No holds barred! Do something about university fees, please

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What is happening is a paradox. Those of us who benefited from university education that was almost free are at the forefront arguing that the fees in the university are too little, that students must pay more.

Malawi Police viciously beat university students

Malawi Police Officers beat up Girls at Chancellor College

Then I look at myself. Without the assistance I got from the government, I wouldn’t be here today to write this. In our time, the fees were K1,500 per year. Since they gave us back K1,400 as book allowance, you could opt for foregoing the K1,400 and pay only K100.

I admit that times have changed, that students must now contribute to their own studies. But there must be a way out of this.

The issue is not that students must not pay fees, or that the fees must not be raised, but that no child must be left behind.

Currently, we have the Higher Education Students Loans and Grants Board (HESLGB), headed by Chris Chisoni. But the institution is underfunded, and can only accept 4,662 applications. This year, there were 7,000 needy students. Chisoni had to write President Mutharika for policy advice, and only then did Mutharika use his discretion to authorize that the remaining students should also be assisted.

From this, we can see that the fund is too small and that there is a policy gap. We cannot always be depending on the president’s discretionary powers. We need to strengthen this board, to give it more money and to make sure that it caters for all needy students.

With our levels of poverty out there, K400,000 is far too much for most parents to afford. I have seen students fail to afford shoes, so how could they afford to pay K400,000?

The loan system has been underway for a while, but it has been quite disorganized. Mzati Nkolokosa recently wrote a detailed account on his Facebook wall of how he struggled to pay back his loan. Various offices kept sending him back and forth, like ping-pong. Nobody seemed to know which office was responsible for student loan recoveries!

Let’s hope that with the HESLGB, the collection will now be more systematic.

Don’t tell me there is no money to cater for all the needy students. We, after all, borrow billions of kwacha from China and India to build useless stadiums and hotels and to steal the remainder. Now our president is even talking about borrowing more money to build a shopping mall in Zomba. We could invest in university education instead. What’s the point in building lots of universities if two-thirds of eligible students won’t afford to go there?

Students, on the other hand, need to understand that we are a poor nation, that we cannot stagnate at free education, that all over the world now, with the exception of Denmark, Germany, Finland, North Korea,Norway and Sweden, university education is not for free. So the wise thing is to fight for loan opportunities, and to honour those loans.

We truly need to strengthen this HESLGB. Government must give it the funds it needs.

Otherwise, this circus of raising fees, student protests, raising fees once again then more protests will continue ad infinitum.

***

Malawi Police, please behave

The video that has done the rounds this week is sickening. Two police officers are seen harassing and intimidating two girls, hitting them and forcing them to sit down. The hapless girls were not fighting with the police, but that did not stop the two brutes from intimidating them. Is that law and order? Is that what police training schools teach these days?

The Inspector-General must be ashamed of his staff. If the two girls had been belligerent it would have been understandable. But no, they were meek and innocent-looking girls, far removed from the ongoing mayhem.

Those two policemen need to be disciplined. Dismissal would be the most sensible solution. They are not fit to be entrusted with the protection of citizens of this republic. They are thugs who do not deserve our respect, and are using their uniform as a licence to terrorise Malawians.

We have heard of police engaged in armed robbery, and those are the types.

Do something about it, Mr Inspector-General.

***

O, how the mighty have fallen

In February 2012, Ralph Kasambara was arrested after five men allegedly showed up at his office with petrol bombs. Kasambara and his colleagues are said to have overpowered and apprehended the culprits.  When the police arrested him, the public rose like one to defend him. On social media his fans started a Free Kasambara campaign. International bodies such as Amnesty International and the Pan African Lawyers Union spoke in his defence. He was released within days.

Then came 21 July, 2016. Kasambara, who was on trial for the attempted murder of former Budget Director Paul Mphwiyo, faced Judgment Day. The judge found him guilty of conspiring with two others to commit a murder. The judge has not sentenced him yet, but the Penal Code says this offence carries 14 years imprisonment with hard labour. Kasambara, wearing a blue suit and white shirt, refused to be handcuffed. The police walked him to the van regardless. He made as though to pass his phone to his brother; but before handing it over, he called his wife, who was by now behind him. He asked the weeping wife to look after the children.

When he reached the van, he made a quick address to the press, a speech that lasted no more than 30 seconds. “This is a miscarriage of justice,” he declared. “The judge was compromised.” He concluded his brief speech with “We shall overcome,” words he borrowed from Martin Luther King, America’s civil rights icon. King, it bears pointing out, used this refrain to fight for the entire black American population. Kasambara used the words to fight for himself.

On social media it has been quiet. The few that tried to speak did so in parables. How things change!

He is one of the most brilliant legal minds of our time, who served as human rights activist, prominent lawyer and Attorney-General. What has gone wrong?  In all probability he will appeal. And it’s possible that the appeal will succeed. But then, again, maybe it will fail. Nobody knows, really. The future, after all, is a mystery to all of us.

