I released this press release after the University Council of the University of Malawi decided to close down the two main universities in Malawi...giving students two hours to vacate campus and they did so at gun-point. the PSU is the Polytechnic Students Union and i am its spokesperson.
We the PSU feel that the decision to close down the university is not only morally, practically wrong but also illegal and illegitimate.
Poly Students were never in conflict with the University Council, actually we only knew of its existence after the ‘academic freedom’ battle began. To us, this fact tells us that the council lacks sufficient interest in the issue.
When lecturers downed their tools, the university council never sent them a bogus memo with typographical errors on fools’ day giving them notice of vacation. Why students? Is it because we have no legal muscle? We have been calling for dialogue on the issue but the warring sides refuse and chose to use us as pawns.
To add salt to the wound; take Lemmy who hails from Chitipa and he has two hours to pack and then find transport money to go to Chitipa, and its already 2pm. Is this decision made with ‘fairness’ in mind or it was just some sort of vendetta?
Polytechnic students chose to take a stand in the issue, as the adage says; fight for something or fall for everything, we analysed the academic freedom battle and found it sweet and worthy the ride so when Poly lecturers joined the battle by downing tools we never whined, we giggled with excitement. When the same lecturers dropped the battle we took it from where they left it.
Our argument was simple, learning these days is learner centred thus academic freedom is chiefly for the students. Secondly, we saw bribes and cowardice in the lecturers’ decision to drop the issue, so we demanded an explanation and when we heard from PASCOW’s chair, Salima that it was due to tribal allegiances, we declared Poly a no fly zone for lecturers, anybody would. 2011 is no time to be dabbling in tribal foolishness and as lecturers they should know better. So the students; Lhomwe, Tumbuka, Chewa and Sena fought on.
We feel that the involvement of police in this issue is not legal. We are fighting with Mukitho and how do you expect the same Mukitho to handle us? It’s why we have police officers gassing students and beating us like bags of sand.
Police involvement is also illegal in that the Kampala Declaration forbids any police presence on any campus or where African intellectuals are...why do Malawian police, led by the whole commissioner invade our campus? Yes we know most of them are brutes but at least they should have heard of the word ‘law.’
Now we have lost a student, Justice Mwafulirwa, yes he had lung trouble but what sparked the final blow is cleary the gas that was settled on campus, there have been about five cases of students collapsing in the hostels since the teargas was fired, and they have been none since the semester started, draw your own conclusions.
We will not speak much on the minister of education here, because he has failed us miserably and if he thinks this is a lie, let him try to come to Poly one day.
Finally, we have our chancellor, forget the debate about the legality of his post as chancellor; to us he is the one to blame for all that has transpired in this conflict and to achieve peace will also demand his hands as well.
When the president was being inaugurated, he vowed never to close down any university in his reign...how ironic and funny does it feel to finally break the vow on fools’ day?
At first we thought the president would quickly apply Machiavellian philosophy and fire Mukitho to make peace with the whole load of critics, most of whom are influential, but to our shock Mukitho was glorified and the rest vilified effectively starting the ‘Chinsinga wars.’
The details are not our concern, but we are the sufferers, we know that as university students we have the power to start a revolution but that depends on the failure of government not on a single lecturer. The university system is too complex for anybody to manipulate.
The way forward depends on what the president will do and on the way the grieving lecturers will be handled. Already Poly students are swearing to continue where they left off if any lecturer or student is fired.
As a union, and as we said at our previous press conference, the issue will only rest in our hearts if the law takes its course, we can’t be having anybody coming to campus and saying and doing things in the name of national security especially when they have never been to a campus before.
We hope this is not the beginning of the Khmer Rouge type of government which hated intellectuals and eliminated most of them because of the ideas of a few. Already, we cannot seem to stage a demonstration without the City Assembly and police firmly refusing us permission.
We also should take time to salute those who have stood firm in this time of battle, names like Kamchezera, Kapasula, Salima, Amin, Kanyongolo, Mungoshi, Sithole, Morra and Mgala.
PSU would also like to thank the public and the independent media for being understanding and empathetic even when we were being violent and barbaric. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
The law, through the constitution and the Kampala Declaration speaks of academic freedom, let government grant and assure it.
As PSU, we are disappointed in the system and we hope that when we return we shall find no spies in classes, no intimidated lecturers, no uniformed brutes on campus, and we hope that we will return to campus very soon as the world, including the police force, is waiting for our well trained input.