The Students Union of Chancellor College (SUCC) has set Thursday, April 27 for the ‘Open Chanco now’ national demonstrations in all four cities of the country next week, to push the University of Malawi (Unima) management to open the college.
The council postponed opening the college on March 20, 2017 for the first semester of the 2016/2017 academic year following a strike by the academic staff aimed at forcing the council to resolve salary disparities among staff of similar grades in its four constituent colleges of Chanco, The Malawi Polytechnic, Kamuzu College of Nursing and the College of Medicine (CoM).
In a letter dated April 20, 2017 addressed to all student which Nation Online has seen, SUCC President Sylvester Ayuba James said after meeting Unima management and hearing what they had said on April 18, 2017, particularly regarding what was delaying a resolution to the dispute and the opening of the Chancellor College, UMSU called for an urgent meeting with the Chancellor College Academic Staff Union (CCASU) so as to hear from them and have a balanced perspective of the matter.
Ayuba said ultimately, CCASU is of the view that any solution to be applied, be it from among the recommendations made by the conciliator, must involve all concerned parties at all stages including choosing, drawing, and implementing it.
He added that this, according to CCASU, is the only way the matter can be buried peacefully under the footprints of the university with no chance of it resurrecting in future.
“On this, CCASU emphasized that they were not against any specific recommendation made by the conciliator, but were just interested to have a recommendation that sounds the most plausible and practically attainable, and, according to them, such a solution can only be secured if the University management was willing to transparently involve all parties concerned in the whole process so that no aggrieved party feels infringed by the solution,” said James.
He further added that CCASU lamented that the university management is trying to impose a solution which may not be the most viable.
“Asked about the legal status of the recommendations made by the conciliator, CCASU emphasized unequivocally that the recommendations were just ‘recommendations’ and had no any binding force,” he added.
According to James, CCASU said their understanding was that the recommendations just suggested directions which the parties may wish to take but that the ultimate decision whether to take any of the directions was in the mutual agreement of the parties.
On the proposal to have the college opened while they proceeded with negotiations, CCASU said they cannot accept that proposal because of the “crooked character and uncaring attitude of the Unima management”.
“CCASU noted that Council had all along shown that they treated the current issue with a lot of disdain. This gave them real fears that once the college was opened Council would not take anything seriously and the result would be that the college could be forced to close again as lecturers would feel used and would stop teaching. This, in CCASU’s view, would not be in the best interest of anyone, including the students,” reads the statement in part.
James said given their analysis of the situation, SUCC through University of Malawi Student’s Union (UMSU) is of the view that it must take action in order to openly register their utmost dismay with the current situation and, therefore, peacefully and respectfully petition the Chancellor of the University to intervene in any reasonable way to have the dispute settled and the college opened.
“Where our rights are compromised as it is here, we strongly believe we are naturally rested with a legitimate responsibility, to be discharged through the exercise of another right, to stand up and demand that the responsible offices do take steps to address the situation.”
Initially we planned to hold the demonstrations this week but given that we were called to be briefed on the developments, we thought the meeting would bring any real hope of the college opening soon. Thus we pended our submission of notices on Tuesday. We only had to resume our preparations on Wednesdaywhen it had been clear that there was no hope. It is because of this that it has been impossible for us to hold the demonstrations this week as earlier planned,” said James.
Meanwhile, James said SUCC is working on all the logistical requirements and shall be giving further advice and directions in due course.
In an earlier interview, Unima Registrar Benedicto Okomaatani Malunga said their great concern was that CCASU was putting conditions to the Unima management as they are trying to resolve the issue.
According to Malunga, the agreement was that CCASU should call off the strike to necessitate the re-opening of the college and that they appoint two representatives from each staff union of the four colleges to continue with the negotiations a thing which CCASU is adamant to concede to.