Mutharika avoids ‘quota’, calls for more intake in Malawi universities

President Peter Mutharika has avoided pronouncement of his government policy shift in terms of access to institutions of higher learning particularly the controversial quota system, saying there is need to establish more institutions to absorb more students.

“Access to higher education still remains a privilege of a few people in this country. We must increase the numbers of students able to access university education through having more places that are available,” Mutharika said.

The President , who was installed as Chancellor of Mzuzu University, said this at the 16th congregation of the university and admitted that Malawi’s education sector still faces many challenges in terms of access, quality, relevance, and management and good governance.

Mutharika being installed as Chancellor
Mutharika being installed as Chancellor

Close to 700  students have graduated, the largest number of students ever to graduate at this university since its establishment in 1997.

However, just a month before Malawi’s May 20 2014 tripartite elections that catapulted him into State House, Mutharika and his DPP vehemently queried the implementation of the controversial equitable access to tertiary education.

Paradoxically, his late brother Bingu wa Mutharika started the policy at the pinnacle of his rein as head of state.

Mutharika said once elected he would ensure that quota system, is resolved completely.

This is despite the fact the DPP manifesto did not support his utterances on the issue.

“If Bingu was alive by now, this system would have been wiped off completely because some of the five universities he intended to construct would have been ready by now thereby increasing the intake,” Mutharika said at Mzuzu Upper Stadium in April 2014.

At Mzuni, Mutharika unapologetically admitted that Malawi’s education system is amongst the lowest performers in the SADC region.

“We need to improve, both by expanding enrolment at existing universities and through the creation of new universities. It is the wish of my government that more youth are enrolled in university, as higher education is critical to the development of this country,” he said.

Mutharika said his government’s creation of the National Council of Higher education is a quality control measure.

“The quality of university education needs also to be critically accessed. A university degree is of little use to anybody if the person has not received quality education.

“The first challenge of this new organization is to monitor, register and accredit universities and academic programmes to make sure that no university student, whether at a private or a public university, has a sub-standard education,” he said.

The Chancellor also admiited that Tthe challenges facing our universities and our education system in general, and indeed many other aspects of life in Malawi, have arisen because the nation has limited resources.

“We have to find innovative ways of financing our universities both through attracting more resources from outside the country and through finding additional resources from within the country, whether this be through public funds, through fees, or finance from the private sector. Universities themselves must play a key role in raising these resources.”

He expressed the hope that the graduates will be “creating jobs”  for fellow youth , adding: “ It is also my hope that government can use most of you in our skills development programmes for the youth that have not made it to University through our community colleges.”

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