The process to unbundle the University of Malawi (Unima) has hit a snag following the university council’s decision to suspend the initiative.
In a statement released yesterday, Unima assistant registrar Ashannie Gawa said the institution’s council resolved to set aside the process pending a functional review to guide it on what needs to be done.
“Following the 117th Extraordinary Meeting of the Council held virtually on 20th January 2021, council appreciated that the decision to delink the university taken during its 102nd Extraordinary Meeting held on 10th July 2017 was ultra vires and not in line with the powers and functions that these two structures [senate and council] were mandated to undertake under sections 10 and 18 of the Act (Cap 30.02),” reads the statement in part.
The statement says the Unima Council’s decision to unbundle the institution was made outside the mandate of both the council and the senate which are coordinated structures that oversee the university’s operations.
Meanwhile, the decision to halt the process has puzzled private practice lawyer Khumbo Soko who has since faulted the Unima Council for reversing a decision that was passed by Parliament.
According to him, the council has no powers to reverse a decision ratified by Parliament.
However, Soko said there could be no legal implications as the minister had not yet set the commencement date of the Act.
But Civil Society Education Coalition executive director Benedicto Kondowe, who participated in the consultation processes on the move to unbundle the colleges, described the decision by the Unima Council as “irresponsible”.
He said: “I think the university council has chosen to be very irresponsible to Malawians. The decision to delink colleges came from the very same council. At what point did the council realise that the decision was ultra vires? It is the same council that made recommendations to government.
“It does not make sense because they cannot be wasting limited resources for processes when they knew it will not stand. My only view is that the council is playing politics here because they will lose jobs when colleges are delinked.”
Meanwhile, Parliamentary Committee on Education, Science and Technology chairperson Brainex Kayise backed the council’s decision, saying it is a good move that will create a platform to investigate whether Unima colleges will be productive after the unbundling process.
He said: “I have consulted to find out why the university council has suspended processes for delinking colleges. In my own view, they have done the right thing to some extent.
“Look at the situation we have. Have we gone fully to understand that if we delink these colleges we will have quality education or else we will just have to improve on some quality of work?”
Kayise said there is a need to probe more and find out whether the new universities will perform to the expected standards if Unima is unbundled.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Education is yet to gazette the commencement date for the Act that was passed in the House.
Commenting on the steps the ministry has taken to gazette the commencement date of the Act, Principal Secretary Chikondano Mussa only highlighted that council is the one that is mandated to implement the unbundling processes.
However, she said the council needs to be given time so that it does what it sees is right.
Mussa said: “For the ministry, we have put the council in place and I think let us allow the new council to look at the whole process and that it gives direction. Let’s look at the bigger picture first of all.”
At its 117 Extraordinary Council Meeting, the university resolved that the Unima constituent colleges, namely Chancellor College, The Polytechnic, Kamuzu College of Nursing and College of Medicine be delinked to become autonomous universities.
Parliament gave the council a go-ahead to unbundle the university.
It set some provisions which were passed into an Act which the Minister of Education, Science and Technology has not yet put its commencement date.