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Only Six of 250 Student Lawyers in Zambia Passed the Bar This Year

First Liberia, now Zambia.

Recently in Liberia, all the students who wrote a university entry examination this year failed. Now comes the news that in Zambia, out of 250 students who sat for post-university law practice examinations at the Zambia Institute of Advanced Legal Education, better known by its acronym ZIALE, only six passed.

The news of the grim result was announced by lawyer Maureen Mwanawasa (@mwanachilembo), former first lady and widow of Zambia's third president, the late Levy Mwanawasa, in a tweet to her followers:

A US-based Zambian Twitter user Miss Bwalya (@missbwalya) wondered why the majority of ZIALE students failed:

Mrs Mwanawasa (@mwanachilembo) proffered an explanation:

One user, Grieve Chelwa (@grievechelwa), a Zambian PhD student, had a different view about the high failure rate:

The issue of ZIALE's high failure rate was investigated by a parliamentary sub-committee in 2012:

your Committee observes that the admission criteria into University of Zambia School of Law is different from that obtaining in most private universities, in the sense that at private universities students are admitted straight from grade 12 without passing through the Humanities as the case is at UNZA [University of Zambia]. As a result of this the general quality of law graduates from the private universities is poor hence their inability to perform at ZIALE. Your Committee recommends that enrollment into the various Schools of law should be done as per Universal Standards whereby students first go through the humanities or already have a first degree.

Speaking at a call day, when lawyers are formally admitted to the bar, in 2011, retired Chief Justice Ernest Sakala said then:

The immediate reaction of an independent observer of the situation at ZIALE must be that there is something seriously wrong with the system that fails all the trainees it purports to have trained [...] Statistically, it is practically impossible that out of 145 students that ZIALE accepted for training only a handful were actually of a grade that ZIALE actually excepted.

In a letter to the Zambian Watchdog, one anonymous writer complained:

The failure rate at the Institution has reached alarming proportions hitting a 90+ percent high, as at the last sitting. The aspirations of many Law graduates to become legal practitioners have not come to fruition because of the high and deliberate failing of students at ZIALE.

The writer continued:

The “ Five Year” ban on students who fail to clear after three (3) attempts is no longer in the National interest and needs to be reviewed or better still abolished. This would entail amending Rule 23 of The Legal Practitioners Act Chapter 30 0f The Laws of Zambia.

A comment on the letter by some calling himself “Cheers” read [comments on the website do not have permalinks]:

ZIALE must undergo reforms, how do you allow the same person to lecture, set and mark the exams? and the same person is likely to compete against a student on the market who passes bar exams. Zambian Lawyers are selfish thats the reason why one man law firms die togather with the owner. No one among the Lawyers admitted to the bar is interested in reforming ZIALE and thats typical of us Zambians.

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