Chaos ensued at University of Malawi’s The Polytechnic, in Blantyre, Tuesday after fire, suspected to have been caused by teargas canisters which some police officers fired, gutted down one of the hostels at the school.
One of the students, Alessio Kudakwalamba said he did not understand why the police officers fired the teargas canisters on the campus, saying it was only first year students who took to the streets to express their displeasure after being attacked by armed robbers at the hostels on Monday night.
“The fire started with nothing else but the teargas canisters which the police fired. Millions worth of property is being destroyed before our eyes like this; students’ beddings, clothes, stationery and laptops. That is the whole of the Nyika A Hostel gone,” he said.
A senior official at the institution, who said he was not mandated to speak on behalf of the institution, concurred with Kudakwalamba, saying teargas canisters caused the fire.
“There is no way The Polytechnic student can set this hostel on fire. The iron sheets are old on top so persistent firing of the hot canisters made the sheets and the wood to catch the fire,” he said.
The Polytechnic Dean of Students, Luciano Ndalama, said armed robbers attacked the hostels on November 15 before the recent incident on Monday night.
He, however, said he could not conclusively say that the fire started from the canisters saying they are yet to investigate the matter.
“If you go to the gate close to the hostel, you will see over 50 teargas canisters there. Teargas was fired from all angles. That is a fact but I cannot say for a fact that they caused the fire. At this stage, we have no choice but to close the school,” he said.
Blantyre Police deputy spokesperson, Dora Chathyoka, said the police were investigating the matter to establish the cause of the fire.
The Daily Times found the hostel on fire with no fire fighters from Blantyre City Council on sight.
The police were, however, still firing teargas dispersing the students who were attempting to rescue some of the properties from the hostel.
The development did not go well with Kudakwalamba and hundreds of other students who described the police as unprofessional.
The students claim that they were being frequently being hit by robbers who are making their stay and studies difficult.
Reports indicate that, first year students at the school’s Chichiri hostels were robbed at gunpoint, sparking the protests.