Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec) and a youth non-governmental organisation, Youth and Society (Yas), have called for the immediate re-opening of Chancellor College which was closed Tuesday evening due to students’ protests over fees hike.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Yas executive director Charles Kajoloweka warned that failure by government to re-open the college and review the fees downwards will force his organisation to mobilise parents, students, civil society and civil servants into mass action on August 4 2016.
He said Yas finds students’ expression of discontent over the fees hike from K275 000 to a minimum of K400 000 “extremely genuine, patriotic and heroic at a time when the economy is severely anaemic and decrepit.”
“The University administration itself has expressed the same point of view in terms of rising costs of running the University. The students are justified to defend themselves and Malawian society at large against this insensitive and unjustified fees hike by the Unima Council.
“The exorbitant fees in our educational institutions are gradually leading to commercialisation of education, which will obviously lower the standards of education further than it is presently. This will militate against one of the needs of the nation, of an increase in numbers of graduates in Malawi by making it possible for as many as possible young people to realise their dreams,” he said.
Kajoloweka urged government to stop using closure of institutions of higher learning as a tool of intimidation and abdication of its responsibility.
He also urged Unima Council to pluck a leaf from Mzuzu University where a similar matter was amicably settled between the administration and students.
On his part, Csec executive director Benedicto Kondowe said the closure of the college depicts leadership failure on the part of government and Unima Council, adding that students were justified to express themselves against the “unmanageable fees hike”.
“The students have a legitimate concern here and our position as Csec has been clear that the increment threshold is unmanageable for the majority of Malawians. We appealed to the University Council to revise downwards the increment.
“The problem again is that as a country we allow economic factors to take centre-stage. We may be bound to make decisions that may be far worse for this country. Much as the economy is important, other factors are also important, but in our case, economic factors seem to be very important to government,” he said.
Kondowe said government’s handling of the matter will determine the action the citizenry will take against Lilongwe.
“Let us not forget that education is a powerful tool to breaking intergenerational poverty, so if education is at stake, everything else falls apart. So, it will depend on what steps government and all concerned parties will take, otherwise, if they don’t do anything, citizens will have a legitimate basis to use democratic means to pressurise authorities to re-open the college,” said Kondowe.
In an interview on Thursday, Education, Science and Technology Minister Emmanuel Fabiano said the matter rests with the University Council, and that there is nothing his ministry can do on the same.
In a statement on Wednesday, the University Council has criticised Chancellor College students for the violence they unleashed from Sunday evening to Tuesday. n