Griffin Salima, President of the Polytechnic Academic Staff Committee on Welfare (PASCOW) delivered a powerful moving speech this morning during the memorial service the college organised to remember the three students it has lost this last year.
The students who were being remembered are Justice Mwafulirwa (Education Business Studies, died 1st April), Madalitso Kaunda (Environmental Health, died 26 May) and Robert Chasowa (Mechanical Engineering, Killed 24 September)
Clad in a red scarf symbolising the academic struggle the dons are currently battling, Salima didn’t even need to be in black to sound concerned, he galloped to the microphone looking like the rest of the speakers and then it happened...
Said Salima: “Someone here asked why the three had to die and since he could not find the answer on who should die instead, I have the answer: the young may die but the old must die, therefore it should have been somebody above 70 years.
“But don’t despair, great minds die young: Jesus died at 33, Napoleon died at 52 and Dunduzu Chisiza died at 32!
“We organised this memorial service oblivious of the fact that Poly had also lost two other students, we were motivated by the death of Robert Chasowa whose mysterious death still has many questions unanswered...but someone will have to answer one day.
“Where was Mr. Salima when Robert died, where was management when Robert died? Where were you his fellow students? Are you going to answer like Cain did after he killed his brother to say that you are not your brother’s keeper?
“Chasowa’s death got us thinking who would be next? It could be me, you will hear that am hanging in my office or it could be you next. But we refuse to be told to live by tribalism, we refuse to live by nepotism, we refuse to live by regionalism by those that don’t love Malawi.
“Those days when my parents languished in Zimbabwe for fear of political persecution are over, there is no other Malawi but this and it’s better to die here than outside.”
To cap it all, Salima asked the students to repeat after him in his conclusive chants which produced a deafening: “No to nepotism! No to Tribalism! No to Regionalism!” that was followed by a prolonged standing ovation.
Salima’s speech highlighted the ethnic consumption that is currently rocking the university. Ethnocentrism raised its ugly head back in March when some lectures [from the Southern Region] abandoned the academic freedom struggle labelling it a ‘witch hunting spree’ by lectures from the North and the Centre against the Lhomwe dominated government, a move that angered students who chased all lecturers from campus, breaking into and drinking beer in the senior common room and refused to back to class a move that caused the University Council to shut the college of fools day.
Polytechnic principal, Grant Kululanga, also spoke at the ceremony where he asked for the extension of God’s power onto the bereaved families of the students that had lost their lives. He said that the economy of a country surfers when student die. Kululanga’s sentiments echoed the Student’s Union President’s, Noel Mwenye, who also said that the three were bound to for greatness and oncourse to help in developing Malawi.
Other speakers included relatives and classmates of the dead who spoke highly of their friends. Justice Mwafulirwa was head of the Seventh Day Adventist Student’s Organisation, Chasowa was Poly FC captain, was in various church organisations and even dabbled in theatre and Madalitso was a confident activist of some reputation, breaking the norm to stand for the position student’s union president while only in second year.
The three dead join three other boys that lost their lives since December 2010 namely: John Banda (Electrical Engineering), Conrad Maulana (Environmental Science and Technology) and Sikweya (Environmental Health) this is addition to the fresh graduates Francis Fweta (Civil Engineering) and Innocent Mangira (Environmental Science and Technology).