The author wishes to be anonymous
The Zambia Institute of Advanced Legal Education (ZIALE) is a creature of the Law Association of Zambia Act. It was established to spearhead LAZ’s objective of continuous training of Legal practitioners in Zambia. However, ZIALE has seemingly digressed from this important objective which is its core function. It has become moribund and an affront to both, the progression of the legal profession in Zambia and the many students that dreamt of a future as advocates.
In this article, I shall endeavour to highlight how ZIALE has become moribund and an affront to the growth of the legal profession in Zambia and also show how it has destroyed the dreams of many a student wishing to practice law in this country.
As an institution formed to train upcoming legal practitioners, time has come for Ziale to transform itself in order to remain relevant to the core values envisaged by its pioneers and ultimately to the country as a whole. As an institution of higher learning with a very important mandate of training upcoming legal practitioners, it is time ZIALE transformed itself by adopting a set of values that will act as its standards for quality assurance. In its current state Ziale lacks standards which can be compared with other bodies with a similar mandate like ZICA, ACCA and CIPS among others. Most of its content is lecturer driven with little regard to set syllabuses. In turn this has compromised standards. There is a failure to formulate and adhere to a standard syllabus that is determinable and predictable to learners as is the case with other sister institutions mentioned above.
Just as it is a certification body like ZICA or ACCA, most of the content to which learners are subjected to, is Lecturer driven. What I mean is that ZIALE lacks a predictable and ascertainable syllabus that a learner can follow. Most of the material availed is dependent on the individual lecturer. This in turn has made learning at this institute difficult as most lecturers would rather confine themselves to areas they are comfortable in. An example in mind could be drawn from courses like company law where a course outline stipulates something else compared to what is taught. This anomaly has exposed learners to a lot of difficulties in appreciating content because instead of being taught what is outlined, they have had to struggle with British company law and other materials irrelevant to practice, which is different. Is it not a wonder that most repeaters find it hard to pass courses there because by the time they come back to write, what they are examined in would have greatly changed from what they were taught drawing a big contrast from other standardised certification bodies. Surely can such an institute be deemed to have standards?
Furthermore, legal practice is standard as it prevails in industry. What may vary is the style of litigation through cross examination. However, during the time learners are at Ziale, they are required to be attached to law firms with principals who supervise them and sign on their diaries. The irony about Ziale is that you can spend the whole year doing practical work drafting pleadings and your principal approves them to be good but when you try replicating that in the examination, you are failed. Furthermore take note that most documents lawyers draft are provided at the back of most statutes. My question therefore is whether these principals passed their Bar exams. How did they become lawyers if what they approve as good can make you fail an examination? Do such things happen in other certification bodies like ZICA, ACCA or CIPS? I also wish to know whether once one is certified in ACCA, CIPS or ZICA they would not walk with a sense of pride and not fear to retake a similar exam if called upon without fearing to fail. With Ziale, most people who cross don’t feel deserving but rather lucky. They fear asked to re-sit another qualifying examination as they would not pass. Should society feel safe to have lawyers who feel lucky to pass an exam instead of feeling deserving? In case I might be wrong, I wish to challenge any lawyer worth his sort to dare re-sit Ziale and see if they can pass it, lecturers included. No one would accept and jokingly i once asked a colleague who was admitted this question and his response was a straight No. He said even if you offered him a million dollars, he would not dare. That goes to show the rot which has been left to thrive at Ziale. Even that certification they give, how can one feel confident as a lawyer when those who cross over feel lucky than deserving. Success at Ziale is not determined by hard work but luck. Surely, can one tell me that such an institution can be deemed to be professional?
Ziale is merely a receiving institution. It is not a university. Most of the learners who go to Ziale are university graduates who would have been certified fit to graduate by a competent body called senate in the case of the University of Zambia. However, to try to conceal the rot going on there yearly during call days we have heard the Director of this institute saying the calibre of students is very low hence the low pass rate. We have also heard the Chief Justice demand for changes hoping that would see the pass rate improve. Positive changes never take place, instead the rot goes on. From time in memorial, learners have been failed at will at Ziale such that even the people that are lecturing there were once perceived to be of low calibre, may be they were right on that score. Imagine in a class of 268 students only 6 passing an examination. In progressive institutions, true to their core values, that would be a scandal. The same excuse of low calibre has been advanced the annoyance of progressive minds.
How possible is it that a University like UNZA could churn out students of low calibre when most of what students learn is standardised for quality assurance, a feat Ziale fails to uphold. I give UNZA as an example because it churns out the highest number of graduates and has been in existence longer than most universities in Zambia. Even when 6 students made it out of the rest, an excuse of calibre was advanced. Let’s say all the 6 had come from UNZA, can we also say they were the only ones to have come out of there of good calibre since there is a perception that graduates from other universities are weak. I don’t think so. Those 6 were merely lucky. Maybe they were a product of lecturer driven magic at Ziale. Lecturer driven in the sense that the institution has mostly male lecturers who most times consort with female students in the evening to a point where some of them are even seen parking at their student girlfriends’ apartments. This is not to take away anything from deserving students but worrisome.
