Lecturers and students at Mzuzu University have joined arms in taking the government to task, bringing a Mexican standoff which could result with the closure of the university in few days coming.
On one hand, the lecturers are demanding salary increment, arguing that the recent devaluation has left them in tatters and great debt to support their families; whereas students are demanding their stipend and book allowance which they are supposed to receive within two weeks of each semester. A senior lecturer revealed that they resorted to a sit in after diplomatic means stalled.
â€śThe Malawi government has lost sight of our voice of reason that our pintsized salary can no longer cater for the standards of living which have swelling with over 60 % following the recent devaluation. They expect us to work in a worse environment which an ox can hardly survive.
â€śSome of us have been teaching with just one a day or no meal at all. It is a pity that we cannot afford the basic necessity for our children. It is even painful that those in power have given our demands a blind eye, sentencing us to oblivion. It is now or neverâ€ť, wailed the lecturer.
Mzuzu University risks a close-down. Likewise, a third year Education student revealed that the studentâ€™s body is siding with their lecturers. He further revealed that the students will also be submitting their own petition.
â€śWe have been demanding improvement of services from government for quite a period of time, but it appears this government is as ignorant as the previous regime. The meals prepared at the college cafeteria leaves a lot to be desired.
â€śSome students are now malnourished and many more are being admitted or treated with vitamin drugs almost each and every day. Yet, our chancellor is everyday road trottingâ€ť.
“Inability by the government, let alone the Chancellor to provide a conducive environment for university education is an infringement on academic freedom which as a country we have ratified to uphold”, reasoned the student.
Most of the government sponsored universities in Malawi have been home to numerous civil disobediences because of inconsiderate management. For example, the fight for academic freedom during the autocratic leadership of Bingu wa Mutharika resulted into disruption of the academic calendar at Chancellor College with more than one year.
The stingy president has been travelling and conducting rallies almost every day which has resulted into careless spending of over 1 billion kwacha in less than a hundred days she has been in power. Such money could have invested to improve the wellbeing of the students or lecturers who are now set into poverty.
Joyce Banda, who initially appeared to sympathise with those who fought for academic freedom, has already closed down Bunda College in Lilongwe when students were demanding improvement in services.
The Malawi police, whose commander in chief is the president, surrounded the students at Bunda.
Acting “on orders from above”, the Police, having teargassed and started beating the student with battlesticks. Injuries from the attacks ended up having some students seeking medical attention or being admitted to various hospitals. The Police then closed down the college.
Joyce Banda’s actions are tantamount to those of the previous tyranny in trampling academic freedom.
It is for this reason that others are demanding amendment of university acts which make the president an automatic Chancellor. Since Kamuzu Banda, these politicians have ruled and managed the universities with an iron fist.
Every corner or corridor of the colleges has historically been infested with agents of respective ruling parties to report those holding critical views to powers that be resulting into arrests or un-ceremonial termination of employment contracts.
Joyce Banda is in Mzuzu to commemorate those who died during the July 20 demonstrations when Malawians demanded change. Academic freedom was one of the demands set in the petition submitted to the president.
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