The USA second lady Dr. Jill Biden early today had a rude awakening as she travelled from Blantyre to Machinga through Zomba. Upon reaching Matawale in Zomba, Biden’s motorcade was blocked by students from Chancellor College (Chanco), a constituent college of the University of Malawi, who were protesting fees hike.
The students’ demonstrations started yesterday afternoon.
After a ten minute delay on the road, Biden in the company of USA ambassador to Malawi Virgin Palmer and Malawi’s Minister of Education Science and Technology, Emmanuel Fabiano, sought temporal refuge at the Eastern Region Police office in Zomba as they waited for the situation to calm down. But, it never did.
This prompted Biden to cancel her trip to Machinga where she was expected to visit some USAID projects. She is now in Blantyre. The US second lady arrived in Malawi on Monday. She is in the country to highlight girl’s education, women empowerment and food security.
Students chanted and burned tyres on the road making the M5 Lake Shore Road impassable. In the morning, the students tussled with police demanding that they leave the Chanco campus. According to the Students’ Union of Chancellor College (SUCC) president Sylvester James the students “were holding peaceful sit-in” hence they did not want police presence at the campus.
Meanwhile, the college has been closed with immediate effect. The college principal, Richard Tambulasi, announced that the school has been closed because “the demonstrations were illegal and for the security threat that the demonstrations posed”.
The students have been advised to leave the campus by 4pm today. The college has however, not indicated when the school will open.
Chancellor College students together with other Unima students have been expressing their concern with the decision by the Unima council to hike school fees which students argue is too exorbitant. However, the university council has also put its foot down that it will not reverse the fee hike because the cost of running the university has gone up.
Last week the University of Malawi Students’ Union (UMSU) announced their intention to hold a vigil at the university office to force university to reverse the fee hike. However, The Malawi Polytechnic, another constituent college of Unima, did not take part in the demonstrations because they are sitting for end of year examinations.