An examination of student's perceptions of public participation in National Governance: A case of University of Zambia

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Chivunda, Kaumba
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This study examined the University of Zambia students’ perception of participation in national governance of Zambia. It established students’ views on three major governance issues: human rights, media and access to information and the relationship of the police and society and the role they play in national governance. In methodological perspectives, the study used a mixed method design in which the embedded design was adopted. Quantitative data was the main umbrella of data supplemented by qualitative data. Unstructured interviews and Likert scale questionnaires were used simultaneously as data collection tools. For quantitative data, a convenient sampling of 220 students was considered and under maximum variation purposive sampling, eight (8) Student Union and Association leaders were interviewed. The study established that students had a positive attitude towards participation in national governance. Further, it was observed that promotion and protection of political rights in Zambia was lacking due to misapplication of the public order act. The existence of police that serves the interest of the government over the public had also negatively impacted the levels of public participation in national governance. The police made it hard for the realisation of rights to freely assemble, protest and demonstrate as modes of citizens’ engagement in affairs that govern them. Public media as an important element in democratic governance suffered setbacks with a heavy government control. This leads to a lack of meaningful access to information that citizens can use to actively participate as informed parties. Based on the findings, the study concluded that there was need to create an environment that could allow for more participation. Zambia has the potential to uphold democratic tenets, coupled with a number of instruments put in place to enhance participation. There should be deliberate policies firstly, that aim to foster sensitisation and citizen consultation on decisions of public magnitude. To do so, it requires a bottom up approach on decision making processes that affect the citizens. Other avenues that can enhance public participation include the changing of the Media and Access to Information Act to allow for more freedom of expression among the media institutions as a way to create a transparent and accountable society. The Public Order Act should be amended to create good relationship between the police and the public as both are actors in the maintenance of law and order. The study, therefore, recommends that in order to enhance participation, Civic Education Campaign should be intensified to create awareness both in formal and informal education settings. This will in turn increase awareness of citizens’ rights and duties and thus create an engaging citizenship.
Community Participation , Public Interest-Zambia , Good Governance-Zambia , Democracy-Zambia , Human Rights-Zambia