The Ministry of Health has distanced itself from the unpaid K151.2 million (about $905 389) school fees for Mzuzu University (Mzuni) nursing and midwifery students.
This development comes against the background of an order issued by the High Court in Mzuzu last year that the money should be paid to the university.
The students have since threatened to take the ministry to court for contempt if the fees are not paid. The students said they will consult their lawyer on the same.
The High Court in Mzuzu last October ordered the ministry to pay the money within 21 days, but Mzuni officials and some concerned students on Monday told The Nation the money is yet to be paid.
According to a letter dated January 9 2012 from Secretary for Health to Secretary for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, copied to the Secretary to the Treasury, the Accountant General and the Mzuni Registrar, the Ministry of Health argues it was only responsible for the first cohort of students as a start-up for the nursing programme.
“It [Ministry of Health] did not make any commitment to pay the same for any follow up programmes, including this [nursing] programme under discussion,” reads the letter Reference Number PER/03/02/02/21 signed by Secretary for Health Willie Samute.
Mzuni senior assistant registrar (academic) Yonam Ngwira said the lack of commitment by the ministry has inconvenienced his institution which has no choice but to keep students on campus as per the court order.
He said Mzuni has, in the process, been using other resources not meant for the nursing students.
Said Ngwira: “The university has not reviewed its decision on the students. We complied with the court order and students are learning.
“However, the learning is taking place under an uncomfortable situation as we are yet to get the money and some activities are suffering in order to keep the students.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Mzuni sent away nursing students over the money in 2010 and the students later sought court intervention and the court ruled that the Ministry of Health should pay the money.