Feb 16 academic freedom day –Kabwila-Kapasula

Chancellor College Academic Staff Union (CCASU) will mark February 16 as a special day to commemorate the battle for academic freedom.

CCASU acting president Dr. Jessie Kabwila-Kapasula (JKK)says the academic dons will remain vigilant to ensure academic freedom, saying the battle is not over yet.

She said February 16 is “a date whose significance will continue to teach our students and fellow Malawians with pride, to stand for what is right, to fight for academic freedom every time it is threatened.”

Kabwila-Kapasula says even though the struggle in defence of academic freedom seems to have been won and those in the state and university administration offices appear to be respecting academic freedom, no CCASU member worthy of their name can ever forget that these are the very people who failed to stand on side of truth and justice.

Kabwila-Kpaasula: Battle not over

“As we look at the banner at the entrance of Chancellor College, the tree of Academic freedom at the Academic Freedom park, our Academic Freedom flag and most importantly, the red scarf – remember to remain vigilant for the enemies of academic freedom have shown all the signs that even though we have dealt them a decisive blow, indeed they have suffered a TKO, unfortunately, they are still trying to get up.”

Kabwila-Kapasula says :“They are grasping at straws for example: trying to bring the Commission of Inquiry to find out if ‘our strike’ was illegal and blocking promotions. We have illustrated that we remain vigilant and if any one, organisation or process threatens academic freedom in the University of Malawi again, we are more than ready to take them on and last much longer than 260 days.

“Our continuance to perform our commitment to academic freedom will remind our enemies that we are game if they try to attack and most importantly, we are proud of the fight we fought. It is a principle we will stand for forever.”

In her speech to lecturers on Christmas party, the CCASU president said her group would not forget the forms that were issued to brand them as ‘ truant, lazy, abnormal and renegade lecturers’ and how their “very lives became a premium of what we believe in.”

“We will always remember and cherish the morning walks that bonded us. This was the place we shared notes on what had been said and done to break our solidarity the night and day before. Those walks were the fuel that spurred the struggle on, the water that nourished our cause, especially when the going became tough and the enemy was operating not only from outside but from within us.

“We know the power of a red scarf, how it identified us, marked the expansion of territory we had gained and currency our cause was gaining. Instead of hiding, we took and take pride in wearing it as a badge of our commitment to defending academic freedom in Malawi,” she says.

She says their struggle showed the country “that we are professional academics who really need and value their academic freedom in order to do their work, that is teach and research. The country can see that our going back to class with our academic freedom equals quality instruction.”

Kabwila-Kapasula says 2011 will go down as the year that academics in Malawi stood in defence of academic freedom.

“This is the year that CCASU showed Malawi and the world that we are public intellectuals who can network with villagers, taxi drivers, market vendors and help the nation articulate how much it values academic freedom and other constitutional rights.

“This is the year we demonstrated that one can be educated and not be elitist, the space between the university and the village can be narrowed, Academic Freedom is something that is understood and valued not just by ‘educated’ people but even those who are educated in the non-formal, rural, the so called ‘illiterate’ ways.”

She says Malawians demonstrated that their struggle was a cause for every Malawian.

“We would like to thank the nation for supporting us. In particular, a big thank you goes to our students for standing on the right side of history.

“Even when our college administrators, specifically our principal told them ‘kufa saferana’, the students reminded him that when it comes to constitutional rights in Malawi, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’ and when Academic Freedom is under threat, all Malawians are ‘caught up in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied to a single garment of destiny’ (Letter from Birmingham Jail, 16 April 1963’.”

Kabwila –Kapasula warns that if anyone ever messes with academic freedom again, “they can be sure to hear from CCASU and those who stood in defence of academic freedom in 2011.”

She urged academic dons to remain vigilant “as the enemies of Academic Freedom operate from a position of various forms of privilege. We need to always remember that the defeat has scotched but not killed them. As Shakespeare rightly warned, a snake in such a state is very lethal to the person/people it has hunted for so long. Alluta continua, the struggle continues.”

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