“Academic Freedom Promotes Freedom of Inquiry, But Has Limitations in Practice” – Prof. Simukanga

Higher Education Authority (HEA) Director-General, Prof. Stephen Simukanga, has reiterated that the freedom of inquiry is the essential factor that will ensure that the established categories of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) excel and contribute successfully to the growth of the nation.

However, the Director-General cautioned that whilst academic freedom is a type of freedom of speech which covers scholars acting in an academic capacity, as teachers or researchers expressing strictly scholarly viewpoints, academic freedom is a contested issue and, therefore, has limitations in practice.

“In the United States, for example, according to the widely recognised “1940 Statement on Academic Freedom and Tenure” of the American Association of University Professors, teachers should be careful to avoid controversial matters that are unrelated to the subject discussed,” Prof. Simukanga expounded.

Prof. Simukanga further explained that what the “1940 Statement on Academic Freedom and Tenure” meant was that when teachers spoke or wrote in public, they were allowed to express their opinions without fear from institutional censorship or discipline, but they needed to show restraint and clearly indicate that they were not speaking for their institution.

The Director-General, who taught at the University of Zambia from 1985 before becoming its Vice-Chancellor in 2007 for 8years and who is a Fellow of The World Academy of Sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries, called for academic tenure to be enforced as it further ensures that this protects academic freedom.

“Academic tenure guarantees that teachers can only be fired for causes such as gross professional incompetence or behaviour that evokes condemnation from the academic community itself,” Professor Simukanga said.

The Director-General said this when he delivered remarks during the National Symposium on Academic Freedom which was held at Government Complex in Lusaka from 15th and 16th December, 2021.

The National Symposium was organised by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and the Zambia National Education Coalition (ZANEC), in collaboration with the Ministries of Education and Technology and Science, and was held under the theme, “Academic Freedom in Higher Education: Practice and Challenges.”

Members of the Parliamentary Committee on Education, Science and Technology listen to Prof. Simukanga’s remarks.

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