Out of the 1 761 first year students at the Polytechnic, a constituent college of the University of Malawi in Blantyre, 300 are said to be in dire need of school fees, accommodation and money for their upkeep.
Dean of Students at the Polytechnic, Luciano Ndalama said on Friday that the situation requires urgent assistance from various stakeholders or else chances were that a number of students would continue to struggle with life throughout their studies.
According to Ndalama, while the loans board was responsible for providing needy students with school fees and at times a small amount for upkeep expenses, the board was failing to satisfy the demand due to limited funds.
“The loans board assists those it can within the available resources but still fails to meet the demand as a number of deserving students are left out resulting in them being rendered helpless as it is the case right now,” said Ndalama.
He said the figure of needy students has risen this year due to the increased number of students that the college has admitted due to the double cohorts which has a combination of students caused by the delay in the starting of a new academic calendar.
Ndalama attributed the magnitude of the challenge to the idea of admitting students according to classroom space as compared to bed spaces which has resulted in the college’s overpopulation with the need for students to source accommodation and meals elsewhere.
Polytechnic Registrar, Moses Mwenye, however, insisted that the college was copying very well with the increased number of first year students.
Mwenye said the fact that the college has enough lecture rooms which has the capacity to accommodate the students at once was an indication that the school could easily cope with the pressure.
While insisting that the college was coping very well with the new arrangement, Mwenye added that the college has since outsourced close to 500 chairs to ensure that no student learns while standing considering that some lecture theatres did not have such facilities.
“You may wish to know that as a lasting solution to the furniture problem, a consignment of chairs and desks imported from China courtesy of the Public Sector Improvement Projects and the Skills Development Project were already on campus and currently being mounted into the necessary rooms,” Mwenye emphasized.
Mwenye added that the World Bank through the Higher Education, Science and Technology were erecting a multi-lecture building which would be complete with modern furniture.
However, while the furniture may delight management, Dismus Julius, a first year student admitted into the Energy Engineering faculty, tells a different story as he is one of the students in the dilemma of fees, accommodation and upkeep.
Julius who comes from a very poor background applied to loans board for fees without any success. He claims that he has only managed to pay one month rentals at the hostel outside campus with money realized from piece work at home.
“I simply don’t have an idea of how I am going to progress with my studies, given the situation I am in,” Julius lamented.
Executive Director for the Higher Education Students Loans Board, Chris Chisoni pointed out that the K3.3 billion disbursed this year was not adequate as the board has always operated on a low budget, hence the shortfalls.
“At least K9.7 billion could have been sufficient to assist all the needy students in our public colleges and this is the reason we keep on calling on the private sector to assist government in sourcing funds for this noble cause,” Chisoni said.
Chisoni, therefore, appealed to former university students who benefitted from the facility to consider paying it back so that the funds could assist in beefing up the resource basket for the benefit of others too.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :