Malawi science ‘varsity: Gov’t urged to ‘show seriousness’

The Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC) says the Malawi government should be serious in its resolve to ensure that the new Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) at Ndata Farm in Thyolo is open and fully functional as soon as possible.

CSEC, an alliance of 81 local and international organizations working in the education sector, said it is dismayed with Government’s lack of prioritization saying its lack of pro-activeness and openness on issues of national importance is negation of its obligation to be accountable to the people.

Minister of education Eunice Kazembe told the last seating of Parliament that MUST was scheduled for opening in September this year despite concerns about lack of preparedness.

Now, government has shifted the opening to January 2014 with 140 students against its initial capacity of 3,000 students but without key teaching facilities, like laboratories and library.

Officials visiting Malawi University of Science and Technology at Ndata Farm in Thyolo
Officials visiting Malawi University of Science and Technology at Ndata Farm in Thyolo

“The obligation of the government to ensure the construction of laboratories and furnishing of the university has been clear since the very signing of the grant agreement under which China financed construction of MUST,” said CSEC in a statement.

The education campaigners said this in a statement released on Friday following government’s dilly-dallying and lack of commitment to open MUST two years after completion.

“The failure to deliver on this obligation without any clear reason puts into question the quality of management of the government as well as indicates the politicization of the facility,” it said.

MUST has also no staff houses, library books, water supply, laboratories, furniture and an in complete campus road network.

“This is a complete mockery and indicative of lack of seriousness on the part of government as a principal duty bearer. This also puts into question the feasibility of holding the opening of MUST in January 2014,” CSEC said.

The 2013 Malawi University intake of only 1, 909 students out of the 10, 328 qualified students is a clear testimony for high demand for university education in Malawi, according to CSEC.

“Opening of MUST will ultimately provide 3,000 more places for young people to develop their knowledge and skills and therefore should not be delayed any further. Therefore, any laxity in dealing with the issue of MUST puts to question government’s commitment to upholding the right to education,” reads part of the statement signed by Executive Director Benedicto Kondowe and Board Chairperson MacBain Mkandawire.

Malawi government constructed MUST with a grant from Chinese Government.

However, the PP led government appears reluctant to open the institution because it was built within the campus of former President Bingu wa Mutharika.

“The government should explain the reasons for the current situation as well as present a clear plan on how to complete the construction of the remaining facilities and ensure its opening with all essential facilitates and with no further delay,” CSEC said.

The body said it  is also calling upon the government to ensure that it protects the interest of the poor students who cannot afford to go to private universities.

“While students from well-to-do families can afford to go to private universities and colleges, it is the poor students who will continue to wait in vain as government’s priorities run parallel to their expectations,” it noted.

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