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Poly reopening unlikely

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There seems to be no end in sight to the standoff between University of Malawi (Unima) leadership and students of The Polytechnic over fee hike following an admission by the council that the college can only open and run smoothly with contributions from the students through the fees rise.

The two sides have been rocked in disagreements over the matter for over four months now with the students on one hand putting their feet down against the fees adjustments and the council also making it clear that the hike is the only lifeline of the college.

Meanwhile, the High Court in Blantyre has set November 23 to start hearing a case in which students’ union leadership sought an injunction over implementation of the hike, but it is now apparent that even the courts verdict might not bring to an end the differences.

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Unima Vice Chancellor, John Saka, on Monday heaped the blame on leadership of the union which he accused of ambushing fellow students saying students who were not party to rejection of the new fees are now home suffering.

Speaking to journalist in Blantyre after a Unima management meeting, Saka argued that globally and regionally, public universities depend on two sources of funding which are government subventions and students economic fees.

“The Polytechnic was supposed to open on 3rd October 2016. However, this never happened because the student’s union leadership sought an ex-parte court injunction restraining the college from implementing the new economic fees [hike]. What this meant was that the K2 billion The Polytechnic was expected to use after it had received the new fees could not be realised.

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“The result of this is that council advised The Polytechnic not to open when it would not have enough money with which to run its operations… most money Unima gets as subvention from government, largely services payment of staff emoluments and students upkeep allowances,” Saka said.

He stressed that in the event the court rules in favour of the students, it is still tricky to have the college open because there will still be a gap of K2 billion and the college cannot tap that from anywhere.

Saka who was flanked by Principal of The Polytechnic, Grant Kululanga, University Registrar, Benidicto Malunga and Unima Finance Officer, Henry Chiwaya, also added that Unima is concerned about quality of education.

“Employers relentlessly complain about how much additional time they have to spend on giving extra training to Unima graduates on issues they should have already mastered in college. Foreign universities in South Africa and United Kingdom are uncomfortable admitting first degree holders from Malawi into their post graduate programmes because they are not sure as to whether they would withstand the heat of postgraduate training,” Saka said.

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