Weeks after delinking the University of Malawi (Unima), Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec) has cautioned government to match its commitment to have autonomous colleges with adequate budgetary allocations.
Csec also wants government to speed up the remaining processes after four constituent colleges of the former Unima were delinked to become independent universities effective May 4 2021.
The processes include appointment of councils for the stand-alone universities and recruitment of senior executive officers are expected to be complete by December 31 2021, according to Ministry of Education Principal Secretary (PS) Chikondano Mussa.
Councils for the stand-alone universities are yet to be appointed, but according to Mussa, the University Office in Zomba, which is now operating under a lean secretariat of about 14 members, down from 52, is in control of the delinked colleges.
But Csec executive director Benedicto Kondowe bemoaned the lack of seriousness on the part of government, arguing that the latest budgetary allocation to Unima was reduced by 10 percent from the previous one. He said the Unima delinking process requires more funding than before.
The stand-alone universities are University of Malawi, formerly Chancellor College; Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences (Mubas), formerly The Polytechnic; and Kamuzu University of Health Sciences (Kuhes), a merger of College of Medicine and Kamuzu College of Nursing. They are all still operating under the lean University Office.
Kondowe said: “We’re not on the right track. As a subvented institution, Unima received a less budgetary allocation by 10 percent from the previous budget. This allocation is coming when the autonomous colleges need more resources.”
Kondowe said the stand-alone colleges would have to reexamine programmes they offer or want to offer, adding that these would require immediate appointment of the councils.
Explained the education activist: “Let’s allow full operational of these stand-alone universities. We’ve come from far and the tasks remaining are very minimal and easy to follow. The process was long and faced legal battles but we finally have Unima delinked.
The legal framework for operating as stand-alone colleges is there as Acts that were passed in Parliament to delink Unima were already gazetted.
But Mussa, in a response to a questionnaire, said the process of appointing councils, including a new Unima Council in accordance with the respective Acts 18, 19 and 20 of 2019 that established the three universities, is underway and at an advanced stage.
The PS said the majority of employees from Central Office in Zomba, except the 14-member Transition Unit team, were already redeployed to the standalone colleges.
She said: “You may wish to note that by provision of Act No, 18 of 2019 that reestablished the University of Malawi, the Council of Unima at the time of delinking is mandated to stay in office (to take care of Unima only) until the new council is appointed in accordance with provisions in this Act which, by the way, are not the same as those in the old Act.
“In other words, in the absence of councils, only Unima is run by the old council, while Kuhes and Mubas are under administration of the Ministry of Education to handle any emergency matters.”
Mussa said when the processes are completes, the Transition Unit secretariat members will also be redeployed to the universities except those who will have reached retirement age.