Malawi youth NGO blames Pres Banda for ‘neglecting’ Mzuzu University

Youth and Society, a local NGO, has bemoaned government’s negligence in dealing with pertinent issues rocking Mzuzu University (Mzuni) saying its continued passive role does not only frustrate service delivery but also diminishes the confidence the citizens have in the Presidency.

President Dr. Joyce Banda is Mzuni Chancellor by virtue of being the Head of State.

“We note with great concern that…there has been very little political will from government to help the institution,” Youth and Society said in a statement co-signed by Board Chairperson Emily Mkamanga and Executive member Timothy Kumwenda.

Mzuni annually needs MK2.5 billion for its full operations but gets MK1.5 billion instead.

President Banda, Chancellor of Mzuni

President Banda, Chancellor of Mzuni

“We are shocked to note that Mzuni continues to get a meager and constant budgetary allocation since 2008 despite tremendous growth and numerous economic changes that have taken place,” Youth and Society said.

Mzuni Council’s conduct

The Youth body also bemoaned the under par conduct of the Mzuzu University Council headed by Professor Brown Chimphamba for its failure to provide prudent leadership and direction.

“We are dazed by developments that have stalled the recruitment of the Vice Chancellor allegedly due to breach of recruitment procedure by the Council. We condemn the Council’s failure to competently conduct the recruitment process to fill the position of the Vice Chancellor.

The Council deliberately lied to President Banda that the statutory process it conducted to identify the Vice Chancellor was faulty because no candidate was successful.

But interview results conducted on 28th March, 2012, indicates that a clear winner emerged in the name of Associate Professor Golden Msilimba and there is documentary evidence that the Council unanimously agreed to endorse Msilimba to the President as the new Vice Chancellor.

“We would like to call upon the Council to quickly resolve the differences that have rocked the recruitment of the Vice Chancellor by ensuring that efficiency, transparency, fairness and justice is observed in the recruitment process,” reads the statement in part.

Call for new Council

Youth and Society has since asked government to consider that Council members serve for a fixed number of years and not any open term as is the case now.

“This will help to inject fresh accepted wisdom into the university’s leadership. Some members have been Council members for almost a decade, a situation that has brought laxity and inefficiency,” it said.

 

They singled out Prof Chimphamba and Mzuzu Coffee Farmers’ Cooperative Boss Harriosn Kalua as some of the Council members dragging Mzuni down because they have been in Council for as long as the existence of Mzuni.

Similarly, last month, the Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC) did not mince words. It asked President Banda to immediately reconstitute the Mzuzu University Council saying the path of policy direction that the Council is taking, is by all measure vindicative of its failure to practice good governance.

“Why should the Council be so mean as to allow the university to run without the Vice Chancellor for three years? Mzuni Council, amidst all the developments, can only be said to have lost direction which unfortunately compromises the provision of quality education at the institution,” CSEC Executive director Benedict Kondowe.

Government seriousness needed

The Youth body said unless serious steps are taken to address numerous issues rocking Mzuni, students’ education rights cannot be guaranteed and the institution cannot meet its reason for existence in a manner expected by the general public.

“We would like to call upon government to critically consider the current plight of Mzuzu University and make necessary decisions including increasing budgetary allocation to Mzuzu University, and strengthen the University leadership,” it further said.

The organization then called upon students and student leadership to guard against any violation of their education rights in any form and hold the system accountable.

“Student’s education rights at the University continue to be under serious threat in the face of weak University leadership and lack of sound political will from the political leadership.

“We are aware of the unusual and unjustified seven months vacation Mzuni students were given allegedly due to financial crisis currently facing the University despite the university not being transparent about it. We are also aware of the dwindling welfare of both students and lecturers at Mzuni which has harsh bearing on the quality of education,” said Youth and Society.

Last year the Mzuzu High Court stopped Chimphamba from head hunting for a Vice Chancellor after he also deliberately disregarded interview results conducted on 28th March, 2012.

“It is evident from the actions of Mzuni Council especially the Chairperson, Prof Brown Chimphamba that the issue at hand is not about the competence of the candidates. I suspect that the Council might have its own favored candidate whom perhaps the eminent panel for the interviews did not even invite or that the person performed badly.

“The argument about the interviews using wrong methodology lacks substance to mention the least as the Council should have known which methodology was appropriate for the interviews way before interviews were conducted.” Kondowe said.

Judicial review

But Msilimba is also unrelenting; he is again seeking relief from the Court in the form of a judicial review to force Mzuni to pick the statutory process of the selection of VC from where it was left to its finality.

In a notice of application for judicial review filed at the Mzuzu High Court, Msilimba argues that the decision of Mzuzu in delegating the powers to decide on re-advertisement of the post of VC to the President is a clear abdication of duty of Mzuni under the Mzuzu University Act.

Msilimba wants to the Court to declare that Mzuni decisions be declared unlawful, unconstitutional, unreasonable and procedurally improper.

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