Academic Chaos: Mutharika a Threat to Education in Malawi

                        Chirunga Campus

Education is the key to success so goes the adage. However, this adage seems to go the other way round in the country. Students are spending decades of years to acquire a 4 or 5 years degree. Unnecessarily closure of schools for political reasons is one such factor contributing to the extended years students spend at Colleges.

It is a no hiding matter that after battling it for admission into various public universities, they face a lot of challenges ranging from tuition fees to some other problems. Life continue getting worse when such students graduate because they pace up and down with their degrees searching for work. This has made a lot of people in the country to question the essence of the adage.

Things at different colleges in the country became sour during Bingu wa Mutharika’s era when the then Minister of Education who happens to be the incumbent President of Malawi Peter Mutharika expedited chaos at Chancellor College. It all started when a lecturer gave an example about a government top official in class. This came as a thorn to the government through the ministry of education which demanded the arrest of the lecture. The Lecturers’ complaints of academic freedom were given a cold shoulder and this forced Chancellor College to be closed for about 9 months.

This came into being just because the ministry and the president himself did not succumb to the lecturers’ demands. Things went worse when Mukhito (the then Police Inspector General) was told not to apologize the lecturers.

The education sector in Malawi has been greatly affected in the last years starting from 2015. Academic calendar for some public colleges such as Chancellor College and Polytechnic University have been disturbed for more than 3 times for irrelevant reasons. One thing which was behind the closure of the Colleges was due to the hiking of tuition fees from K55 000 to K400 000. Chancellor College students demonstrated against the University Council’s decision of hiking the fees in July last year which saw it being closed for about 2 months. Polytechnic University did not escape the fate of the dramatic closure as a result of being against the proposed fee hike saga. Discussions regarding to the issue did not go on well to the students’ expectations as the Chancellor of University of Malawi, Peter Mutharika paid a deaf ear to the students’ and managed to have K50 000 from the said K400 000.

On addressing the issue of possible drop outs on financial grounds, the Chancellor promised to involve various stake holders to provide loans to the needy students. If I’m not mistaken, there is no any new stake holder apart from the National Council for Higher Education. Did the Chancellor made this promise to flee the angry students? Lame promises! As if this was not enough, I am 100% sure that the same Chancellor is behind the closure of Chancellor College.

A new academic year at the college was slated for 20th March, 2017 but till now the doors of the college remain shuttered because Lecturers are refusing to be oppressed by their oppressors from receiving tiny salaries as they claim when the economy in the country is failing. The Chancellor himself has been quite on the issue without uttering any word of hope to the striking lecturers and students who badly need to go back to school to continue with their studies.

On 10th May, 2017, hope of Chancellor College students of going back to school sooner continued to wear out as the Minister of Education Dr. Emmanuel Fabiano told parliament that his ministry is not ready to be involved in the Unima Council-Chanco Lecturers discussions. This I’m sure is a master plan of the Chancellor of Unima but chose to pass the information to the public through Fabiano. My question then is, if the responsible ministry to handle the chaos is distancing itself from it, who will then bring understanding between the involved parties? Mr. Chancellor, when are we going to here your say on the ongoing salary hike saga?

With all these issues at hand, education standards in the country are nippily going down. Colleges are no longer places of higher excellence as they used to be in the previous decades. Educated people are said to be the facilitators of development in a country. If we don’t impart that calibre through education into our youths, who then do we expect to come forth and develop Malawi? The quietness of the Chancellor has made people to question Peter Mutharika’s Professorship and the power of his papers as he boosts about his USA education papers. It is just as if the Chancellor is long time dead or he is sleep walking?

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