Declare Hostels, Clinics, Libraries and Chapels as Safe Zones For Students During Riots!
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In the past few years (and more recently on 4th October, 2018), student protests started by small groups of students have been met with excessive force by the police, often resulting in casualties who were not involved in the protest in the first place. Rather than displace unruly crowds and protect public property, police have often fired teargas into student hostels and broken down doors to arrest students who were trying to stay out of trouble and keep themselves safe in their rooms.
A very recent occurrence of this nature led to the death of a female final year student at the University of Zambia due to suffocation after a teargas canister was fired into a student hostel, igniting a fire, destroying property and also leaving another student severely injured.
It is common knowledge that there are many students at various institutions who would rather stay out of the way of a protest by staying confined in their rooms and not joining the crowd. However, in several notable past events, the most recent being the most tragic, this has proven to be more dangerous due to the fact that the very places that should be their safe spaces have been attacked with teargas and set ablaze by those sworn to protect them. But if students cannot be safe in their own rooms during a riot at night, where else will they be safe?
We, therefore, call for legislation declaring student hostels, college/university clinics, libraries and chapels as safe zones for students during protests and police-free zones. Let campus security handle internal security affairs. Let us prevent more tragedies.
This matter can be addressed by our government through the Minister of Higher Education, the Inspector General of Police, the Management of various institutions of higher learning and indeed by Parliament.
If we fail to address this, we tell our children that in the event of a protest, they are safer joining an unruly crowd that staying away from trouble. We teach them to fear those they should run to for protection. We, by default, force them to join the riotous crowd because at least then they have a chance to survive. We tell them that we are their enemies, not their friends. We tell them that we are at war and sitting it out peacefully is choosing to die.
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