The Public Universities Working Committee (PUWC) says the Malawi University of Science and Technology (Must) at Ndata in Thyolo will require about K25 billion (about $75.8 million) for it to open and be fully operational.
The revelation has put in doubt plans that the new state-of–the-art university will open its doors for the first student intake in September this year as expected.
The committee told the Education, Science and Human Resources Committee of Parliament this week that unless this money is available, the university will not open.
During the parliamentary committee’s Wednesday meeting with PUWC, which was mandated to oversee establishment of six public universities initiated by the late president Bingu wa Mutharika, the committee gave an update of developments and challenges in all the six projects.
On Must, chairperson of the infrastructure sub-committee Dr Bernard Zingano observed that the funding agreement between Malawi and the People’s Republic of China on the project only covered “basic shells”, but left out several amenities which have to be funded by the Malawi Government.
Zingano said among several shortfalls were a road network, staff houses, additional lecture rooms, laboratories, engineering workshops, power supply, water, sewage and a waste management system, a telecommunication facility and installation of lifts to accommodate students with physical disabilities.
He said to put all these things up, the Malawi Government would have to spend up to K25 billion.
Zingano said other requirements yet to be fixed are furniture, social amenities, general school equipment, books and other learning resources and schools (primary and nursery) to cater for communities within the campus.
Chairperson of the finance sub-committee Michael Kamphambe Nkhoma lamented that although in the 2012/13 financial year Parliament approved K620 million (about $1.9 million) for the committee, the money was diverted to other uses.
He said at the moment there is no indication as to where the money to complete the project will come from, with the only hope being President Joyce Banda’s pledge that she will negotiate with Republic of China for funds to procure furniture for the university.
China funded the construction of the university to the tune of $89 million (almost K31 billion).
PUWC chairperson Ambassador Ron Mkomba said the university was initially planned to be handed over in December last year, but the date had to be shifted to September this year after observing these shortfalls.
“Had it been we were present when going to Beijing, we could have given our input as to what it takes to establish a university. We asked from the beginning about these things and were assured that government would take care of them,” he said.
Mkomba is one of those who have also been instrumental in the establishment of the Mzuzu University and the abandoned Lilongwe University of Science and Technology (Lustech).
PUWC was formed following the launch of the Malawi Universities Development Programme (Mudep) in 2010 with the aim of establishing six universities to deal with low intake into the country’s tertiary education institutions.