The Polytechnic Students Union (PSU) on Friday advised government to comply with the students’ demands or close the college.
Speaking after presenting a two-point petition to Chancellor of the University of Malawi, President Joyce Banda, through Blantyre district commissioner Atanazio Chibwana, PSU vice-president Eugene Chinkhandwe said authorities’ reaction to their claims shows that government has no resources to run the college.
Said Chinkhandwe in an interview: “It is not on to keep the students on campus and not feed them. It is better for government to close the college if they don’t have resources. We were negotiating, hoping something will come up.”
He said the reaction from government and the Council of the University of Malawi was insinuating that the students’ claims were not legitimate and that they just want to cause trouble.
“I would like to express that our claims are legitimate. It is not just trying to misbehave or to be troublesome but because we want students to access meals.
“Let government feed the students or close the college while they are looking for resources. It has become apparent that government has no resources but why are they not coming in the open to say so? We are not going back to class until the issue is resolved,” he said.
In the petition, which was presented by PSU president Wakisa Simukonda, the students want President Banda to intervene by increasing the food allowance by K24 000 (about $27).
One of the placards the students carried read, “Njala Amayi. We cannot attend classes on an empty stomach. Give us the K24 000 (about $27) shortfall for food allowance.”
Reads the petition in part: “The Polytechnic Students Union would like to register its dissatisfaction with the way the University of Malawi Council, the Ministry of Education and the Malawi government in general is handling students’ problems. These problems are students’ living allowance and students’ tuition contribution for self-sponsored students.
“PSU, Your Excellency, therefore, seeks your intervention to the problems which were outlined to you on 17th April 2013 during the meeting which PSU had with you at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre and are again detailed below.
It says the students who are admitted under government sponsorship receive monthly subsistence and accommodation allowance of K40 000 (about $95) from which K7 240 (about $17) goes to hostel rental fee for those on campus and K12 500 (about $29) for those accommodated elsewhere.
“From this, it can be seen that students remain with K3 [about $78]2 760 and K27 500 [about $65] for meals, respectively. If we go by this, students are supposed to spend K1 056 [about $2.51) and K887. 09 [about $2] to cater for three meals a day,” it says.
The students, who marched peacefully along the Masauko Chipembere Highway, left the government building after the DC promised them that the petition would reach the President.