[LUSAKA] Zambia's first private university for science and technology will open in July, while the country's state-run university faces problems due to a lack of government support.
Victoria Falls University of Technology, based in Livingstone, Zambia, will offer training in information and communication engineering and agricultural food processing.
Gertrude Akapelwa-Ehueni, chief executive officer of Victoria Falls, told SciDev.Net that the idea for the University was prompted by the shortage of science and technology skills in Zambia.
She said an initial US$375,000 has been invested in the project, which is fully financed by private individuals, including Ehueni herself.
The state-run University of Zambia (UNZA) currently has only a school of natural sciences, with places for a limited number of students. Minister of science and technology Brian Chituwo says there are about 300 science students at the university.
UNZA has struggled to cope with rising student applications and faced department closures after the government was late in providing food and textbook subsidies to students, and failed to improve working conditions for lecturers.
Ehueni said the new private university would not face closures as it does not rely on government funding and grants, raising money instead through tuition fees and private funding.
She said the university will have an initial intake of 100 students and will also enrol students from other countries in southern Africa.
Zambian minister of education Geoffrey Lungwangwa said the opening of the university was a step towards the development of Zambia's economy through science and technology.
"The University of Zambia cannot contain the number of [prospective] science students. The opening of the new university means that more people will be enrolled as science students," he said.The first phase in Victoria Falls' construction is underway with the renovation of the former Livingstone Institute.