Parliament on Thursday passed a motion to stop the hike of fees in secondary schools and public universities until the economic situation at household level improves.
But government rejected the motion by an opposition member of Parliament Felix Jumbe (Salima Central, Malawi Congress Party-MCP), arguing that Parliament had no mandate to make such a resolution which was tantamount to changing the law.
In his motion, Jumbe argued that the recent hike of school fees was coming at a time when many Malawians are experiencing hunger and financial challenges. He said the fees hike would only exacerbate the situation in many households.
The motion has come at a time when Ministry of Education, Science and Technology increased fees to K85 000 ($141.16) in national secondary schools, K35 000 ($58.12) at district secondary schools and K11 000 ($18.26) at community day secondary schools while university fees have gone up to between K190 000 ($315.53) and K280 000 ($465) with no government allowances.
But Jumbe said raising fees at a time when Malawians’ pockets were constrained was not the right thing to do.
The motion received support from several MPs, including Esther Jolobala, an independent member seated on the government side who drew the wrath of government MPs for her position.
However, she said: “The implementation of this policy is ill-timed. It is the most horrible Christmas party this government wants to give parents and guardians. I am not here to please the opposition or the government, but the people of Machinga East.”
During debate on the motion, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu also emphasised that powers as given to Parliament in Section 12 of the Constitution did not mandate MPs to change the law in that manner.
Several attempts by government to prevent the motion from being debated did not yield fruit.
This included a protest by the government side that the decision by the office of the Speaker of the National Assembly to allow the tabling of a motion without the government’s knowledge was wrong.
Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya, who also chairs the Business Committee, took over control of the House from Second Deputy Speaker Clement Chiwaya to make the communication.
But the government side was not satisfied with the decision of the Speaker who ruled that the motion should be tabled when two sides of the Business Committee failed to reach a consensus.
Mangochi South MP Lilian Patel (United Democratic Front-UDF) also attempted to stop debate by arguing that the motion which Jumbe read out was different from the one on the notice.
But Msowoya squashed the point of order, informing the House that members should restrict their debate to the motion as outlined in the notice. n