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Polytechnic reopening faces hiccup

University of Malawi Students Union (Umsu) leaders on Monday walked out of a meeting which University management convened in Lilongwe as a sign of protest against what they described as management’s attempts to use them to rubberstamp decisions not in favour of needy students.

Only three Polytechnic Students Union (PSU) leaders are said to have remained in the meeting that took place at Kamuzu College of Nursing (KCN) campus.

Unima management invited Umsu leadership, PSU leadership and parents’ representatives for discussions on the way forward in terms of reopening of The Polytechnic.

But after spending sometime in the meeting, Umsu leaders said they were not impressed with the way the meeting was being handled and they suspected the parents who were present were “sellouts and their presence was just meant to agree to what the management said”.

Umsu President, Tionge Sikwese, said there were also some students from The Polytechnic who are not union leaders who they also suspect to have an agenda to help management bulldoze its decisions.

He said Umsu is surprised that instead of honouring the court order on school fees arrangement at The Polytechnic, the management came to the meeting to brainwash the students and parents that the new fees structure is a normal thing.

“Umsu questioned the presence of the parents because we don’t understand the criteria used to invite the parents to come to the meeting. We also wondered how some students from The Polytechnic found their way into the meeting because their names were not available on the invitation that we received. These students were attacking Umsu in the meeting. But our point is, the court already made a ruling on fees and there is no need for some people to come up with their own decisions,” Sikwese said.

PSU President, Frank Msiska, who was among the Umsu leaders in a walkout protest, said it is sad that the issue of fees at The Polytechnic is rambling but what they wanted is a meeting that should have a reflection of the situation on the ground.

“It was a meeting that is manipulative in nature and what is done is not a reflection of what is happening on the ground. That being the case, Umsu decided to disagree by saying that there is court order and no one is above the law,” Msiska said.

The students want authorities to implement old fees structure of K55,000 for government-sponsored and K250,000 for self-sponsored students instead of raising to K350,000 across the board for generic students.

The High Court already favoured the students in October 2016 and favoured them again in December 2016 after the University of Malawi Council had appealed but the council continues resisting.

During the meeting that the Council had with President Peter Mutharika last week, it was agreed that The Polytechnic students, who have not been attending classes for about six months should go back to school in three weeks’ time and Mutharika asked the parents to recognise cost sharing.

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