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Learners riot in Blantyre, Balaka

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By Mathews Kasanda, Jameson Chauluka & Yohane Symon:

RUINS—What remains of Lunzu Secondary School Multipurpose Hall

Blantyre’s Lunzu Secondary School closed indefinitely after learners ran riot Tuesday while their counterparts in Balaka staged similar protests, a spate of violence which a governance expert has attributed to reticent anger in the country.

The students torched their multi-purpose hall and destroyed other property at the school in Lunzu.

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One of the students said some Form Four learners at the school were protesting their colleagues’ suspension after being reported to have bullied Form Two students.

“Some of the Form Four students had disagreements with their counterparts in Form Two. The Form fours beat the Form twos and they were reported to the school’s administration. The students were suspended and their colleagues were against that,” he said.

The Daily Times found the school campus, which is usually full of life, dull and deserted following a night of teargas, rioting and destroying property.

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After being stopped in their tracks at the school’s administration section, the students descended on their teachers’ and other members of staff houses.

The students put the staff and their families through horror by smashing window panes with stones.

Some of the teachers said the closure would disturb their calendar especially those preparing for the next year’s Malawi School Certificate of Education examinations.

The school’s Head teacher, Collins Champiti, referred The Daily Times to the Ministry of Education for a comment on the development.

In a statement, the ministry condemned the development saying it derails the government’s efforts to provide quality education in the country.

Lunzu Secondary School was also temporarily closed earlier this year after female students suffered from a strange disease.

This comes after Blantyre and Thyolo secondary schools were also closed following similar incidences.

Elsewhere, some angry learners at Mmanga Primary and Community Day Secondary schools in Balaka Tuesday morning blocked Mangochi- Liwonde Road near Mangochi turn-off in protest against the closure of the two schools.

The learners stoned school structures and prevented some vehicles from accessing the road, forcing motorists to use unchartered routes.

Balaka Police spokesperson Felix Misomali and Mmanga Anglican Parish Priest Captain, Mphatso Bango, confirmed the development.

“The schools have been closed for over a month, so on Monday we reopened after some discussions with the authorities. But the church insisted that no female learners should be allowed to attend classes while wearing a Hijab,” Bango said Tuesday.

He added that some female learners wanted to attended classes while wearing Hijab, a headgear which Muslim women put on.

“This resulted in disagreements and it was agreed that the school be closed again, which angered the pupils and they started rioting,” Bango said.

But National Hijab Taskforce spokesperson, Abdul-Salaam Fadweck, wondered why school authorities were outlawing the Hijab when members of the community, who include Muslims are contributing to the construction of structures at the school.

A governance expert has said the wave of violence that has rocked the country is a manifestation of society feeling ‘betrayed’ and has called on authorities to spearhead reforms to address the situation.

On Monday, Mzuzu University students also rioted after disagreeing with management’s stance on school fees.

Earlier this month, a police officer was killed by an angry mob at Msundwe Trading Centre in Lilongwe.

One of the country’s governance experts, Rafik Hajat, said the cases of violence could be a manifestation of the anger which members of society have.

“Basically, what I see is that the public’s patience has now expired. People are no longer prepared to accept excuses… they are holding their duty bearers accountable,” Hajat said.

He said anger has been building up ever since the country attained multiparty in 1994 when citizens’ expectations were raised but they are not being met.

“Authorities now have to transform themselves into being responsive and accountable. They have to deliver and finally, the trend of corruption has to be stopped,” Hajat said.

Since the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections’ results were announced, there has been a spate of demonstrations marred by cases of violence.

Minister of Information, Mark Botomani, has since condemned the acts of violence.

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