Malawi President Joyce Banda has said as Head of State, she will not rule but lead, saying the country’s future looks bright politically and economically if the first two months of her reign are anything to go by.
She was speaking when she officially opened a two-day Academic Freedom Symposium at Chancellor College in Zomba on Monday.
President Banda said Malawi is now part of the general global consensus that violation of academic freedom leads to intellectual relapse, adding the country is among the best regarding the Constitutional recognition of academic freedom.
“Academic freedom is a term or concept that evokes a lot of memories, and bad ones, at that among many people especially among you in the academia,” she said.
She said she was reliably informed that the Chancellor College Campus of the University of Malawi officially opened on February 2, 1974 and that students were transferred from the Chichiri Campus in Blantyre in September 1973.
“The actual construction of this campus started in 1971. Last year, 2011, was, therefore, the 40th year of the founding of this campus. All of us should have been celebrating this achievement.
“Unfortunately, 2011 marked a dark page in the history of this campus, the University of Malawi, and higher education in general in this country. Chancellor College was needlessly closed for some eight months and the Polytechnic for four months on account of the disagreements over academic freedom. This is a history we do not want to see repeated,” said the Head of State.
Banda suggested that in fact, the 40th anniversary of the campus ought to be part of the 50th anniversary of our country’s independence coming up in 2014.
“As we all know, the establishment of the University of Malawi in 1965, just a year after attaining our independence, was one of the fruits of our independence. Our University is therefore one of the major symbols of attainment of nationhood status. Didn’t we sing about it as the Gweru dream of our first president Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda?
“All this shows that between last year and 2014 we, as a nation, should have been in a joyous and festive mood. That has not been the case. Events in the University and at the national level have dampened our spirits. We need to change,” the President said.
President Banda noted that the symposium on academic freedom offers participants the unique opportunity to critically examine the past as an institution, and the relationship between the institution and the government.
She also observed that the Republican Constitution categorically provides for that and states that academic freedom is non-derogable even in times of state of emergency.
“It is therefore not my or the Government’s responsibility to guarantee what is already guaranteed by the Constitution, the Supreme Law of our country. Our job is simply to promote and protect it. Not doing so would amount to being inconsistent with the Constitution. Today, we therefore, say let us match the Constitutional imperative with practice,” said President Banda.
She advised that as participants deliberate on academic freedom in the next two days, they also openly debate on the relationship between the government and the institutions of higher learning in the country with a view to suggesting improvements that will enable the two avoid mistakes of the past.
“Further, we should dream and work that academic freedom should not only be safeguarded in the classroom, but it must extend to security of tenure, financial security, and the autonomy of institutions of learning and fair rewards for those who toil in the classrooms.
“As a Government we know that best practice on the need for greater clarity on academic freedom globally has been self-regulation and non-interference in the professional work of academics,” Banda said.
Unima Vice-Chancellor Emmanuel Fabiano , speaking earlier, agreed with the President, saying the symposium would help build a new relationship among students, the University Council and government.
Chancellor College was an epitome of an eight months academic struggle in 2011, a period during which the college and the Polytechnic were closed indefinitely.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :