(Xinhua) -- A debate is raging in Zambia following
reports that the country’s biggest pubic university has
introduced a degree program on witchcraft.
According to reports, the University
of Zambia (UNZA) plans to introduce a degree program in
witchcraft sponsored by the United Nations’ Education, Science,
and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), with 20 students enrolled
for the start of the program.
According to local media, UNESCO
Zambia Commissioner-General Charles Ndakala said the university
was scheduled to begin offering the degree course which is part
of the Intangible Cultural Heritage program, after getting a
grant of 340, 000 U.S. dollars from the United Nations (UN)
Ndakala said Intangible Cultural
Heritage was a study of practices such as witchcraft and other
social practices and that it was hoped that once the 20 students
graduated, they would be able to spearhead the process of
safeguarding the country’s cultural heritage.
According to him, despite efforts in
safeguarding cultural heritage, a number of countries had
experienced cases of destruction of priceless cultural heritage,
imperiling important traditions and customs.
But the announcement has received
mixed reactions from a cross section, with some saying the
decision was in conflict with the country’s declaration as a
“Light and darkness cannot mix. Zambia
is anchored on Christian principles,” Godfridah Sumaili, the
country’s Minister of National Guidance and Religious Affairs
told local media.
She said Zambia, a Christian nation,
cannot allow the study of witchcraft, adding that the practice
of witchcraft was an act of darkness and teaching the course at
the country’s public university would be an abomination.
Reverend Waton Kawala said Zambians
should stand up and fight against moves by donors to introduce
diabolical issues which were against the Christian beliefs.
“We are a Christian nation and we have
values which should be upheld. We know that there are some
people who are involved into witchcraft but we are not going to
allow a school that will be teaching more witches,” he said.
According to him, Zambia should be
wary of donors coming into the country with ill-motives meant to
destroy the values the country was founded on.
But Chief Government Spokesperson Dora
Siliya said it was not true that the university will be offering
a degree program on witchcraft, adding that the reports were
false and should be dismissed.
She said witchcraft was associated
with harmful practices and that there was no way UNESCO could
promote programs which were harmful in nature.
“UNZA with support of UNESCO has a
course on intangible culture heritage including songs, proverbs,
dance. Government has not allowed the teaching of witchcraft at
UNZA,” she told reporters during a press briefing.
Gankhanani Moyo, an expert in
Intangible Cultural Heritage expressed hope that the degree
program would excel as it was the first of its kind not only in
Zambia but Africa as a whole.
The expert said Intangible Cultural
Heritage was at the center of people’s lives as every culture
had its heritage expressed through music, as well as associated
instruments, objects, artifacts and rituals.
For Yonah Musukwa, a resident of
Lusaka, the country’s capital, the course was welcome as it will
uncover the myths surrounding witchcraft and its practice.
“This is excellent thinking. We have
heard for so long, so much tales, some bordering on pure
nonsense, surrounding the practice of witchcraft. This course is
long overdue. We need to start studying and properly get
informed about some of these tales and myths our ancestors
practiced for generations and learn about our heritage, as
Africans in general, and blacks in particular,” he said.
The debate on the need to understand
the practice of witchcraft in Zambia is not a new phenomenon as
Higher Education Minister Nkandu Luo last year caused a stir
when she suggested that Zambian scientists could learn from
their South African counterparts who had commenced studies in
witchcraft in some universities.
Her comments that Zambia should
consider researching into witchcraft as a science that could be
used productively for the benefit of the country received a
This forced the government to issue a
statement denying planning to introduce research in witchcraft.