Minister Mushimba influenced UNZA to make his wife pass when she failed 2 medical courses
By Mukosha Funga
A scandal has arisen in which Minister of Higher Education Dr Brian Mushimba is accused of using his position to exert pressure on the University of Zambia (UNZA) to pass his wife, Brenda, who is a student in the School of Medicine.
But UNZA claims that Brenda appealed through normal channels to have her papers remarked.
Meanwhile Dr Mushimba neither picked calls nor responded to a query by press time.
Well-placed sources told News Diggers! that Brenda, a 4th year student on the Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBChB) degree programme at Ridgeway Campus, had failed two courses this academic year, which meant that she was supposed to repeat instead of proceeding to the 5th year of study.
“The UNZA School of Medicine results were published in October and showed that Brenda had failed two courses. One is PTM 4310, which is Medical Microbiology, and the other is PTM 4210, which is Pathology; these two courses are at the heart of learning both infectious diseases and pathological conditions. She was taking 4 courses and her failing two of them meant that she was supposed to repeat the two courses before proceeding to year 5 of her studies”, disclosed one source.
The source said the minister’s wife who enrolled at the university around 2010 had, however, been passed in unclear circumstances after her husband intervened.
“After learning of his wife’s failure to meet the passing mark for both courses, Honorable Mushimba summoned the UNZA Vice-Chancellor Prof Luke Mumba to his office to establish why the wife had failed and possibly ascertain if anything could be done about her case. We do not know for certain what happened at the Ministry when they met, but Prof Mumba subsequently changed Brenda’s marks in the two courses she had failed. Instead of the fail grades, he gave her a complementary mark of at least 50 in both courses. So Brenda started her 5th year in late October. We do not know what exactly transpired behind the scenes, but everything seems to have moved quickly after the Minister phoned the Vice-Chancellor,” said the source.
The source expressed concern that the suspicious manner in which Brenda’s case was handled had the potential to demoralise lecturers and create a dangerous precedent.
“Was it even ethical for the Minister to get involved since he is dealing with an issue that affects a spouse? The normal appeal route is that if a student feels aggrieved about their final exam grade after the publication of final results, they can file a formal appeal to the Vice-Chancellor, requesting for independent examiners to re-mark their exam scripts. The Vice-Chancellor will, through the Dean of the relevant school, inform the affected course lecturers that a student has appealed against their grade and requested for their paper to be remarked by examiners who are familiar with the subject. This process should be transparent and beyond reproach because the aim is to make sure that the correct thing is done,” the source said.
“It is possible sometimes that a lecturer may act unprofessionally and fail a student even when the student deserves to pass, so the verdict of independent examiners is important to both the student and the lecturers concerned. If the examiner passes the affected student, this outcome ensures justice for the complainant who may have been unfairly treated. It also enables the lecturers to know where they may have erred and in instances where a lecturer may have acted unprofessionally, the pro-student verdict of the independent examiner ensures that they are reprimanded for their unprofessional conduct”.
The source said lecturers were shocked that Brenda had proceeded to her fifth year.
“What is surprising about Brenda’s case is that the lecturers are in the dark about the outcome of this process. They don’t know who remarked Brenda’s papers, if at all anybody did and what marks they gave her. They were all just surprised to learn that Brenda has been passed by the Vice-Chancellor. It is not correct to make lecturers feel as if they do not know what they are doing and to encourage students to think that the Vice-Chancellor would easily bail them out in case they failed a course or two. Who remarked her papers? Why were the lecturers of the two courses she failed not told where they went wrong? If they acted unprofessionally, why have they not been disciplined so that they do not treat students that way? Was Brenda passed because the husband complained to the VC? It is important to handle these issues in the right way because they create precedents,” said the source.
Another source said it was not the first time Brenda had failed.