Legal issues commentator and Justice Link Executive Director Justin Dzonzi has backed the remarks by President Peter Mutharika call for university lecturers to “concentrate on research [and] not commenting on public trivia”, saying the Malawi leader and Chancellors of the University of Malawi (Unima) was right.
The President said good universities are known by their research; hence, he asked college lecturers and professors to raise the profile of Unima with research.
The remarks were made during Unima fundraising dinner and dance at the Bingu International Convention Centre in Lilongwe on Saturday night and attracted a wrath of negative reaction from Unima dons.
But Dzonzi said “at a pure intellectual level, the President being an intellectual himself there is nothing wrong with the statement.”
“If we are to going to start invention, if we are to come up with new ideas and so on and so forth then the universities are better places to begin that process now” said Dzonzi.
He explained that historically, local universities have produced very little in terms of new ideas in technology in different specialty areas and this could be as a result of lack of the spirit of research in the university.
“If you look at universities in other countries they have registered major break troughs in medicine, in law in and in whatever field most of the ideas have come from universities. I think the sentiments from the head of state were made in good faith and it is within his mandate to remind these institutions that they just don’t exist to provide jobs for those who teach or just qualifications for those who go there to learn, institutions that must develop ideas and be on top of research,” he said.
Dzonzi however said the reaction from the academic may have been triggered with the academic freedom fight keeping in mind that, that happened when Mutharika was Minister of Education.
“One can also understand the reaction from the university but I think our university experts should not be egg shelled, they should expect that the public is going to exert certain demands on them and they must live up to the billing because they are an institution that must develop to Malawi and is right to remind them”, said Dzonzi.
In 2011 when he was serving as minister of Education, Science and Technology, Mutharika was accused of indecisiveness after lecturers at Unima downed tools, demanding academic freedom after a spy was allegedly planted in a political science class and reported lecture examples to authorities.
Malawi Human Rights Commissioner Benedicto Kondowe said while there was nothing wrong with Mutharika remarks on research, his remarks dissuading the academia from commenting on important matters, was unacceptable.
Kondowe said Mutharika’s gagging remarks could “simply hinge on academic freedom that lecturers have.”
Government spokesman Kondwani Nankhumwa has the President does not regret making the research remarks.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :