The High Court of Malawi has refused to grant an application for interlocutory injunction to Chancellor College (Chanco) students who are protesting the decision by the Council of the University of Malawi to hold a virtual graduation.
The Council recently announced that it would hold a virtual graduation in compliance with restrictions for preventing the spreading the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
However, the decision did not go down well with one section of the finales who argued that a graduation ceremony is not a public gathering, but part and parcel of university academic exercise; hence, it should not be subjected to Covid-19 preventive restrictions.
The aggrieved students, who include Zaithwa Milanzi and 246 others, further argued that the restrictions only prohibit public gatherings that have more than 50 people.
“In our opinion, a graduation ceremony is not a public gathering but part and parcel of university academic exercise. Just like classroom activities, in itself a graduation attended by students does not call for the ire of the measures and in any case Covid-19 preventative measures are capable of enforcement during the course of the congregation,” outlined Chibayo and others in a statement issued on Tuesday.
They suggested that the University Council should instead decentralize the graduation at college level and limit the graduation attendance to essential personnel, which includes graduands as the primary interested parties.
Chibayo and his team further proposed that the Council should introduce other crowd control and preventative measures to ensure that the ceremony does not create additional risk for Covid-19 without affecting impugning on the Covid-19 Guidelines.
But the Council rejected both their suggestions and proposals, a development that prompted Milanzi and his friends to seek the intervention of the court.
The students prayed with the High Court to restrain the University Council from holding a virtual graduation ceremony whose first congregation is scheduled for 28th April, 2021 until results of the students who are writing supplementary (or referral) examinations for the 2019/2020 academic year are approved and subsequently released.
They also sought several reliefs, which included a declaration that the decisions made by the defendants are unjustifiable and a violation of constitutional right to education; orders quashing the respondent’s decisions and directing the applicants to graduate after completing their supplementary or referral exams and respondents hold a traditional graduation ceremony for all grandaunts.
In her ruling on the matter, the presiding judge Ruth Chinangwa has only granted the students leave for judicial review and rejected their application for an interlocutory injunction.
“Leave for judicial review is granted and the application for an interlocutory injunction is denied. The applicant to serve the application on the defendant by 16th April 2021. The defendant to file defence with a sworn statement by 3rd May 2021. A scheduling conference will be held on 10 May 2021 at 1pm,” says Chinangwa in her ruling.
Unima registrar Benedicto Malunga said the decision for a virtual graduation had been arrived at as one way of containing the spread of Covid-19.
President Lazarus Chakwera is expected to preside over this year’s event.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :