May 21, 2018 Last Updated 8:03 AM, May 21, 2018

There is a possibility that Support Staff Members from the Universities under the University of Malawi will join the strike currently underway at Chancellor College.

Chanco Support Staff members downed tools on Tuesday demanding a 12 percent salary increment.

This dates back to 2017, when after talks, the University Council promised to be increasing their salary in phases, an agreement which the council failed to honour.

A meeting held between the Council and the Support Staff members failed to yield anything hence their decision to proceed with the strike.

Commenting on the issue General Secretary for the UNIMA Support Staff Union James Khando says they are not going back to work until their salaries are increased.

“We are meeting support staff members from the Polytechnic, Kamuzu College of Nursing and the College of Medicine where we will brief them of what transpired in the meeting we had with the University Council,” Khando added.

He further says out of the 25 percent salary increment they agreed with the Council they were given 13 percent last year remaining with 12 percent.

“University Council members have not been forthcoming to our discussions on the issue, they are showing interest for us to talk after we gave them notices that we will be on strike.

A fourth year student from Chanco who opted not to be named told Capital FM they are currently failing to access the library, laboratory and other services, as they are closed.

“Some of us are in forth year and we are doing research hence failing to access the library and the laboratory is greatly inconveniencing us.”

The student went on further urging the authorities to reach an agreement reached soon for the betterment of them all.

There was however no immediate comment from the University Council on the matter.

Ten privately owned universities in the country have failed to meet required standards in order to be accredited by the National Council for Higher Education.

These include Skyway University, Blantyre International University, African Bible College and College of Accountancy.

According to a statement that Capital FM has seen, nine public universities have made the cut while two public universities have been accredited.

The two are the College of Medicine and the Malawi University of Science and Technology.

Mzuzu University, LUANAR, Kamuzu College of Nursing, Chancellor College and the Polytechnic are yet to be assessed.

Results from their review await approval from the council.

President Peter Mutharika has appointed new members of the University of Malawi Council, after the dissolution of the previous one earlier this week.

Academician James Maida has been appointed as the Chairperson of the Council, with Videlias Mluwira and Lewis Mughogho as members.

Maida replaces Jack Wirima as Chairperson.

Maida, who was serving as chairperson of the board for National Herbarium and Botanic Garden, will steer the re-opening of Chancellor College, a constituent college of Unima, which had been closed for months.

According to a statement from Secretary to the Government, Lloyd Muhara, two other members will be appointed by the Council.

Muhara points out that these appointments are with immediate effect.

The Unima Council has 21 members, two of them in co-opted capacity – Controller of Statutory Corporations and Secretary for Human Resource Management Development.

The members include Unima Vice –Chancellor, principals of the four colleges of Unima, two members to be appointed by the council, four members appointed by the senate and two members appointed by Unima students union.

The government announced the end of the strike yesterday, claiming that the two sides have agreed on the way forward. 

Education commentators are advising President Mutharika to quickly reconstitute the University Council to make sure the stalemate rocking the University of Malawi is resolved.

It follows the dissolution of the council by the President, on Sunday.

In a statement, the Presidential Press Secretary Mgeme Kalirani indicated that a taskforce comprising among others, representatives of the council and academic staff, will continue discussing towards finding lasting solution to the problem.

Academic staff; at the Chancellor College (Chanco) have been on strike for six months now, over what they call disparities in the University of Malawi Salary structure.

This was brought about after they found out that lecturers at the College of Medicine are paid more even though they are of the same grade as those at Chanco.

This led to the closure of the college, with students rendered helpless.

Though the students attempted to voice out their concern, urging the Malawi leader to resolve the matter, Mutharika remained silent insisting that as Chancellor of the University he is not mandate to interfere in such matters.

This ignited public condemnation, with commentators to labeling the country’s education sector a failure as many of the challenges in the sector take long to get resolved.

At the moment, their counterparts at the Polytechnic have also indicated that they will be joining the strike.

Speaking to Capital FM, one of the country’s education commentators disclosed that the dissolution was a welcomed move.

Margret Ali, suggested that the new council work on finding a long term solution to the problems.

Apart from that Ali suggested that the new council first meet with the parents of the affected students and the students themselves so to understand their concerns and find best ways of addressing them.

Also commenting on the matter, Executive Director of the Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC), Benedicto Kondowe started by indicating that it is the President’s prerogative to dissolve and appoint the council and the move is not surprising at all only that it is long due.

According to Kondowe, there is a need for the new council to be appointed with urgency so that Chanco can be opened.

“Having been dissolved on Sunday, one would expect the President to make new appointments in the next two days and not any later than that,” Kondowe said.

When asked on how the president should pick out the new board members, Kondowe suggested that, the Malawi leader appoint people who will be able to stir the country’s universities in the right direction.

Mutharika’s decision comes two weeks after the 5+1 All Inclusive Stakeholders Conference by the Public Affairs Committee gave him a two week ultimatum to resolve impasse.

In   previous years Malawi has seen government and Civil Society Organisations (CSO’s) advocating for education.

But with the current challenges that have hit the sector and with government’s lack of response, the CSO’s are describing the sector as a failure.

Already Malawi is facing high unemployment rate amongst young people.

This has also pushed some young people to open their businesses which also require education for one to be successful.

The sector however is currently facing enormous financial challenges that have seen the closure of both primary, secondary as well as Chancellor College.

Public Primary and Secondary school students as well as Chancellor college students are closed following strikes by teachers and lecturers respectively.

Teachers are hoping to push government to pay their leave grants from the year 2016 to 2017.

Though calls for dialogue in the matter have been made a couple of times the teachers have insisted that they will only return to work after government has addressed their concerns in their favour.

Chancellor college lecturers on the other hand are on strike for what they tame as salary disparities within the University of Malawi.

They are demanding equal pay among lectures of equal grade.

The ongoing strike has led to a three month long impasse that is refusing to die.

Civil society organisations have been pushing President Peter Mutharika to interfere in the UNIMA saga and possibly demand reopening of the college.

Mutharika however maintains that he does not have the mandate to intervene in the stand-off between the Chancellor College academic staff and its employer UNIMA even though he is Chancellor of the university.

This is also despite the fact that the students delivered a petition asking for his intervention.

Concerned parents and guardians are currently working on finding a ways they can meet with the president so to voice out their concerns.

All this is also happening at a time when president Mutharika left the country on Monday for Brussels, Belgium to attend this year’s European Development days meeting.

Bdedicto Kondowe who is Executive Director at the Civil Society Education Coalition believes that if the problems are not dealt with right away the country will stop developing as there will be no educated person's to push it out of its current deteriorating state.

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