Malawi Catholic University aims to persecute ‘campaigner’ students

Management at the Catholic University in Malawi (CUNIMA) has put on secret blacklist seven students for their social activism to bring justice at the institution, Nyasa Times can reveal.

The school wants to “deal” with the blacklisted students for being suspected of playing a leading role in peaceful protests the students held in September and October this year against a six-week water shortage at their Nguludi campus.

The school administration also wants to prosecute the selected students for their vigorous involvement in restraining it (management) from closing down the university after obtaining a court injunction.

A lecturer at the university confided in Nyasa Times, the students had been on a secret blacklist immediately after the protest on 15th September 2012.

Catholic university students demonstrating

“At first only four students were targeted but later three more were added following their involvement in obtaining a High Court injunction that restrained university management from closing down the campus indefinitely,” the lecturer said on condition of anonymity.

Nyasa Times has particulars of the seven blacklisted students but has deliberately not published them to avoid creating nervous tension among the concerned parties.

Over the last few weeks, the administration, which is headed by Vice Chancellor Professor Anaclet Phiri, has been subtly working on persecuting the targeted students with no much success.

“After the September 15th protest, the administration summoned the four students together with their parents to a purportedly academic welfare meeting without any agenda. But after the students’ union body got wind that the four had been called because of their role in the demonstration, it threatened to hold another on October 12th,” he explained.

Ironically, October 12th was also the date management set aside for the four students’ parents to come and discuss the “academic welfare” of their children.

“But on this day we were all advised [the entire administration] by the vice chancellor not to report for work,” revealed the lecturer.

Noting that the students were not relenting in their pursuit for justice, management decided to close down the university indefinitely on October 17thbut some students rushed to the High Court to obtain an injunction against the move.

The lecturer said management added the three other students to the secret blacklist after the injunction was obtained.

“Negotiations between the students’ lawyer [Lusungu Gondwe of Ralph and Arnolds] and the university management’s lawyer on the way forward proved futile.

“Our boss [vice chancellor] defied the High Court injunction against the closure and openly told us to remain calm. He then went ahead to engage the police to chase students who had remained at the campus out of their hostels as negotiations continued.

 

Two days before the institution finally opened (October 29th), the vice chancellor again summoned the seven students together with their parents to another meeting but only three showed up.

“So on 30th October all the seven students were given letters of misconduct and were told to appear before a disciplinary hearing on November 1st 2012 which failed to take place after the students’ lawyer demanded to be present during the proceedings,” said the source.

A student who took part in engaging the lawyer to obtain an injunction told Nyasa Times, the events have disturbed the flow of studies as they are failing to concentrate.

“The situation is really tense, the threats are just too much to bear. We can’t concentrate on studies and time is against us. We are asking higher authorities [Ministry of Education] to intervene before it is too late,” she said.

In an earlier interview, the students threatened to take unspecified action against the vice chancellor and some of his staff members like a Mr Mavumbe, (registrar) and the Assistant registrar, a Mr Nkhoma, for being mismanagement.

The students also said they were writing the University Chancellor, Bishop Jospeh Zuza, who is also the head of Catholic Church in Malawi, to express their frustration with Professor Phiri’s style of management.

Due to the water shortage, the revered students of the higher learning institution were forced to draw water from boreholes and a stream to fill cisterns in order to use in their hostel’s toilets.

And because of using unhygienic water, a number of students fell ill thereby failing to attend classes and concentrate on their studies.

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