Chanco opens, lecturers remain steadfast

After a series of protracted battles over the academic freedom saga which saw the college closed to almost eight months, Chancellor College the main constituent college of the University of Malawi, finally opened  on Monday with the registration process and some learning taking place.

This follows President Bingu wa Mutharika recent directive to reinstate the four lecturers: Dr. Jessie Kabwila-Kapasula, Associate Professor Blessings Chinsinga, Franz Amin and Associate Professor Garton Kamchezera, who were fired at the peak of the academic freedom struggle.

As the registration process was also under way during the day, several departments [with one or more courses in the department] including Law, English, Economics, Theology, Education Foundation, Mathematics and others resumed normal classes today, with both  Chancellor College Academic Staff Union (CCASU) and non-CCASU lecturers teaching.

Meanwhile, ‘CCASU and other Academic members of staff’ have saluted students for their stand in the academic freedom saga. In a “welcome back” statement addressed to all students, the lecturers said they  appreciate the role played by the students in the struggle.

“We appreciate your gallant and determined stand for academic freedom in your own right. You have done this with admirable clarity, fortitude, perseverance, patience, and hope. You have stood and sacrificed much for truth, justice and the principle of academic freedom, the ‘wellspring’ of quality education,” said the statement.

“As your lecturers, we will continue to be vigilant about academic freedom and strive to deliver quality higher education that can truly make you strongly competitive in a globalised world,” reads part of the statement, signed by. Kabwila-Kapasula acting president on behalf of CCASU and other concerned Academic members of staff.

Chancellor College has since February this year witnessed a protracted legal and verbal battle between University Council, the Chancellor and CCASU lecturers over academic freedom.

The origins of the crisis dates to February 12 when political science lecturer, Dr. Blessings Chinsinga, had drawn parallels between causes of protests in the Arab world and Malawi’s foreign currency and fuel problems to illustrate a point during class. A student in the class reported the matter to the Inspector General of Police, Peter Mukhito, who summoned Chinsinga for interrogation.

CCASU issued a statement asking for an apology from Mukhito and an assurance of academic freedom. President Mutharika stepped in and declared that the Inspector General would not apologise, Lecturers decided to boycott classes, citing fear of spies, a relic from the one-party regime that ended in 1994.

The University Council then dismissed four lecturers.

There have been several court sessions on various aspects of the crisis, but the matter has now come to rest on the firing of the four.

Activists celebrate with lecturers on academic freedom struggle. From left: Benedicto Kondowe, Brian Nyasulu, Habiba Osman, lecturer Edge Kanyongolo and Ben Chiza Mkandawire

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