management. Others still believe the Zambian education system is responsible for the unrest.
Nonetheless, factors that cause demonstrations among UNZA students range from political, economic, administrative to academic pressure. The demonstrations can be either destructive or non-destructive.
These demonstrations normally change (depending on various factors) from peaceful non-violent form to open confrontations with the police, leading to injuries, arrests and destruction of property outside the University.
The involvement of the police usually leads to the closure of the Great East Road along which the University of Zambia lies, thereby, greatly inconveniencing motorists.
Moreover, the use of demonstrations also affects the academic calendar resulting in compressed semesters, non-completion of course outlines and premature closures.
With conflicts, unfulfilled aspirations, unexpected disruptions and other issues causing students stress, academic life at UNZA can never be said to be a smooth, orderly, day-to-day routine.
Student unrest is a human problem and deserves a human approach. The problem of student unrest is deep-rooted and requires sympathetic handling.
Again, it cannot be cured overnight. Ways and means have to be found and concerted efforts have to be made to uproot the causes of this cancerous disease.
The first step that can be suggested is that the complaints and grievances of the students should be promptly attended to. Their demands, if genuine, should be addressed in the shortest period.
If small, insignificant and petty grievances are allowed to remain without being redressed, they will continue stirring up massive protests and demonstrations. It is no use condemning the student community as a whole.
Attempts should also be made to make students realise that resorting to demonstrations and riots harms the society. Students should not be allowed to form an impression that nothing short of vandalism will make management and the government address their grievances. Unfortunately such an impression has been created in the minds of the students.
It seems it has been ingrained in the minds of students and other members of society at large that there is no other way. People in management positions should make it a point to encourage peaceful negotiations at all costs.
If management shows a positive change for the better it goes without saying that students will follow suit.