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Things falling apart in our universities?

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Education is a process that is as vital for the individual’s intellectual growth as it is for national development. A country that is ranked poorest in the world should therefore recognise education as an important window to escape the poverty trap. However, this country is rooted in crisis and is severely crippled by a bankruptcy of leadership in essential sectors. The education arena of the country has not been spared from this mounting crisis. At the moment:

The Polytechnic fees saga rages on…

A few days ago, the University of Malawi’s The Polytechnic Students Union obtained an injunction from the High Court in Blantyre stopping the college authorities from implementing the new hiked fees. The students want the fees to remain at K55,000 for government-sponsored students and K250,000 for self-sponsored students and not the new figure at K350,000.

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The fees saga has gone on for too long and has led to unnecessary closures of the college, which will, no doubt, result in inordinate delays in finishing the academic year. As we speak, students are still in the 2015/2016 instead of the 2016/2017 academic year. This is time that will never be recovered and its domino effect will affect the education system for years to come.

The argument of the students is that since the college is still in the previous academic year, they should be allowed to resume classes under the former fees structure until they proceed to the 2016/2017 academic year.

Luanar was closed with students arrested…

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Barely two weeks ago, the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar), saw 26 of its students arrested after protests over a 45 percent fees hike. The protest started at night and the students were arrested the following day.

As is the norm with protests, campus property was destroyed, people passing by were stoned and roads were blocked with vehicle tyres set on fire. Situations like these always force college authorities to immediately close campuses sine die. Since students are well aware of the consequences of their actions, it begs the question as to whether they protest to be heard or is it because they do not take staying in school seriously enough?

In the past, some students could instigate protests for any reason – poor diet in the cafeteria, for instance – but if you put your ear to the ground, you would discover that the real cause of the protest was fear of impending exams. I hope this is not the case with some of these protests we are witnessing.

Of course, this was the first time Luanar students staged such a strike but after the whole country has watched similar scenarios with their counterparts at Chancellor College (Chanco) and The Polytechnic with dire consequences, one would think everyone else would know better about going down that path.

Why are we becoming too comfortable with chaos in the country? Or is it, perhaps, the only language left to be spoken by anyone dissatisfied by the bankruptcy of leadership that is prevalent in all sectors?

Chanco students lost two full months...

As Luanar exited the stage, University of Malawi’s Chanco had just opened its campus two days before the Luanar rampage. Chanco has been closed from the time it embarrassed the country by blocking the motorcade of the US Second Lady Jill Biden during similar protests.

The college was closed for two months with all the expected inconveniences to students and stakeholders and parents. As we speak, just like The Polytechnic, Chanco is still lagging well behind schedule as it is yet to finish its 2015/2016 academic year. Are we taking education seriously?

University of Livingstonia lab is no more

The fire started from the Matron’s office to the stores, all the way to the computer lab and before much could be salvaged, the building had been badly damaged. University of Livingstonia is the recent victim in a spate of unexplained fires terrorising the country.

The registrar at the school was quoted saying the damage was so extensive that the delivery of education will certainly be negatively affected. It goes without saying that students have been left with a handicap in an essential part of modern education, research and information technology. Can well-wishers please step in to assist before students suffer the impact of the fire’s damage?

Conclusion

There is utter chaos in a sector that is supposed to cultivate the much-needed social and intellectual as well as economic sanity that this country needs to develop. Education should not be compromised and we need to see strong and disciplined leadership and authority in this sector as well as investment of resources. We cannot afford a free fall in our tertiary education sector. We cannot afford to take our intellectual capital for granted. It is simply unacceptable.

I rest my case.

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