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51 Comments

  1. God gives what you ask .My fellow Malawian we wanted change this is the change we were looking for because we did things without thinking these are the fruits . 2012 is not far to forget about what happened with academic freedom and many more then why are we crying? It is so sad

  2. Derick Jussi ndinu mbuzi zangooneselatu kuti kuntundu wanu kulibe wasukulu yes it’s true kuti ku SACD Malawi fees ndiyotchipa komaso ku SACD Malawi ma civil servant ndiomwe amalandila ndalama zochepa . Ikuyamba maswtch imakwana kulipila fees koma pano yaposedwa kwambili ndie mbuzi iwe uziti ikwele kupepela eti

  3. Pitala ndikape woipa kwambili ndipo amalawi ndife wopusa kwambili ana athu akulila koma tili duuuuuu vindunavi vikungoba koma amalawi mmene tikuvutikilamu zoona feez nkumakwela chonchi basi tili pheee phiiiiii pitala akapezana ndkaliyati I tel u tifa amalawi ife

  4. We are many who benefited free university education. In our time (1977 to 1982) we were instead paid upkeep allowance of K6.00 monthly! Then we were few and cost of living too low. Now I support payment of fees BUT I am against the supersonic increase in the fees, WHY? Malawi where are we rushing to? In an economy that has GDP growth of less than 3% and you increase the fees by over 6% (or is it more than that?) It is SINFUL!

  5. To you who say Fees must go up, you are out of mind,and you never even go to University,and u don’t even think about your children’s future.

  6. we are ok with the spending of billions on fertilizer subsidy and then spending more billions to food to feed the very same people who received the subsidy but we don’t want to spend just a small fraction on education.we need a majority of malawians to access tertiary education if we really want to develop.

  7. Mbuli zomwe sizinapondeko ndiku varsity komwe zili buzy ati fees must go up…mkudziwa chani za unima inu?? Mkudziwa kuti andale anuwo anaphunzira ulele ku unima konko ?? Olo mtayankhula bwanji pa fb pano, mngoonetsa umbuli wanu cuz za fees anayamba kale kukambirana last weeek pa table in conference rooms not on fb…mkhaula ma cadet

  8. Mutsitse ma fees anthu inu cz inu munaphunzira mocheap n enanuso muli ndi mabalance momwemo mukungobisala apa ndie musapange za chamba ngat ndalama mukuyifuna kwambiri ndibwino kunena poyela kusiyana ndikutilanga ndi high fees nse mukuona ngat ife tikwanisa kulipira olo mukufuna ana ama MP okha okha aziphunzira osati ana aathu omvutikafe kut tisamawapitese ku xul kuopa fees kut yachuluka nde akayamba kuba mukatero muziwanena kut mbuli izo uosaphunzira mkono chonsecho munakweza mitengo ya xul fees

  9. University fees the lowest in the sadic region yes,,totally agree.now look at our incomes, highest or lowest in the region?? what about the cost of labor,,the cost of living,,
    Government has a huge mountain to climb,increase our earnings then we the guardians shall have no hussle in return paying for any service including the university fees…both side of the equation must balance..mr education minister you can’t pretend not to know this.kkkk

    • You are so intelligent Mr Luke.its exactly what u have said.a graduate in Malawi cant afford to build a house while a gardener in RSA can.we have seen it and its happening.

    • You see comrades,kamuzu inspired in us the spirt of hard work while earning less..now when multiparty came in we saw several policies being adopted from the Briton institutions,Iike the devaluation and the fluctuation of our currency,universities must carry their own weight… etc..these led to massive increase of fees and other related cost, ironically,the wage remained static..in other economies when you devalue,there is a corresponding increase to the wage,hence the late president argued he could not devalue without an assurance that you and me are cushioned from the shocks.
      Let’s ask ourselves to what extent shall we raise the fees,and can we afford to pay from our meagre salaries???
      Eish it makes me feel sick!!

  10. The fees must go like u said not insane like this without proper loans filled to be given to the ones who wants it…..I can’t agree that education is the only development govt should be looking at…how can some one say govt should stop borrowing billions for building stadiums and malls? this is what we need….New and big infrastructures. ..good stadiums. ..imagine if we can have 5 big stadiums like that in Lilongwe plus those 5 more five star hotels.with good roads…am telling you we can hold African cup of nations …we can generate so much income in this country….building of malls …will generate alot of jobs kwa anthu ambiri…men..we need these infranstructures right now than ever….that education problem is a separate entity govt should solve that without affecting other developments

    • well i took my tym reading your comment and i dnt really regret but i see shallow thinking some where..what z the bingu national stadium benefiting?nothing else tell me it is attractin tourist since it is beautiful ..who will be workin in ministries and other departments when we are not educated??are we gonna go asleep again nkumapusisidwa coz we aint no educated??? education nt only entity but key entity sir..now how shld the govt solve this??

    • it’s not yet working…wait till it starts working…am not against education ..that’s y i put it clear that govt has to do something.

  11. fees =4000,000 , accommodation=20,000/month , meals = 700/each×2times day ,Stationary = 7,000/month including other basic costs…where will parents who earn less than a dollar a day get this money?