The Suppression of The Student Vote

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Roughly two weeks to the final Election Day, the Permanent Secretary for Health announced that Universities and colleges will remain closed, for a further 21 days or until further notice.

The youth vote is often considered to be one of the deciding factors in an election. Zambia is at a unique point in terms of population, majority of citizens are youths. This then translates that a very good number of people registered to vote are students. Institutes of higher education are often used as polling centers, and according to data provided by the Electoral Commission of Zambia, there are more than 34,000 people registered to vote at colleges and universities. Suffice to say, a large proportion of these voters are students.

The corona virus pandemic and the various efforts made to contain it have resulted in institutes of higher education across the country being closed. Initial announcements were made early in the year, and the hopes were that by the time elections are held, colleges and universities would have learned how to effectively manage the COVID-19 pandemic and how to protect students.

Many students registered to vote from their respective institutions, after guidance through school calendars which indicated that schools would be open. There is a large number of students who may not live in the same province of their schools, or probably live far away from the polling station. How will they vote?

The running mate for the ruling party, Patriotic Front, Nkandu Luo has sometimes jokingly been called the mortal enemy of students country wide. Could this be a reason that students are being disadvantaged in casting their vote? Is the ruling party afraid that the student vote will tip the scales in the favour of an opposition party?

It is highly disappointing that knowing the importance of civic duty, universities and colleges around the country have failed to provide leadership and guidance on how to make the students’ voices heard. This type of voter suppression needs to be called out.

Institutions of higher learning still have a week to come forward and deliver the needs of the students. Otherwise, in the year 2021, Zambian students can say that their respective schools have failed their civic duties.

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