Zambia is setting up a nuclear training centre, in the next few years, and meet the population demands for durable, sustainable health and economic growth programmes, using energy in tandem with developed nations, Russia included.
And Zambia will soon enact a law that will regulate all universities to ensure the reputation of the highest learning institution is upheld, unlike presently, where negative publicity, relating to strikes and other vices have forced them to be shunned by prospective and potential foreign students to enroll.
All universities will now be required to have researchers, professors and experts to ensure the history of the country is written for the future generation while ensuring that various curriculum are followed to the latter, while maintaining acceptable student levels and avert squatting.
Zambia has over the years, faced daunting challenges to provide quality health care for the escalating 16 million populace as well as sustain economic growth because of unreliable energy capacity to build its economy.
The cost of providing radiation for various health care services including treating cancer, brain scan, tumor, cancer-related cases, among other medicinal services have been a huge cost on the Government, hence the decision to consider setting up a research centre, planned for Chongwe, East of the Zambian capital, Lusaka.
Reliable energy has also remained a challenge for Zambia because of the unreliable hydro power which has been frustrated by climatic changes, resulting in power outages, which has in turn affected economic growth, according to data.
Professor Nkandu Luo, the minister of Higher Education says, things are expected to change for the better-what with the nuclear energy training centre, expected to undertake research on various ailments and types of treatment expected to be set up soon and develop “home grown results” using local expertise to defray expenses.
“You may not believe that the cost of using radio, chemo, cancer and other types of therapy on patients seeking specialized treatment has remained a huge burden on our economy because all of them are imported” Professor Luo says.
Russia, she added has developed its economy, not through hydro energy by nuclear but that with the dimishing capacity of the latter, Zambia is forced to adopt sustainable and cost saving initiatives-nuclear power included to develop its economy.
“If you go to Russia today, you will not find any equipment, machinery or indeed any programme using hydro power, they all use nuclear energy and its cost effective and efficient”
Speaking during a Patriotic Front Interactive Forum in Lusaka, Sunday, March 18, Luo, a professor in microbiology and immunology, among other health related expertise, stated that Zambia wants its own trained own personnel to research on the causes and treatment of diseases that attract the costs of radiation and save the populace.
Last year Zambia sent 30 Zambians to Russia for specialized training while other personnel are earmarked for training in the next few months in the Eastern European state to acquaint them on nuclear physics for onward development of research papers that will help Zambia defray medicinal expenses.
The development of the nuclear research centre comes in the aftermath Zambia and Russia having signed two agreements last year on the development of a nuclear energy programme.
President Edgar Lungu recently met the Director General for the global atomic and Vienna-based agency- International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano to collaborate on the nuclear related programme for peaceful purposes including improving health care services.
The IAEA, an intergovernmental organization, is the global centre for cooperation in nuclear applications, energy, science and technology and was established in 1957. Its mandated to work with its Member States, Zambia included, and other partners to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies and strives to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, according to data.
Luo stated that with the centre will help Zambia boost the energy sector and scale down on the power outages because of the deficit created by hydro generation, an initiative that has elated the Head of State.
Nuclear science, remains a vital cog of medicine and with the planned centre, it will defray costs incurred in medicines and experts sought fr om abroad to deal with complicated cases.
“President Lungu is very excited that Zambia can be the first country to have a health nuclear centre that is why he wants to ensure Zambia has its own nuclear research institution.
“Zambia is in a hurry to speed up the research process on nuclear science to discover the causes of diseases troubling the people in Zambia.”
Government has since embarked on redefining the National Institute for Scientific Research (NISR), the laboratory which will work side by side with the planned establishment of a nuclear centre in Lusaka.
And a programme, under the auspices of the Ministry of Higher Education for skills development in secondary schools is underway as part of the youth empowerment.
According to Luo, youths at various selected schools will be trained in various specialized programmes, ostensibly to sustain them as envisioned by President Lungu to in the next five years create an average 1,000,000 jobs during the opening of Parliament over two years ago.
A Human Skills Levy has since been introduced in collaboration with the private sector to develop abilities in school leavers.
Various corporate organizations have in collaboration with the Government agreed to contribute part of their budget in which pupils at the selected specialized secondary schools will be imparted with the skills at diploma and degree levels and prepare them for industry, after being retained in school for two years for career build up.
The programme dubbed: “career pathway” will entail selected technical secondary schools to enable students with desires to learn skills to spend an additional two years after completing grade twelve to acquire skill competency.
“The governments intend to put up a premium skill development centres in all technical secondary schools wh ere students will be exposed to various skills at an early in life.
“At graduation students will be give tool which they will carry with them home and set up small industry and begin to make money as they wait to further their careers life.” added Luo. Technical schools are expected to be built in provinces to prevent students from travel long distances in search of skills development centres.
And Government has established a higher education authority to redeem the country’s academic system. The authority, will among other mandates, regulate and set benchmarks for academic staff with the lecturers expected to teach in such institutions to possess a minimum qualification of a Masters, PhD and professorship.
Professor Luo cited the recent spate of strikes and student demonstrations as well as class boycotts at various universities to massive political infiltration. Preliminary investigations revealed that some opposition interest groups were paying people in excess hundreds of thousands of Kwacha to riot or down tools, while several people turned out not being students.
This has since tarnished the name of the University of Zambia, initially rated 10 to over 250 best learning places. Universities, Luo added remains a development centre, which should be self sustaining financially and not a place for teaching students to pass examination.
Government, through the Ministry of Higher Education, plans to this June, present a bill to parliament that will seek to regulate the operation of Universities and restore sanity in the academic world as well as ensure the correct and qualified personnel run and administer the high institutions.
“We don’t someone to just wake up one day, refurbish a house and call it a University!….Come on, let’s have standards” added Luo.
She lamented the “nauseated environment” in most of the hostels at the University of Zambia. Her last visit to the campus revealed poor and over-used sanitation while some students slept 5-10 in a single room with others sleeping in bathtubs for want of accomodation, instigating a call for personal hygiene to avert preventable ailments.
Government has since reaffirmed its ban on squatters at all Government leading and higher learning institutions disclosing that efforts are underway by university management to make bunker beds to accommodate “only students” and not outsiders that took advantage of the situation.
The University of Zambia has been tasked to create less more than 9,600 bed spaces to reduce squatting by students.