President Peter Mutharika has evaded responsibility on the country’s academic crisis following the closure of public universities and shifted the blame on councils and managements of instutitions of higher learning for their resistance to embrace the ongoing reforms in the public service.
Speaking during the first congregation of the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) in Lilongwe on Wednesday, Mutharika said he does not expect “everything to come to me” whenever a crisis arises in the public universities.
He accused university councils and managements of lacking efficiency in use of resources and urged them to manage their human and financial resources.
“I know that some people are eager to point fingers at the Head of State and Chancellor for every problem that arises in the universities. I am the ultimate authority and I don’t mind.
“But we must remember the principles of good governance. The governance of every university is done by the Council and its Management. We have empowered them by Law to govern the universities on behalf of the Government. And I do not expect everything to come to me. I expect the Council and management to do what is required of them,” Mutharika said.
“And to every Chairperson of Council and Vice Chancellor, let me say this. Malawians expect you to be visibly active in managing your university on behalf of Government. More so in times of crisis!” he added.
But Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec) has said President Mutharika should accept respobility and that he is inept and does not know his mandate as chancellor.
“As a country, it is clear that we cannot afford another crisis of that nature as doing so would push higher education into complete chaos. Leadership is meant for times of challenges. We therefore urge the leadership to act now,” Csec director Benedicto Kondowe and board chairperson Julie Juma said in a statement made available to Nyasa Times.
Csec also observed that that almost all Councils and Boards of the public universities and colleges, including the parent ministry of education are “sleeping on the job.”
The Coalition said the President and Minister of Education Emmanuel Fabiano should “immediately show up on the scene and demonstrate their relevance.”
It said without their intervention the challenges at hand will not disappear by themselves.
“Careless and regular closures of institutions of higher learning are costly to any possible stakeholder one can think of, and perhaps a big lesson should be drawn from the events of the academic freedom saga whose ramification we are yet to recover from,” said Csec.
The coalition noted that the causes of closure of institutions of higher learning are not predictable and recurrent in most instances with the seeming underlying current bordering on inadequate financing to the education sector.
“ If it is not staff striking for higher pay, it is students boycotting classes as a result of questioned revised fees both of which would call for proactive engagement on the concerned stakeholders.
“We note that government, through the respective management structures in the universities and colleges, has resorted to use of threats and in most cases unreasonably employ litigation in handling cases of misunderstanding that arise in institutions of higher learning as illustrated in the foregoing. While this remedy is legal and available to all parties, we find the circumstances in which it is used not only as oppressive but also as deliberate ploy by the leadership to shut up doors for meaningful and constructive engagement,” Csec said.
The organisation said National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) is restricted and limited in its establishment of checking quality and relevance of institutions of higher learning and their respective programmes and deplored government for failing to swiftly move in to harmonise the laws regulating public university as doing so renders NCHE irrelevant.
“We finally see lack of autonomy and politicisation in the management and governance of the institutions of higher learning. If truth was to be told, we recall that any attempt by the university Council to raise tuition fees before had been politically rejected in search of votes. This, as we all know, has culminated in increments that are resultantly too high to manage under a sick economy like ours,” said Csec.
Kondowe has also accussed President Mutharika of demonstrating that he does not know why he is holding the position of a Chancellor.
He further cautioned Mutharika against wasting time blaming councils and managements for the closure of the universities, saying as Head of State, the President holds the key to the problem.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :