Mzuzu University students riot

Mzuzu University students riot
By Nyasa Times
Published: June 19, 2009

Students at Mzuzu University protest over unpaid allowances
Malawi’s Mzuzu University students on Friday evening rioted and blocked roads to the institution’s campus demanding payment of their allowances. Lectures had been blocked from leaving their offices and some escaped from the campus. The students are claiming that they have not received their allowances for nine weeks and demand immediate payment.
“This is what we call peaceful standstill,” said one student Cedrick Kwelani.
“We want our stationary allowance,” he said.
Speaking before students chanting solidarity songs denouncing management and Government over the strike,, Kwelani said authorities in the finance department at the University were behaving in a suspicious manner for holding on their allowances describing them as “tricksters”.
“Today when we checked our bank account we found out there is no money. The Director of Finance has refused to give our money,” said Kwelani as some students shouted names which cannot be printed.
“We asked them to deposit our allowance before banks were closed but they did not heed our call. We need our money today,” said Kwelani speaking on behalf of the rioting student.
He said the matter has been discussed for longer time but the authorities were adamant not to honour the payment.
“As students we believe in diplomacy we tried all means of dialogue including sending students union leaders but they have refused to address us,” he said.
Police said they would remain there overnight to ensure no violence was poured onto the streets.
Vice Chancellor Prof Landson Mhango and Register Reginald Mushani were not immediately available for comment.
Mzuzu University was established by an Act of Parliament in 1997 as Malawi’s second national (public) university in Malawi. The first students were admitted in January 1999.
In July 1994, former President Bakili Muluzi, decided that a new University should be established and that it should be located in the Northern Region after the government had studied the problems inherent in the delivery of tertiary education in the country.

It seems to be that time of year again; student unrest.
When one thinks of student riots, one thinks of concerned principled young people striking a blow against tyrannical regimes for the rights of others. Not so in Malawi. It always seems to be the most privileged looking for more.
In one of the poorest countries in the world, which is seriously dependent on foreign aid, at a time where this aid might be drying up, this group of the elite, want more and the want it now. (and maybe there are reasons). I’m sure there are excellent young people involved, but they really are the privileged in getting third level education free.
Many of them will leave the country, when they graduate, and from what I see, give little back to the country which spends so much scarce resources on them.
All my comments are based on my experience, of working in remote rural areas: Primary education is almost non existant, with poor buildings and facilities and poorly trained teachers. Secondary education is distant, often poor quality and expensive. BUT third level education is free. AND finally a large number of these graduates leave the country and give nothing back. It makes me sad to be questioning education, having been a teacher with a firm belief in the potential of education all my life, and having seen what it has done for IRELAND in a post famine context.
Of course our primary education was, from the beginning, of a very high standard and delivered by very driven and well trained individuals who were respected and valued by the community, our second level schools were provided by religious, who may have had their failings but they were also driven.
Third level education was expensive and also for the few, when we were at Malawi’s stage of development.
My advice to them is to get back to work, take a bit of pain in solidarity with your disadvantaged neighbors, stay in Malawi when you graduate and make a contribution.

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