Chakwera assists UNIMA with K10m for needy students as short term solution

President Lazarus Chakwera has assured University of Malawi, and all university students in general, that he will put in place resilient systems that will help overcome the challenges that have crippled tertiary education for long, especially the plight of needy and deserving students.

This was said by University of Malawi Students Association president, Charles Dokera in a vote of thanks made to the President, who has assisted with K10 million towards needy students as a short term solution.

Chakwera has responded to the UNIMA Students Association’s request for assistance it made on December 28 towards enhancing their capacity to support needy students — who were on the verge of withdrawing from their academic studies due to failure to sustain their food needs.

Students in Malawi public universities pay tuition and accommodation fees but have to fend for themselves on their food needs, which are mostly provided by private caterers.

In the statement, Dokera said Chakwera has thus committed himself to finding long and medium term strategies that will strengthen UNIMA  and the Association’ institutional capacity aimed at revamping social systems that will safeguard the welfare of students to avoid withdraws.

Presidential Press Secretary Anthony Kasunda, confirmed of the assistance, saying this was Chakwera’s personal donation to his alma mater.

“The President’s commitment to support strategies for addressing the structural challenges students face in public universities is what is already being pursued by his Administration, through the implementation of Malawi 2063’s focus on human capital development in the Ministry of Education,” Kasunda said.

In July last year, Malawi University of Science & Technology (MUST) launched an Endowment Fund to sustain needy students’ fees, which Vice-President Saulos Chilima encouraged other universities to emulate.

Chilima made the encouragement when he presided over the launch of the Fund in Lilongwe after a charity golf tournament which MUST invited corporate companies to participate to entice them to support the initiative — that aims to forever sustain teaching, research and needy students’ fees.

Chilima had said beyond what the government was doing with the loans board, such initiatives were welcome over and above scholarships that are given by some private sector organizations like National Bank of Malawi, FDH Holdings, NICO Holdings and Old Mutual.

He had applauded public and private sectors for promoting higher   education by addressing challenges needy students face in different institutions and took cognizance that the Endowment Fund is investment that looks at future generations — thus encouraging the private sector, individuals, international organizations to partner with  MUST.

At a prelaunch of the Fund, Director of MUST Institute of Industrial & Innovation, Dr. David Mkwambisi said funding from government is not enough to sustain their services and took a leaf from foreign universities — especially from the USA where they weaned themselves from dependency on government subventions by establishing endowment funds.

He said MUST decided to take a similar approach as a strategy for diversifying revenue streams after taking cognizance that universities in Malawi have received annual donations from individuals and corporates in support of tuition fees and living expenses for students.

But “whilst this has for sure facilitated education of those supported, it has no assurance of its sustainability” and that it benefitted a few whilst the endowment fund is invested with financial institutions to yield interest to cater for its services.

The national budget allocation to higher education over the past five years has been between 20-28% of the total education budget — which is relatively a large share.

This notwithstanding, the allocation falls short of supporting the financial needs of the higher education sub-sector whose thrust is increasing access, improving quality of education and ensuring relevance of programs to the country’s needs as per National Education Sector Plan.

As a result of the inadequate financial allocation, public universities have difficulties implementing planned activities, thereby affecting realization of the mandates — which MUST has not been spared thus the creation of the Fund whose motto is ‘Create True Legacy’.

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