Civil society organisations (CSOs) representatives yesterday asked the University of Malawi Students Union (Umsu) to enter into dialogue with the University of Malawi (Unima) Council instead of holding a vigil over concerns of fee hike.
Led by Undule Mwakasungula, the CSOs, under the umbrella of Civil Society Platform for Constructive Dialogue (CS-PCD), told journalists in Lilongwe there was need for dialogue between Unima Council and student representatives.
However, the CSOs cautioned against political interference in the process, noting that both opposition parties and government were turning the hiked fee issue into a political battle ground.
Said Mwakasungula: “While we sympathise with the students in raising their concerns about the fee hike, we would want a situation where their grievances are being heard. However, the students ought to be objective by weighing all factors that need be considered in handling the matter of university fee hike.”
Umsu general secretary Dalitso Dulani yesterday welcomed the call for dialogue, saying: “We have been trying to have the vigils and we are being frustrated. The DC [district commissioner] is denying us the constitutional right to hold demonstrations. In principle, we accept the offer.”
The CSO groups, represented at the news conference by Maxwell Matewere, Fryson Chodzi and Phillip Kalimanjira besides Mwakasungula, offered themselves as possible mediators between government and the students, noting that dialogue mechanisms have not be exhausted.
Initially, the Unima Council pegged new tuition fees for Chancellor College (Chanco) at K570 000, the Polytechnic and Kamuzu College of Nursing (KCN) at K610 000 while that of College of Medicine (CoM) at K760 000. Following the outcry, President Peter Mutharika directed that the fees for Chanco be K400 000, that for Polytechnic and KCN be K450 000 while that for CoM be at K500 000.
Unima is one of the country’s four public universities. The others are Mzuzu University (Mzuni), Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) and Malawi University of Science and Technology (Must).