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Unima accused of neglecting students’ welfare

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THE University of Malawi Students Union (Umsu) has accused the University Council of being inconsiderate in the decisions that it often makes in matters to do with students’ welfare.

In a letter dated August 31 and addressed to the University Council Chairperson Jack Wirima, Umsu says it is not pleased with the Council’s perennial tendency of closing constituent college(s) as the best approach to resolve the impasses between students and other stakeholders.

Umsu has said this in reaction to the indefinite closure of the Polytechnic on August 12 after students demonstrated against delayed administration of their tuition and monthly necessity loans.

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“This development is very distasteful to the student’s community since the said college [The Polytechnic] is still behind with an academic year. This is the result of various factors ranging from Clerical and Technical Supporting Staff (CTS), Academic staff as well as students’ demonstrations. “As such, students’ representatives are puzzled with the inconsiderate decisions the University Council often makes when it comes to matters to do with students’ welfare,” reads the letter in part. The letter said it is a great concern to Umsu that the students are being denied their right to education. “The University Council has set a precedent of closing college(s) whenever there are disagreements within the University. This unfortunate act has proved to be costly in the eyes of students, parents and/or guardians on top of robbing innocent students of their right to education,” the letter continues.

Umsu says some of the students have already paid fees and some parents, guardians and students borrowed money to pay fees and some non-residential students had paid their rentals yet the students are out of class.

“The University Management seem (sic) not to be concerned about the right of thousands of students to higher education,” the letter reads.

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According to Umsu, closing of college(s) should not be the first resort to reform the behaviour of the students saying the students’ leaders, the University and college senior leadership should find other channels to restore political stability within the University.

Umsu council then pleaded with the University Council to tell the public the real reason behind the indefinite closure of the Polytechnic.

“It is very disheartening to note that despite the extended holidays, university and college managements fail to come up with sustainable solutions to the problems thereby prompting students to demonstrate.

This is mediocrity of the highest order by both the college and university management. “Instead of circulating unproductive propaganda in the media, the University should announce a tentative opening date for the Polytechnic,” Umsu charged.

The letter, however, emphasised that Umsu Council does not condone violent demonstrations which its fellowship did at the Polytechnic. “And we comprehend that such behaviour is outrageous and unacceptable as it is a violation of the legal framework of our beloved country, Malawi.

For instance, Revised Students Rules and Regulations stipulate that the University supports the rights of its students, faculty and staff to assemble and express their views.

“However, any protest or demonstration must be within the law and, must not block streets, right of way, or sidewalks; jeopardize the safety of individuals or the integrity of the college or other property; intimidate, harass, or threaten any member of the public,” Umsu says.

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