MUST management forced to close its University following student riots

Malawi University of Science & Technology (MUST) ordered its students on Wednesday to go back home following riots some students conducted that included disruption of examinations and staff harassment.

A notice from the University Registrar, Alfred Chinombo said after the protests and riots, the MUST Council immediately met and resolved to close the university with immediate effect to ensure the safety of staff and students.

They were ordered to vacate the MUST campus at Goliati in Thyolo and remove all their belongings from residence halls. The students were told that they would be communicated to on the date and conditions for reopening through student portals and emails.

Prof Address Malata

According to director of communication, James Mphande, the students were scheduled to start end of year exams on Monday but some students disrupted them and the exams were called off.

He reported that the students were angered by a decision from management to enforce one of its regulations — “which the students are aware of” — that those who have not paid their fees and haven’t registered, won’t be allowed to sit for the exams.

“They were told [in advance] that all those with outstanding fees balances will not be allowed to sit for the exams — this is what angered them,”Mphande said.

“But this was communicated to them and their parents in January. The students only came last week to negotiate with management where they were accomodated by allowing those that have at least paid 75% to write exams.

“And those that are really needy, were told to engage with the office of Director of Students Affairs to present their case and depending on the office’s assessment, this office was allowed to recommend to management needy students who could be exempted and be allowed to sit for the exams.

“Everything looked settled until Monday when some disgruntled students disrupted the exams and harassed fellow students and invigilators,” he said.

In July last year, MUST launched an Endowment Fund which assures that teaching, research and needy students’ fees can be sustained forever — taking cognizance that funding from government is not enough to sustain their services.

It is a strategy initiated to diversify revenue streams as universities in Malawi have received annual donations from individuals and corporates in support of tuition fees and living expenses for students.

But whilst this has for sure facilitated education of those supported, it has no assurance of its sustainability and that it benefitted a few whilst the endowment fund is invested with financial institutions to yield interest to cater for its services.

At the launch, MUST’s Vice-Chancellor Prof. Address Malata had said they believe thatno student should drop out of university because he

cannot afford to pay school fees as this is a loss of human resource for the national agendas.

While former Minister of Education, Agnes Nyalonje said there are just many students who need support which the Loans Board cannot reach out to all due to budgetary constraints and limitations in scope as such initiatives to contribute towards access to higher education are encouraged.

The benefits of the trust is that the donation survives the life of the giver, thus creating true legacy and that an individual donor has the priviledge of naming their gift to a family member, a friend, a special faculty member or themselves.

A donor is relieved of the burden of managing their funds and that MUST is contractually obligated to spend on the fund in accordance with the donor’s wishes and will give regular updates of how the fund is growing and being utilised.

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