Polytechnic strike costs K92 milllion and counting


The strike by lecturers at the Malawi Polytechnic College in Blantyre—a constituent college of the University of Malawi, is becoming costly on taxpayers as over K92 million in students’ allowances has gone down the drain for the month of August.

The lecturers are boycotting work to force their employer, the University Council, to hike salaries by 113 percent.

Officials from the college’s registrar and the finance department declined to give the sum figure wasted last month as the college continues to accommodate and feed the students while no academic activity is taking place .

However, both these offices admitted yesterday that the government is losing a lot following the impasse.

The College’s Registrar Margaret Longwe said all the money that the college uses including paying students’ upkeep allowance and salaries of its staff come from the government.

“The government is obviously losing a lot,” she said.

She said the college gets 100 percent government funding and that it is the government suffering.

Polytechnic Students’ Union General Secretary Gospel Kanyama said over 2,800 students at the college receive upkeep allowances every month.

“Over 2,800 students receive their upkeep allowance and it isK33,000 each which means the government spends over K92 million every month. The money caters for our accommodation and meal allowances,” said Kanyama.

Meanwhile, according to Kanyama, the students have agreed to be holding vigils at the college campus in a quest to provoke authorities to end the lecturers’ strike.

Polytechnic lecturers went on strike three weeks ago, effectively crippling teaching and learning at the college.

The situation worsened when the college’s supporting support including library personnel also downed their tools, demanding 75 percent salary increment as an aftermath of hard times brought about by the devaluation of the kwacha.

Meanwhile, President Joyce Banda met representatives of Polytechnic and Chancellor college lecturers last week, but their meeting ended in a stalemate as the strike continue.

Earlier, Minister of Labour Eunice Makangala met the union for Unima support staff, but the efforts proved futile as the staff continue to boycott their work.

In a similar scenario, a group of Chancellor College non-residential students who pay higher tuition fees than government sponsored students sued the University Council last year.

They claimed about K50 million in compensation which they said they lost when there were called back to college only to be staying idle due to the academic freedom standoff.

The case is yet to be concluded in the courts.

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