Parliament summons universities
The Parliamentary Committee on Education on Saturday summoned officials from public universities to discuss issues leading to persistent closures of the institutions.
According to Chairperson of the committee, Elias Chakwera, students must be finishing their programmes on time.
“We know that there are issues of students’ protests, staff disputes and also some general issues which can cause the universities to be closed. But we become a laughing stock in this part of the region, because our universities don’t operate continuously to end a programme.
“At the moment, those who enroll for a four-year programme, for example, end up doing the programme for seven years because of disruptions,” Chakwera said.
During the second half of last year, public tertiary institutions faced a number of challenges. Students at University of Malawi protested the raising of fees. The Polytechnic was closed for months over the issue.
At Mzuzu University, there was a stalemate over staff salaries. The Malawi University of Science and Technology was briefly closed due to water problems.
The unfolding events forced Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec) to petition Parliament, in November the same year.
And at a day-long consultative meeting, that the CSO organized, stakeholders agreed to sort out all problems affecting the tertiary institutions.
University of Malawi (Unima) Vice Chancellor John Kalenga Saka said at the centre of all the closures is the issue of money.
“If this issue is addressed, these problems may not be there. Government must increase its subventions to the universities. In that case, we will be able, for instance to raise salaries of our staff, based on inflation,” Saka said.
Mzuzu University Vice Chancellor Robert Ridley says it is worrisome that discussions on salaries of staff start after the national budget is passed.
“Such discussions must start before the budget is passed. The current situation makes it difficult because the budget is already there. That builds a lot of pressure, which is difficult to contain,” Ridley said.
Malawi University of Sciences and Technology, Vice Chancellor, Address Malata, suggested that public universities must be involved in resource-generation activities. She, for instance, said public universities should engage in research.
On demonstrations by students over fees, Unima Registrar, Benedicto Malunga, suggested that before any fees increment there must be wide consultations.
“Before fees are raised in public universities, parents and other stakeholders must be consulted. Through that process, those who may lack facts may fully understand what the reasons for fess adjustment are,’’ Malunga said.
Csec Executive Director, Benedicto Kondowe, said such discussions will help in solving persistent closure of public universities.
“There is a general acceptance of the issues we raised. We are happy that public universities have shown commitment in finding solutions to persistent closures of the institutions,” Kondowe said
In its November 24 petition to Speaker of Parliament, Richard Msowoya, CS, apart from the closure of institutions of higher learning, also raised the issue of regulation of higher education institutions by the National Council for Higher Education.
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