Guaranteeing student safety and liberties as a hosting university

Guaranteeing student safety and liberties as a hosting university

This week on the EAIE blog, we are highlighting the spring issue of Forum magazine on the theme of ‘Internationalisation in a conflicted world’. Conflict comes in many shapes and sizes and perhaps always has. Yet, in our highly interconnected world, conflict increasingly affects us all. How internationalisation professionals cope with conflict in its many forms becomes a key question in our daily practice. Yesterday on the blog, an author discussed pre-departure questions from students regarding participating in student protests abroad. Today’s author, from the University of Zambia, discusses student safety from the perspective of a host university.

The University of Zambia’s main campus is comprehensive, with the surrounding residential areas fully integrated into it. The campus has no boundaries, making it easily accessible. As such, the University actively provides security services. During our orientation programmes for incoming foreign degree and exchange students, we emphasise that safety and security are a shared responsibility. As much as there is a University of Zambia security service, this cannot protect students at all times and wherever they are. Students need to make sensible choices as these impact their personal security directly.
Students are first oriented regarding the types of security providers available within the University of Zambia, which are mainly of two types. These are the Internal University Security, employed and trained by the University of Zambia, and the outsourced security from national security service companies. Students are informed of the type of services provided and also how to identify security personnel. Personal security tips, such as to not move in late hours of the day, and to avoid moving in isolated places alone, are emphasised.

Communication plan

Students are encouraged to develop a communication plan for regular telephone or e-mail contact, with contingency plans for emergency situations. They are given emergency numbers and direct telephone numbers to security services, our International Link Office, and the main offices at the University – such as the clinic and the ambulance service.
They are encouraged to join a Facebook group for international students and local students, where relevant information is posted. With this in place, in case of any security concern or difficulties arising from eg student riots, attacks, etc, they would be able to communicate with relevant offices at the institution, and the institution would be able to communicate directly with them for their own safety and well-being.


International students, especially those of different races, eg of European origin, are advised that by virtue of their skin colour, local people will assume that they have a lot of money. They are warned to take caution and to not trust anyone with their finances. They are encouraged to seek information on the general costs of things such as private transportation and to seek help of their mentors as much as possible so that they are not exploited. Furthermore, they advised to shop from designated shopping places. When shopping, they are asked to not move around with huge amounts of cash. In addition to this, they are given language tips so that they are able to understand the environment around them better. This includes popular language idioms used by University of Zambia students.
Foreign exchange students are advised to inform the International Link Office each time they are leaving town or the country and to provide details on their destination ie address, telephone number, email address, contact of host, etc. This is very important because these students are admitted through bilateral agreements with partner universities under the host umbrella of the University of Zambia and if they suffer an accident or calamity of any form, we are responsible for reporting to their home countries and universities.

Student politics

During student and mentor orientations, international students are urged to leave campus when there are student riots. Exchange students are usually not accommodated within the main campus, enabling them to stay away in the case of riots. Mentors are advised to place emphasis on this and to give instructions to international students on what to do in the case of riots ie avoid using certain roads, etc.
In answer to my University of Helsinki colleague’s question, international students are strongly cautioned against getting entangled in local student politics regarding issues that do not involve them. For example, student riots at the University of Zambia are mainly caused by government sponsored students who usually demonstrate against late payment of their student stipend. These are a small portion of the student populace, but they are the most influential. International students are advised to express themselves on issues affecting them by using existing procedures and their first contact office should be the International Link Office.
Patricia is Manager of the International Link Office at the University of Zambia.
EAIE members will receive their copies of Forum on their doorsteps soon, but can already download the full version online. Non-members can view the editor’s pick in the Resources Library. Gain full access to Forum by becoming an EAIE member.