Mzuni students march peacefully, petitions President Banda

Disgruntled students of the Mzuzu University on Tuesday took to the streets and later presented a petition to Mzuzu City Council’s Chief Executive Officer asking for the intervention of the President Mrs. Joyce Banda to immediately bail out the embattled institution from its economic malaise and maladministration.

Mzuni has been sailing in difficult financial waters for some years now as its operational costs are above its meagre income – the institution is  stone broke. The recent devaluation of the Kwacha by 49 percent has only compounded things.

Currently Mzuni needs MK2.5 billion per year for proper functioning.

Peaceful marching by Mzuni students. Photo by Collins Mtika/Nyasa Times

Tuesday’s marching came after the Mzuzu University Students Representative Council had exhausted all possible statutory avenues.

“The previous regime had no political will towards Mzuni, this is evident in the sense that the institution has been under funded through and through. The other issue is that development projects have been stuck while our counterparts UNIMA projects have been flourishing,” the students observed in their petition.

President of the Mzuzu University Student Representative Council Moses Chalera read the four page petition before presenting it to  Mzuzu City CEO Richard Hara who was flanked by group of Police officers.

Mzuni has had no stable academic calendar since 2009 and there have been a host of reasons given from lack of space and inadequate funding. But the students disagree and blame management for its incompetence.

This year students were promised to have three semesters to make up for the lost time but again the institution reneged and shifted the opening twice.

“The semester was supposed to open to start on 15th May but the date was shifted to 28th may and again shifted to 2nd July. This translates that the students will be on holiday for two months than they expected,” Chalera said.

“As a student community we feel this is infringing on our rights because it is bringing in a lot of inconveniences. It also shows that management is not serious with the decisions it makes,” he said.

According to Chalera the erratic and abrupt changes of the academic calendar have also inconvenienced international students.

“For example, we have students one from Sierra Leone, who cannot go back home because these changes found them when they were already in the county,” he said.

Numbering less than 50, the students made the 6 km march chanting slogans that derided the Mzuni management and the supposedly poor diet at the Cafeteria.

They held aloft placards that read “We demand the immediate opening of classes and access to the cafeteria”  and the other read” We are tired of acting officers in our institutions.”

For a few years now Mzuni top management is composed of ‘acting’ and these are; Acting Vice Chancellor Professor Msiska, his deputy Professor Joseph Uta, Acting Registrar Yonamu Ngwira, Senior Assistant Registrar Academic James Kwilimbe and Senior  Assistant Registrar Administration Chiyamiko Chimkwita.

In the petition,  the students are asking for the immediate replacement of the “acting” management team, which they are blaming for management of incompetence.

“The student community has lost trust in the current management team because they have proved to be incompetent,” Chalera said.

They said management should not blame the global financial crisis by their failure to come up with a strategic plan adding that they wonder how other public institutions are ticking in the same environment.

The students also asked for the privatization of the Cafeteria saying it was being used as an avenue for draining the little resources the University has in its coffers.

In this vain they also asked for the removal of Procurement Officer Dokiso Nyasulu.

Receiving the petition, Hara said that he was glad that the march and the presentation of the petition were peaceful.

Hara said the Malawi constitution guarantees the right to demonstrate and express views. This was not possible during the reign of late Bingu wa Mutharika.

“Probably this marks a new chapter in the way Malawi should hold its demonstrations. You have written history for Malawi. I will immediately submit this petition to Office of the President and cabinet with my covering letter as well. Mzuni is housed in Mzuzu and we also need a functioning university. Let’s wait for the response from OPC,” said Hara.

Northern Police Operations Officer Senior Assistant Commissioner Isaac Maluwa also commended the students for their maturity in the way they marched.

“You have set a benchmark for peaceful demonstrations in Malawi and let’s build on what we have started. It’s a new era and we have to take it together,” Maluwa said.

Maluwa then offered the Malawi Police Service bus and a Land Cruiser to ferry the students back to their campus.

He also said he will consult with the Police top brass so that the Malawi police Orchestra Band should come and entertain the students at their campus.

Hara receives petition from Mzuni. Photo by Collins Mtika/Nyasa Times
Mzuzu students wants government bail out package for the institution. Photo by Collins Mtika/Nyasa Times
Peaceful marching by Mzuni students. Photo by Collins Mtika/Nyasa Times

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