HomeOpinionThis nonsensical argument on University of Malawi fee hike debate must stop

This nonsensical argument on University of Malawi fee hike debate must stop

This nonsensical argument on University of Malawi fee hike debate must stopThe University of Malawi’s decision to hike fees for both Undergraduate and Postgraduate students continues to divide the general public. Reading comments from different social media, one gets a feeling that there are more people out there who believe that this is putting higher education beyond the poor. They argue that raising fees with such higher percentages is unjustifiable and selfishness. Here is the same government and the University council that only raised the perks of their respective employees with minimal margins but managed to raise the fees withpercentages as higher as 700%.Most of the students who are affected by this fees hike are the sons and daughters of the same people whose salaries have gone up with a minimal percentage and those whose parents are struggling to have their tobacco sold at the Auction floors.

At the same time there is another school of thought that believes the Council is right and justifiable; arguing that education is expensive and even raising arguments that Malawians are simply used to free things. They cite examples from other countries where fees are high without even comparing the economies of those countries with our own.

To begin with, this argument that Malawians are used used to free things is misguided and made without reference to what citizens in other countries enjoy from their governments. I have lived in South Africa for number years and the way South Africans enjoy free things from their government cannot even be compared to Malawians. All these policies that both the DPP and PP governments are doing of building houses for the poor are simply copyrights of what the ANC is doing for the poor in South Africa. The ANC builds houses for the poor commonly known as RDP houses.

In Malawi, we always complain when foreigners from Mozambique come and receive treatment in our hospitals yet Malawians even those without necessary documents simply walk in a South African public health centre and get free treatment. Have you watched SABC and see how violent South Africans become when it comes to issues of service delivery either from their government or Municipal councils? But do the majority of such people who demonstrate pay tax to the Government? Most of them are unemployed people. There is Child grant in South Africa, given to young ladies with babies whose fathers they cannot even trace.

In South Africa, higher education much as it is not accessible to many people because of space constraints; the truth is that it is affordable to poor people. The decision of Zuma’s government to hike University fees was recently shot down by students. There were demonstrations and the decision was withdrawn. The very same sentiments that South Africans like free things were also expressed by those who were justifying the higher fees. This argument by the way is raised almost everywhere; wondering if really contains any truth. I keenly follow American politics and one factor that made John McCain unpopular among black people was the same argument he was alleged to have uttered that black people always want free things from the government. Malawians, South Africans, Black Americans all like free things from the government, really?

One may argue that South African’s economy is large that is why the government is able to do all this, that is where my argument is. We always support our positions based on what is happening in other countries when it suits our position. I have heard this argument that Malawians like free things from even highly educated people, one of them a well-known Professor of economics. But here is a man who did his education during the era of Dr Banda when University was for free and today he can stand and tell the world that Malawians like free things simply because he happens to have lived in America for a long time. The very same University Council in arguing for a raise in mature students fees argued that it is a common practice all over the world that such students pay economic fees. After 52 years of Independence and 51 years of the existence of UNIMA, it is today that the Council has realised this? And how much do those countries pay their lecturers? Why do we have to segregate which policies to import and which ones to leave out?  Importing policies because they are supporting your position?Kukomera mbuzikugunda galu.

It is not the case that Malawians like free things, this argument is false and those who make it do not know what other countries are doing for their citizens. Put it more clearly, we are simply a nation with misguided policies that are framed to please either our donors or designed to win the next general election. It does not make any sense to put education beyond the reach of the poor and then build their parents sub-standard houses. If education is affordable how many children out there will not fail to build such houses for their parents? Let us stop this argument that Malawians like free things. It is a fallacy and made out of ignorance. Which free things do we enjoy from this government as compared to what South Africans are enjoying in RDP houses, affordable College fees, Child support grant, Disability grant, free IDs, Subsidies in agriculture that provides cheap foods? Education is a right.



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