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Running battles in Blantyre, Lilongwe

Malawi Police officers had a tough time, Wednesday, as they engaged in running battles with Polytechnic students who protested against delayed administration of students’ loans while in Lilongwe, the law enforcers had to disperse Kawale Township residents who had encroached land belonging to Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH).

The students, who only returned to the campus on Sunday after holidays, said government’s failure to implement the activities of recently approved Higher Education Board has left them without monthly accommodation and meal allowances.

According to Polytechnic Students Union (PSU) president Jaston Bulaula, the college administration has also said the students will only register and get allowances if they pay part of their tuition, which most of them cannot afford.

“The college is refusing to pay upkeep allowances for government sponsored students on the basis that students should be registered. But then, for a good number of students to register, we rely on government loans.

“As it stands, the loans are not ready which means we will not be able to get upkeep allowance for the month of August. Students are starving and we came together to see what we can do to solve this problem,” Bulaula said.

He said the students union has held a lot of meetings with college management but the management insisted the students pay or pack their belongings and go home.

“We have tried to plead with them to pay us for the first month so that we deal with the registration things but they have stood their ground. We needed the money as early as yesterday. We have first year students and all of them are on self-sponsored and they are waiting for the board,” Bulaula said.

Acting spokesperson in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology Manfred Ndovi said for continuing students, the ministry already sent the papers to the Treasury.

“The processes were done and we are just waiting for the Treasury’s approval and subsequent funds disbursement. We are treating the issue with urgency and anytime soon, the students will get the loans,” Ndovi said.

On first year students who will be the pioneer beneficiaries of the Higher Education Loans and Grants, Ndovi said the board members are expected to hold a press briefing today.

As we went to press the college’s administration announced its immediate closure.

“Please note that the college has been closed for students following the disturbances that happened today through consultation with our central office and Chairman of the Council. You will be updated on the way forward,” wrote the college’s Assistant Registrar Stuart Chirambo in a staff notice last evening.

And in Lilongwe, the discontented residents claimed that, the area, which is behind KCH, and borders their township, has remained idle for more than 50 years, hence their decision to turn it into a residential area.

But KCH Director Jonathan Ngoma said in an interview that the land is earmarked for construction of a cancer centre.

“We just heard that residents of Kawale and Nchesi had invaded the area and we notified, city authorities as well as officials from the Ministry of Lands who came with the police and indeed confirmed that the land belongs to Ministry of Health, and in this case KCH,” said Ngoma.

He added that the land is earmarked for a number of future developments and expressed surprised as to why the residents have taken this action this time around.

“We have a number of plans for the area, plans that cannot be done overnight. I don’t know who has sent these people to now start invading the land. The site is reserved for a new children’s ward, a cancer centre and many other facilities,” said Ngoma.

The law enforcers had to engage in running battles with the locals as well as firing teargas to disburse the disgruntled locals who defiantly responded by stoning the armed police officers.

At the time of our visit to the site in the morning, the police were seen returning to base after successfully dispersing the crowd.

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