University fee hikes in Africa and even in the not-so-well-to-do economies elsewhere always give rise to ugly scenes.
In October 2015, this phenomena was the case in the Republic of South Africa and it nearly, nearly brought down President Jacob Zuma’s government.
Therefore, the repercussions following the recent fee increase from K320, 000 to K400, 000 at Chancellor College (Chanco), K500,000 to K600,000 for College of Medicine students and K340,000 to K450,000 for Kamuzu College of Nursing – for generic students – should have been expected.
In fact, for Malawi, there are several reasons the embarassing spectacles should have been easier to predict than elsewhere.
The first culprit is campaign lies. It is common knowledge that the youth, in general, and students, in particular, due to their gullibility and poverty, are fed a lot of bull which they swallow hook, line and sinker.
The second is the introduction of a cocktail of taxes that are too bitter to swallow for the ordinary people. One effect of these new taxes is that while university fees have gone up, household disposable income has shrunk.
The third is the widening gap between the sumptuous lifestyles of office bearers on the one hand and the wretched lives of the taxpaying-but-broke majority on the other.
To put things in their proper context, this last sitting of Parliament is a perfect study in first degree gluttony.
Check this: Whereas the State House was looking to the 2016/17 budget for a new fleet of vehicles and state-of-the-art banqueting facilities, and whereas parliamentarians’ goal was subsidised bank interest for personal loans mostly spent on luxuries and while it had the nerve to conduct the cluster phase of the budget review at the lakeside, no-one, I repeat, no-one had these poor college boys and girls in mind.
Yet, they are the “themu-themus” who made the President and various legislators win their respective elections in 2014.This is not sad, neither is this selfishness; this is cold-blooded murder!
The justification is simple. We all know that without education, you are nothing. We also know that even having a degree, not to say a diploma these days, does not guarantee a way out of poverty.
We have thousands of graduates on the streets, starving. They are not alone; they have families, surviving on aswiswiri, akapuku and madondwe.
Those who are better off are living hand to mouth at a time when all that the State House is thinking about is a marque where the pharaoh can wine, dine, make merry and fly – on a chartered plane – to some place to get degrees he does not need.
If our leaders had half a heart, the least they could have done for the youth is to avail them university education, at affordable fees, not necessarily to guarantee them employment but because their guardians, sponsors and parents, on top of the punitive taxes, cannot afford the revised fee structure.
But look here: The government that has clipped household spending power with taxes to sustain the exotic lifestyles of the President, Members of Parliament and their cronies who provide inputs for subsidies, is now asking the same squeezed taxpayer to cough even more to teach their children and wards.
I know some headless chickens, bellies full from eating our taxes, are saying if you think education is expensive, try ignorance. And to such sadists, my question is: How else, if not by attaining university education, will the poor of Malawi get out of this vicious circle and when?
I will only answer the when: The answer is they will never get out of the vicious circle. Why? Because the people they have been electing and those they elected in May 2014 do not want them to.
What all self-centred people should not forget is what our ancestors said: Ukakhala pamsana pa njovu, usamati kulibe mame.
Flipping the coin to the other side, the fee hike, for mature entry students, is a death knell.
Fact is: Most mature entry students have tried eking out a living, one way or another, based on the knowledge and qualifications they had. They were getting nowhere. They, therefore, decided to return to school to gain more knowledge, so as to improve their productivity and hopefully, earnings and living standards.
Is this not something leadership worth the name should be encouraging people to do?
Not the government of Prof Peter Mutharika. It says: no ways! If the generic students are complaining about their increase, I cannot imagine just how dejected the mature students are feeling.
For those at Chanco, their fees have more than tripled from K275,000 to K900,000. Those at the College of Medicine now have to dig deeper into their pockets from K950, 000 to K1.4 million, Kamuzu College of Nursing (KCN) students will now pay K1 million from K650,000 and those at The Polytechnic K950, 000 from K275, 000.
Lord have mercy!
Now while the government is busy ‘manufacturing’ criminals like this, reading the headlines, focus is on the minor inconvenience suffered by the Second Lady of the US and not necessarily the real victims, i.e., the unfortunate students who have been driven to desperation like wounded tigers.
How low have we sunk as a people?
In our hands, fellow blue-talkers, is a colossal catastrophe in the making. Tick, tock, tick! We are sitting on a time bomb.
The day is f as t approaching when the poor, especially now that they are being denied university education – a must-have in these times – will have nothing to eat, but the rich.
When this transpires, do not blame me for not ringing the warning bell. Gong! Gong! Gong! Let those with ears, hear.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :