Umodzi Party president John Chisi said the genesis of the problems at Chancellor College -which was closed Tuesday evening due to students’ protests over fees hike -is President Peter Mutharika’s decision to be silent on the matter.
Chisi echoed what Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec) and a youth non-governmental organisation, Youth and Society (Yas), have said that students’ expression of discontent over the fees hike from K275 000 to a minimum of K400 000 “extremely genuine, patriotic and heroic at a time when the economy is severely anaemic and decrepit.”
Said Chisi: “He [Mutharika] should come out of the cacoon and tell the nation what he intends to do to improve the situation. As Chancellor of the University of Malawi, the ball is in his caught.”
Chisi, a College of Medicine lecture, said Mutharika has a history of passiveness when things go out of hand at the University of Malawi citing his silence when Chancellor College was at standstill following academic freedom impasse between lectures and the government during Bingu wa Mutharika reign when the current president was Education minister.
He called on the state to drop all charges against all students at Chancellor Collage and Polytechnic describing the arrest as unfair, unjust and unreasonable.
“He run away on issues of academic freedom but he cannot run away from this, he should speak out as Chancellor,” said Chisi.
Csec executive director Benedicto Kondowe said the closure of the college depicts leadership failure on the part of government and Unima Council, adding that students were justified to express themselves against the “unmanageable fees hike”.
“The students have a legitimate concern here and our position as Csec has been clear that the increment threshold is unmanageable for the majority of Malawians. We appealed to the University Council to revise downwards the increment.
“The problem again is that as a country we allow economic factors to take centre-stage. We may be bound to make decisions that may be far worse for this country. Much as the economy is important, other factors are also important, but in our case, economic factors seem to be very important to government,” he said.
Kondowe said government’s handling of the matter will determine the action the citizenry will take against Lilongwe.
“Let us not forget that education is a powerful tool to breaking intergenerational poverty, so if education is at stake, everything else falls apart. So, it will depend on what steps government and all concerned parties will take, otherwise, if they don’t do anything, citizens will have a legitimate basis to use democratic means to pressurise authorities to re-open the college,” said Kondowe.
Yas executive director Charles Kajoloweka a urged government to stop using closure of institutions of higher learning as a tool of intimidation and abdication of its responsibility.
At least 14 Polytechnic students will appear in court today having spent the weekend in the cold police cells at Blantyre police for protesting against fee hike.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :