The continued closure of Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi (Unima), moved members of Parliament (MPs) to ask government to act with urgency and seriousness.
The MPs, mostly from the opposition, suggested that delays to act on the reopening of the college portrays the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration as taking university education as a luxury, saying it is not.
Further, the legislators said it is high time government took decisive steps to help the students return to class and normalise the academic calendar which has been disturbed by continued strikes and closure.
Standing on Matters of Urgent Public Importance, Dowa Ngala MP Elias Chakwera (MCP) asked Minister of Education, Science and Technology Emmanuel Fabiano to explain to the House what his ministry is doing about the closure of Chancellor College following a staff strike which has left the college closed since March 2017.
In his response, Fabiano said the issue at Chancellor College was labour-related, therefore, the Ministry of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development was better placed to provide an update.
He said: “The current dispute at Chanco is a labour dispute and the Ministry of Labour should be the one [to respond] on the issue. The issue was about equal pay for the same job. All the four colleges [under Unima—Chanco, the Polytechnic, College of Medicine and Kamuzu College of Nursing]—were closed, but the three have now opened. It is only Chanco left. We believe that sooner the college will be opened.”
The minister’s response, however, did not go down well with the opposition legislators who said government officials were not caring for the welfare of the students because their children are sent abroad for tertiary education.
Several members from the opposition, including Mzimba North MP Agness Nyalonje (People’s Party-PP), Dedza East’s Juliana Lunguzi (MCP) and Patricia Kainga (PP) of Zomba Central stood to express their reactions on the matter in reaction to Fabiano’s response.
In her reaction, Lunguzi said it was pathetic that the education minister was referring the case to the Ministry of Labour when his ministry is responsible for education matters.
She said: “Why is it that the minister is running away from his work? This issue should not be tackled lightly. I know you do not care because you send your kids to schools in China while our children suffer. This causes the young ones to misbehave and have unwanted pregnancies because they are just staying idle. The issue needs an urgent and serious approach.”
On her part, Nyalonje said the two ministries should work in collaboration. She said it was not proper for Fabiano to shift the blame to Ministry of Labour.
In his response to President Peter Mutharika’s State of the Nation Address on Monday, Leader of Opposition in Parliament Lazarus Chakwera described the closure of Chanco as a national tragedy and called on the presidency to move with speed to resolve it.
Talks between Chanco management and Chanco Academic Staff Union as well as Unima Council have failed to break the deadlock on the differences.