The protests has paid off. President Peter Mutharika has swallowed his pride as Chancellor of the Universiity of Malawi and agreed to reduce college fees by K50,000 across the board.
Mutharika met in camera 15 student union leaders from all the four public universities following the violent protests at Chancellor College which swiftly spread to other University of Malawi constituent colleges.
While he was meeting the students, civil society organisations (CSOs) led by Youth and Society staged their demonstrations in solidarity with students, calling on government to suspend the fees hike the university council recently announced and re-open Chancellor College.
Mutharika told the students the University of Malawi Council raised the fees in a bid to raise the dwindling university education standards. He therefore ordered that the fees be reduced by K50, 000 for both generic and mature students.
“I am glad that the students chose dialogue for us to find a balanced solution. But I also know that there are some who want to use fees as an excuse for their own politics,” said President Mutharika in a social media statement after the meeting.
“The meeting has been fruitful in that we have made several resolutions; some of them being that the proposed fees structures be reduced by K50,000 across the board.
“I have committed to talk to the council to effect an immediate re-opening of Chancellor College so that the academic calendar should not be interrupted,” Mutharika said.
The proclaimation by the President seemed to have excited the student leaders who were within the comfort zone of Mutharika.
However, civil right group leaders who braved the summer sun in Blantyre, Zomba, Lilongwe and Mzuzu to make protest matches received the news with mixes feelings.
Most of them felt Mutharika’s offer came too late and too little, saying they were going back to the drawing board.
In June 2016, Unima’s university council announced it had adjusted upwards contributory fees in all its constituent colleges.
The development sparked a national-wide disapproval, especially from the university’s students, who feel a majority of Malawians cannot afford to pay the newly announced amount of fees.
Following announcement of the new fees, Chancellor College students demonstrated against the move which led to indefinite closure of the institution by the authorities.
In Mzuzu, about a score of members of CSOs, led by Youth and Society together with students from various learning institutions, took to the street to demonstrate against the same and present a petition to State President under heavy police presence which out-numbered the petitioners.
Youth and Society Director, Charles Kajoloweka, presented the petition to President through Mzuzu City’s Chief Executive, Macloud Kadam’manja.
Among other things, the petition highlighted problems facing the country and grounds for their disapproval of the fees hike. The petition also called on government to revisit the fees adjustments.
“It is our considered view that education as a right only makes sense when it is available, accessible, affordable and of good quality to all Malawians,” reads part of the petition.
The petition also warns of private learning institutions further increasing their tuition fees following UNIMA’s move, saying only dialogue should take centre stage rather than closing the learning institutions.
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