It has taken the tragic death of a University of Zambia student from suspected typhoid to highlight the deplorable sanitary conditions at the highest institution of learning-UNZA.
This is not the first time this problem has arisen. There were great hopes that renovation of the hostel in preparation for the Africa games would have improved conditions at the institution, but this has proved illusory.
There are many explanations for this situation.
Firstly: the renovations did not rise to the quality and expectation of the university community. Materials utilized were a source of concern as they were considered substandard. Equally workmanship was also suspect.
In some cases this was borne out by electrical faults that broke out soon after the renovations were undertaken, an indication that consumption had been underestimated seriously, and that the installed capacity would not withstands demand, thereby endangering occupants.
Whether or not these faults were dealt with remains to be seen.
Secondly: the issue of water reticulation has never been fully addressed. This situation is common to Unza and the Evelyn Hone College where students have to utilize toilets at the nearby Levy Junction shopping mall.
The two old learning institutions have tremendous water reticulation problems which have never been fully addressed due to financial limitations. This is unfortunate because it puts many lives in danger as the case has now exemplified.
While the construction of new universities and other higher learning institutions is commendable there is urgent need for the existing infrastructure to be upgraded. There is no reason why the Ministry of Education has not been able to drill sufficient boreholes and indeed overhaul the reticulation at the institution in order to provide a healthy and comfortable environment for the students.
It is a disgrace that both male and female students must suffer unsanitary conditions that are now life threatening, all because the institution is denied sufficient funds to provide a reticulation system that services the needs of a community that deserves the best that the nation can provide.
It is of course politically attractive to launch new projects which garner political mileage and we can understand why television screens are filled with new roads, schools and hospitals, but this should not be done at the expense of existing institutions which house and accommodate our human capital.
The Government should from the outset, establish regular maintenance services for all infrastructure to ensure that they do not fall into dilapidation and disrepair as our Evelyn Hone and UNZA facilities have suffered.