My father, Joseph, comes from Nthalire, Chitipa, and my mother, Orlean, comes from Chikwina, Nkhata Bay. Although I only visited Nthalire when I was two, the fate of tradition tells me I am from Chitipa. I don’t dispute that.
But if I had the chance to choose where I should come from, surely, Goliati in T/A Chimaliro in Thyolo, couldn’t have rivalled anywhere. I first visited the area in September 2011. I was with Michael M’meya, our sports editor, and, because he comes from the area, he, like a tour guide, took me to its every corner.
We went where Bingu wa Mutharika’s father built his house, showed me the tree where Bingu tattooed his name, took me to their family’s mausoleum and introduced me to Bingu’s primary school classmates.
Additionally, I enjoyed the warmth behind the smiles of the Goliatians, the meals we ate in tea rooms—yes, tea rooms!—and in the evening we stood at the busy market watching the red sun sinking into the distant hills.
It was beautiful, and I know with the newly-built Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST)—popularly known as Ndata University, because it stands in Mutharika’s Ndata Farm—Goliati will never be same.
In fact, if you listen to voices on the ground regarding the university, they are all filled with pride and joy. They see the university as an opportunity for Goliati to grow into a ‘big city’, because it will attract more business. They even see it as a grand opportunity for children in the area to work hard in school.
What Goliati feels doesn’t end there. It spills across the country because MUST is a national university. In a country where only 0.5 percent accesses university education because of limited institutions of higher learning, MUST symbolises a giant step in the country’s quest to educate more.
Yet that step, it appears, is failing to touch down. Inaugurated on April 9 2011, and expected to be finalised 20 months later, two years down the line there is hardly a flicker of hope to begin to hope that MUST will open its doors soon.
What we know—which I am told is the cause behind MUST’s continued failure to open—is that a funding agreement between Malawi and China on the project only covered “basic shells”, but left out several amenities which have to be funded by the Malawi Government.
The institution needs a road network, staff houses, additional lecture rooms, laboratories, engineering workshops, power supply, water, sewage and a waste management system, a telecommunication facility and lifts to accommodate students with physical disabilities.
Others include furniture, social amenities, general school equipment, books and other learning resources and schools (primary and nursery) to cater for communities within the campus.
And to put all these things up, government need to source up to K25 billion. Meaning, unless government raise it, MUST will not open. This information became public in January this year. Since then, there has been deafening silence from government officials regarding the progress or retrogress made in sourcing the money.
We don’t know what the Joyce Banda administration feels about this, but the continued silence regarding the completion of K31 billion university raise serious questions.
I am convinced that if Mutharika was still president, MUST would have been in full force today. I don’t see government failing to raise K25 billion for such an important project.
It doesn’t make sense for a country that complains that most of its children are failing to access university education because of limited institution of higher learning, yet government is failing to commit itself to a project that is almost done.
Is politics at play here?