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Malawi Polytechnic suspends students’ leaders over protests

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Management of the Malawi Polytechnic last week sent letters of suspension to four students’ union council leaders for allegedly mobilising students to demonstrate on January 5 this year.

The four leaders, who have been suspended for one academic year, include the students’ union President Jaston Bulaula, Vice President Timothy Chembe, Secretary General Rodgers Nyirongo and Administrative Secretary, Ian Kamwendo.

Chembe confirmed the development yesterday but was quick to say they will meet and discuss possible ways of challenging the decision.

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“The decision to meet and discuss ways of protecting their right to education was made by all Polytechnic students not an individual. Now, it is surprising that they have decided to suspend some individuals. If it is an issue to do with the meeting that students had on January 5, then they could have suspended all Polytechnic students. We will challenge the decision and ensure that justice prevails,” Chembe said.

He said the college management cannot claim to have either written or oral evidence that the four suspended students’ union executive members were responsible for the mobilisation of the rest of Polytechnic students.

On January 5 the Polytechnic students, whose 2014-2015 first semester holiday had been extended from the traditionally one-month to more, gathered on the college’s main campus in Blantyre to force the management open the institution.

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The students went for a semester break on October 31, 2014 and were expected to be in class on December 8, 2014.

However, the college management changed the opening date to January 5, 2015.

On January 2, 2015, the management announced another change of the opening date ‘until further notice’ due to the University of Malawi support staff sit-in that was happening at the time.

The situation infuriated the students who through their facebook page mobilised themselves to meet in Blantyre on January 5 to map the way forward.

During the meeting which took place at the time the college management was also holding a meeting with the staff welfare committee, the students agreed to wait for the college Principal or Registrar to address them on their concerns.

But the staff-management meeting took some hours which prompted some students to close the gates leading to the campus.

The institution was eventually re-opened on January 19, 2015.

Meanwhile, The Polytechnic re-opened yesterday after the University of Malawi (Unima) Council closed the institution on August 12, 2015 following a different wave of students’ protests.

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