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University students unite in loans struggle

Students unions in all the four public universities in the country have told government to stop implementing capitalistic ideas that put emphasis on individualism and the notion of survival of the fittest in managing the universities.

Student union leaders from the University of Malawi (Unima), Malawi University of Science and Technology (Must), Mzuzu University (Mzuni) and Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) said this during a press briefing in Blantyre on Friday.

In a statement read out during the briefing, the students said they feel the way government is administering the higher education student loans is meant to systematically eliminate poor students from tertiary education institutions.

The students said it is disheartening to note that the delay in releasing names of loan beneficiaries has left many students in the four universities suffering, thereby prompting the unions to come out so that the public and President Peter Mutharika understand their plight.

“We deem this as the process of exacerbating already worsened conditions in the impoverished Malawians, hence widening an already wide gap between the rich and poor,” the statement reads.

According to the student unions, some students have voluntarily withdrawn from their respective universities and some chose not to report for classes.

“Unregistered students are being denied access to use services such as library and accommodation facilities. Some students, who reside outside of campus premises, have been evicted from their rented hostels by the landlords for unsettled bills. Students are failing to concentrate, attend and perform in class because their stomachs are usually empty,” the students said.

The union’ leaders also said the status quo has forced them to believe that government established Higher Education Students Loan and Grants Board as a scapegoat to abolish students’ monthly stipend without an efficient alternative.

The students said they do not understand why the board keeps distancing itself from student unions with an argument that the matter is outside the unions’ jurisdiction.

“The board claims it should deal directly with individual applicants. The student unions find such a response unfair and impractical.

“Students’ union leadership has the mandate to directly deal with students’ concerns and offer alternative solutions. One of such provisions is to act as a bridge between students and a particular student’s welfare body; in this case the Malawi Universities Development Programme (Mudep),” the student leaders said.

They also said they expect the board to release the names of the beneficiaries and disburse the loans by Thursday, November 5, 2015.

“The loans board should process and disburse the loans before the academic calendar of a particular institution starts,” the statement reads.

According to the students, out of 1331 first year students admitted to the Polytechnic, only 400 students have paid K68,750 which is a quarter of the tuition for, at least, registration.

At least 156 students of 236 students admitted to College of Medicine have registered with 150 out of 386 first year students at Must registered while at Luanar 380 out of 896 are registered.

Last week, Public Relations Officer for Higher Education Loans and Grants Board, Fanny Mthuzi, told this paper that the board has not finished screening the applicants to determine the student beneficiaries.

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