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Polytechnic students reject fees reduction

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Students at The Polytechnic, a constituent college of the University of Malawi (Unima), have rejected President Peter Mutharika’s offer that the hiked fees should be reduced by K50,000 across the university.

During a meeting which he recently had with Unima Students Union (Umsu) leaders at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe, Mutharika offered the reduction which the students’ leaders seemed to agree with.

However, there were a lot of reservations afterwards among the students community with some leaders who attended the meeting arguing that they would have argued against the President’s offer if they were given an opportunity.

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And The Polytechnic Students Union (PSU) has demanded a further downward reduction of the fees, threatening to hold joint demonstrations with students from other Unima colleges if their demands are not met.

“We should hold an indefinite vigil at University Council offices until our pleas are taken heed of. We should petition the Chancellor of University of Malawi to further reduce the fees to amounts that will be affordable,” reads part of a PSU memorandum signed by Publicity Secretary, Precious Chilundu.

PSU also demands that Unima students that have already started a new academic year should pay according to the previous fees structure (K55,000 for government-sponsored and K250,000/K275,000 for self-sponsored students) and that they should pay the remaining amount after the fees hike disagreements are over.

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According to PSU, the position of rejecting Mutharika’s offer was reached after a consultation exercise among the students community where 97 percent of the scholars favoured the further downward adjustment of the fees.

During a recent briefing which Unima Council organised for stakeholders in Lilongwe, authorities from both Treasury and the Higher Education Students Loans and Grants Board (HESLGB) said no needy student will withdraw because of lack of funds.

But the students have described such assertions as “just a public stunt: a move just there to sugar-coat the fees hike”.

“Before this hike, Unima guaranteed that all needy students will be supported accordingly by loans but when the time came, a lot of needy students were not selected to benefit from the loan and in the midst of desperation to undergo registration, they were handed withdrawal letters by the administration.

“As such, the loan is not a reliable alternative but simply a shield to raise the fees. The loans, in their current state, do not stand to protect the needy students from the effects of the fees hike,” the memo adds.

Meanwhile, the loans board is expected to meet on August 26 to approve names of needy students who have met the requirements for the loans after which the funds will be disbursed to different colleges.

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