As earlier stated, Ziale is a receiving institute. At undergraduate most lecturers are PhD and Masters Degree holders with many years of experience and trained to teach. On the contrary, Ziale is mostly comprised of mere bachelor’s degree holders with a practicing certificate with no traceable history of teaching. Therefore it still brings me to the question of standards and the competence to declare learners to be of low calibre. How possible is it that these PhD and masters people can find it in their wisdom to confer degrees as a sign of competence and then these less qualified ones whose only possession of value is a practicing certificate can look down on them by branding these graduates as low calibre graduates and fail them? Surely something is amiss here.
Ziale despite all its flaws is not free. Learners are required to pay upfront the sum of K12, 500 per student. K12, 500.00 is not a meagre amount especially if your entire undergraduate was dependent on bursaries as your parents could not afford or you were unlucky to be an orphan. Most times students are required to pay this amount before they even graduate at university and get a job. To avert the fear of not practising law, many have had to borrow and where it fails abandon the whole program to go and find a job hoping to raise these monies. When the money is found and a student enrols, he is then subjected to this so called lecturer driven system. Surely can such a system be deemed relevant to our country that is yearning for advocates to help decongest prisons and other detention centres? How can one repay a loan borrowed specifically for Ziale only to be failed at will?
At times I have had to introspect over the injustices perpetrated at Ziale. Failing or passing those exams is purely a thing of luck and not ability. Imagine a colleague having been failed in one course at will purely because he was not in good books with some lecturer. He was on the verge of a five year bar when he decided to petition Ziale. With exceptional luck his petition was considered and a re-mark was done by a neutral marker. It was amazing to realise that someone who was alleged to have failed had passed with a distinction in the same course that almost cost him a future. Surely from such happenings, can’t someone conclude that students are deliberately failed to create a cartel to which only lucky ones are allowed to pass. Students are deliberately failed to protect the lecturers and the system’s vested interest. They fear competition so that they can continue dominating the industry and in turn continue enjoying cheap labour from these students who are literally advocates save for one or two courses they are deliberately failed. Actually, for your information most lecturers at Ziale, their firms are not doing well. Is it not a wonder all this is happening?
Dear brothers and sisters, Ziale has shuttered a lot of dreams. Brilliant minds that would add value to this country are languishing due to these evil schemes that have been institutionalised. What is happening at Ziale can’t be left to perennial speeches by the same system that has rejoiced at your pain and pretend to care because it suits them. Those speeches are a mockery to your pain as brilliant brains that have been discarded. It is up to you as you read this to introspect and stand up to fight this injustice. You will be unwise to sit wherever you maybe believing that someone else will fight this injustice on your behalf. It is time you stood up for justice. Time has come for you to take change in your own hands. Sometimes the right path is not the easiest. Change is like ripples, it starts small and spreads. Be that agent of change amidst this injustice. We can’t allow this older generation to nip your blossoming potential in the bud. Don’t be cowed that as lawyers you ought to behave gentleman like. Time has come to fight for what is rightfully yours. You have played meek but to no avail. We all deserve a good future which should not be frustrated by some cowards who think they can’t stand without standing over your heads. How can you be the future if you are cut as undergrowth leaving these big trees that can’t even bear anymore fruit? If need be let’s cut them down for our survival.
In light of these injustices, I recommend the following:
- Independent examiners and not the lecturers should be found to administer examinations at Ziale forthwith.
- A properly researched and adhered to syllabus should be formulated to create standards and not this lecturer driven no sense.
- Pre- entry examinations should be introduced immediately with one attempt per year but no limit to the number of attempts in the subsequent years to avert the problem of over enrolment and save students money as Ziale appears more interested in your money than anything else.
- There should be an evaluation of lecturers with an independent body to which students’ input should be paramount to determine competency.
- Students should be allowed to petition their results if not satisfied. This is important to reclaim the lost credibility.
- LAZ should be compelled to take an active role in the happenings at Ziale. This can be achieved by students registering in large numbers as Associate members by either attaching membership subscription to the Ziale fee or paying separately to create a relationship.
- Bursaries should be introduced to cushion the burden of many a student at Ziale. Most students can’t afford to pay the fees demanded by Ziale. Remember, not so long ago students at Ziale had bursaries hence the reason most of them were accommodated at NIPA and the same should be re- introduced.
- All students at Ziale and those serving five year bars should network to revive the vigilance that you are renowned for. If need be feel encouraged to match to the LAZ secretariat , Attorney General’s chambers and Ziale itself to air your grievances. This injustice has got to stop. Remember there is no unjust society that reigns forever and through your input a tyrannical system may fall. We can t allow the oppressor to pereniary eulogize your pain through mocking speeches as they say things they don’t honour. Don’t fall for the usual labour day rhetoric were as youths you are asked to create jobs without capital yet the ones with capacity keep on holding on to jobs. The ball is in your court. Remember that even mainstream practice is in turmoil as your brothers and sisters’ stand dismissed for asking what is duly theirs. The rot is everywhere.
- Let’s keep in touch and be the brother’s keeper.