Malawi Catholic University remain closed: Students want vice chancellor out

Classes are yet to resume at the Catholic University of Malawi (CUNIMA) nearly a week after the disgruntled students obtained a High Court injunction restraining management from effecting the closure.

The university was shut down indefinitely last Wednesday following continued threats of demonstrations by students over continued acute shortage of water at the institution.

Management gave the students a two-hour order to leave the university’s Nguludi campus in Chiradzulu after getting wind of another demonstration but the resolute learners, through their lawyer Lusungu Gondwe of Ralph and Arnolds, rushed to the court and obtained an injunction against the closure late Wednesday.

A student with her baggage and for friends awaits to leave the campus after closure last Wednesday

However, despite being served with the injunction the university management, led by the Vice Chancellor (VC) Prof Anaclet Phiri, did not obey the order arguing it had no impact as it was obtained after the school had already been closed.

Students’ hostels remained locked and electricity disconnected with a heavy presence of armed police officers just loitering within the campus while others physically harassed and prevented some students wanting to access their property in the hostels.

However, management finally opened the hostels and connected electricity on Thursday although classes remained suspended.

“Management has remained adamant in the face of the court injunction. So we have now instructed our lawyer to commence contempt of court charges because it has failed to comply with the court order to reopen the school,” a student, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Nyasa Times on Tuesday evening.

“There have been a series of discussions between representatives of the school and students to find a lasting solution but nothing is working, there is no direction and we are really disturbed with the situation considering the exorbitant fees our parents and guardians are paying here,” complained the student, one of the ring leaders fighting for the reopening of the school.

He said on Monday night management was busy threatening parents and guardians of the students to advise them go home, a development that reportedly propagated students’ fury as some started baying for the blood of the Vice Chancellor.

According to our source, the students have threatened to take unspecified action on the VC including some of his lieutenants like a Mr Mavumbe, (registrar) and the Assistant registrar, a Mr Nkhoma, if he does not “quickly resolve” the problem.

The students first went on a peaceful demonstration on 15th September after the campus stayed for over six weeks without running water with management reportedly doing very little to solve the crisis.

The revered students of the higher learning institution had been forced to draw water from the boreholes and a nearby stream to fill cisterns in order to use in their hostel’s toilets.

Nyasa Times has also gathered that a number of students had fallen ill and were also failing to concentrate on their studies due to the water situation.

Immediately after the demonstration, the students presented a petition to the Vice Chancellor who never responded forcing them to plan for another demo which was countered before its fruition.

In the process, the VC wrote memos to four students (Lawrence, John, Adrian and Joseph) suspected to be the ring leaders of the demonstrations and asked them to bring their parents/guardians.

In the letters, management also warned the students that they would be dismissed should there be another demonstration at the campus.

But when the said students’ parents/guardians came to the school, management team decided not to report for duties and they (parents/guardians) returned a disappointed lot.

Since the issue started, the Chancellor of the University, Bishop Jospeh Zuza, who is also the head of Catholic Church in Malawi, is yet to make a public comment.

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