Academic freedom constitutional right – Joyce Banda

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Malawi President Joyce Banda has pledged her government’s commitment to promote respect and protect academic freedom as provided for in the Constitution.

The President said it is the obligation of her administration to respect and protect the supreme law of the land by matching constitutional provisions with practice.

Banda made the commitment at the opening of a Symposium on Academic Freedom at Chancellor College in Zomba on Monday.

“It is neither my duty nor the government’s responsibility to guarantee what is already granted by the Constitution, but to make sure that it is guaranteed,” said the President who is also the first female Chancellor of the University of Malawi (Unima).

The President assured academic freedom fighters that her government would safeguard and refrain from violating academic freedom as the society expects academicians to use the freedom for their own benefit and the nation at large.

She said as a sign of her administration’s commitment to improve higher education, it has allocated K800 million (about $3.2m) in the 2012/13 national budget for the improvement of infrastructure at three of Unima’s constituent colleges.

Banda said out of the allocation, government would construct two state-of-the-art lecture theatres at Chancellor College worth K300 million (about $1.2m). She said the Polytechnic would also get K300 million with the remaining K200 million (about $800 000) going to Bunda College.

In his remarks, Unima Vice-Chancellor Emmanuel Fabiano agreed with the President, saying the symposium would help build a new relationship among students, the University Council and government.

Chancellor College was an epitome of an eight months academic struggle in 2011, a period during which the college and the Polytechnic were closed indefinitely.

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