The role of the University students in the Zambian Social Structure
Burawoy, Boris Michael
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Methodological shortcoming, a narrow focus on students 88 a group isolated from the wider society, the tendency to consider the student apart from the institution in which he operates - the university - and the difficulty of coming to terms with the transience of student status are some of the factors which have handicapped sociological inquiry in this area.Survey analysis may be supplemented by participant observation.Consideration of the student role may be supplemented by a consideration of the other members of his set of multiple roles.In the context of the Zambian social structure the student role is the focus of four sets of tensions.For historical reasons there exist two mutually exclusive avenues of recruitment to the ruling class, one passing through the educational system and the other through the party organization.The result is competition between those with 'expertise' and those who exhibit/loyalty and experience.Tension between students and the party arises not only from competition but also from the arbitrary choice of criteria for upward )ab1iity in any particular instance. The exclusion of the student from the political arena and also from the central institutions and value system has given rise to a negative oppositionelism and the perception of the political elite as illegitimate rulers. This generates a second set of tensions between students and government.The third source of tension lies In a generalized resentment, an embryo class consciousness, of the mass of society towards those who have power and wealth and particularly those who consider they are entitled to such positions by virtue of their advanced formal education. Finally the structure of the university social system and the student community are antithetical to the political structure of the wider society.In the university directives flow upwards from below while in the wider society they flow in the opposite direction. This structural discontinuity, not only gives riseXi,to tension but also a segmentation of the student role Into two discontinuous components - e civic pole and a university role.Apart from the student role, each student enacts other roles derived from the wider social structure and linking him to the society outside the university. Such role continuities however do not mitigate the tensions surrounding the student role. Within the university arena, extrinsically derived roles are only enacted insofar as they are compatible with the student role. SaullibrlUB between the university students and the government Is sustained through a set of norms and expectations which sharply differentiate between the student's civic and university roles. A violation of these role expectations brings the students into conflict with .the party or government. The absence of strong cross cutting ties and mediating forces results in the escalation of conflict unless a 'scapegoat' emerges to reunite the opposed groups in oppositional to a third 'alien* element.It Is characteristic of the Zambian social structure that there are relatively few cross cutting ties which can lock the social system into stable equilibrium. aovemments can handle tensions between themselves and trans¬planted institutions, in this case the university. In at least three ways. First the university can be excluded from the national arena, and awarded a measure^ of functional autonomy on condition that Its members accept a discontinuity between their institutional role and their civic role. Second the university may be incorporated into the party so that its activities may be regulated. The third possibility is the structural transformation of the university in such a way that it becomes compatible with the wider social structure and thereby reduces the tension.