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Opinion & Analysis

If this is not a crisis, what is?

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As we are speaking now, The Polytechnic is closed, nobody knows when Mzuzu University is going to be reopened just like we are not sure when Natural Resources Campus of Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources will open.

The Malawi University of Science and Technology, now since opened, was closed due to quite an embarrassing reason for a university in the 21st Century: it did not have tap water.

Here we are not talking about some backstreet learning places but higher learning institutions that, by all expectations, must be operating without unnecessary breaks like is the case now. But what is most disturbing is the government’s apparent casual approach to addressing this crisis.

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First it was the Minister of Education who categorically denied responsibility of any of the institutions. Then came the biggest shock of all: President Peter Mutharika, who also happens to be Chancellor of public tertiary institutions, had his Pontius Pilate moment when he also refused to be a solution to the crisis.

Okay, the two argued, perhaps rightly, that these institutions are a responsibility of councils that are employed to manage them. But in this situation when the councils are at sixes and sevens and obviously out of ideas, it is not such a big ask to the president and his lieutenant — Minister of Education — to intervene?

As you have read in the two stories we have carried today, the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) and Members of Parliament have both expressed their unequivocal dismay at government’s nonchalance to save the situation. Apparently, everyone is worried yet it is only the government which does not have the term crisis in its lexicon. And that is something we must be afraid of.

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ECM and the MPs are right and it is a pity that the government is still being defensive. The ECM has weighed in, perhaps with more philosophical sense that it is the tactic of governments — past and present — to frustrate its citizens from getting a proper education. An informed citizenry is never easily taken for a ride and, yes, we can be tempted to believe that the government loves to have its citizens chained in the dark dungeon of ignorance so that they won’t question any of its decisions.

But we are a nation that is desperate to move out of this stagnation and one way to do that is to educate as many of our citizens as possible. We can ill-afford to stand and stare with costly casualness when we are wasting our youth who should be the bedrock of this nation’s development.

The President and his minister must stop burying their head in the sand and wait until this crisis disappears on its own. We and the whole nation know that the council, the minister and the President are all in positions of trust and the last we expect of them is to deny responsibility of this crisis. Why do we pay them for?

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