A group of concerned Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) Bunda Campus students on Monday took to the streets, demanding an explanation from the institution’s administration on a recent fees hike.
Luanar, one of the country’s four functional public universities, has raised fees from K360 000 per year to K420 000 effective November 2019. The university’s academic year starts in November up to September.
The students, who blocked the road to Mitundu Trading Centre near the institution’s main entrance, disrupted morning classes.
In a statement addressed and delivered to the school’s registrar Phillip Kaonda, the students, through their secretary Tarezio Kalundi, said they wanted the college registrar to address them on the issue and not through a memo.
They said the fees hike is unjustifiable as the college has not resolved the students’ grievances such as poor access to water, poor learning conditions, and dirty and sub-standard toilets.
“There is, therefore, no relevance of fees hike. We also have poor learning conditions; hence’ there is no relevance of fees hike as we are not guaranteed of better access to such services, until we obtain relevant feedback from your office not in a memo manner but rather in person in 48 hours,” said Kalundi.
He said the fees hike is ill-timed as it has come at a time when they have already prepared to source fees for the next academic year, like making applications to the Higher Education Students Loans and Grants Board.
But in an interview, Kaonda said the fees hike did not happen overnight, arguing that they planned to do that since 2015 and that the students were duly informed.
He said management was in talks with the students union, but they were surprised to wake up yesterday to the news of the protest.
“But it is okay when people are not patient. We have been talking with their union, but they say they lost trust in the union; hence, taking to the streets. They demanded that I meet them, which I did, and we have spoken at length about it, they have understood why we have done it. The process to raise fees started in 2015,” he said.
Kaonda urged the students not to worry that the Higher Education Students Loans and Grants Board will not assist them with loans, saying the college administration already communicated with the board on the development.
“Three years ago, we increased fees from K250 000 to K360 000, now we have increased to K420 000. They forget that we have even increased their health insurance by 100 percent from K30 000 last year to K60 000 per annum.
“We have already communicated with the loans board which promised to pay their fees. All along, we have been talking with the students union, but we have just seen today this other group calling itself concerned students which is saying they don’t trust their leaders; hence, starting demonstrations,” he said.