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‘Varsity students still stuck despite presidential decree’

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Over 746 needy students in Malawi’s public universities continue to live with anxiety as Treasury is yet to act on President Peter Mutharika’s directive that it should release more funds in order to keep the students in school.

Some of the students from the Polytechnic who talked to The Daily Times said despite the decree they are yet to be registered and are afraid they may not sit for the end of semester examinations which commence on July 11.

“After the president’s statement there has been no official communication from the college. We are hearing everything from the media. And we are beginning to think it was a political statement or mere propaganda,” said one student who asked to be identified as Godfrey.

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Godfrey thus raised fear that he may soon pull out of school and join the 286 students who withdrew at the beginning of the academic year on the same grounds.

“Everything in Malawi is politicised and trust me this thing will not work. None deserving the help will benefit. If any just few of them,” he added.

Godfrey’s fears were also shared by Student’s Union President for the Polytechnic Frank Msiska who said there has been no proper mechanism in readmitting the affected students.

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“They are in dilemma, and that has a lot of negative impact on their psychological well-being. Even if they were told that they are safe very few would do well in the exam. But we hope that by the next academic year things will have been sorted out,” Msiska explained.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that all the needy students, who were about to withdraw from school have been asked to re-apply for consideration of a students’ loan.

Asked on how far the University of Malawi Council has gone in registering the students following Mutharika’s order, the council’s spokesperson Peter Mitunda refused to grant an interview on the matter.

“We are an academic organ, interview me on Unima Programmes, projects etc and not presidential decrees,” said Mitunda in a text message.

Spokesperson for Treasury Nations Msowoya and Secretary Ronald could not pick their phones when contacted on Tuesday.

But Executive Director for Higher Education Student’s Loans and Grants Board Chris Chisoni said separately that treasury is at 95 percent to making the money available to the board.

He however said priority will be given to those who were on the verge of withdrawing and not those who already withdrew.

“It categorically remains the president’s prerogative to extend the gesture to the 246 who are at home. The Ministry of Finance is working on it because the money has been included in the budget being debated at parliament,” said Chisoni who could not disclose how much the board is expecting from treasury.

He further said, even if the students were to be readmitted immediately it will not be viable since they have already missed a better part of the academic year.

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