When the President receives an applause from his people when he speaks on issues affecting them , it means he is driving his message home. It also means he is delivering his promises and wins the people’s hearts.
On the contrary, when a President gets booed when he says something affecting his people, it also means strong disapproval of his speech.
In other words the people are simply telling that President that they are tired of his empty speeches meaning his speeches don’t mean a thing at all.
President Reverend Lazarus Chakwera recently got an applause from Mzuzu University when he spoke about the recently raised tuition fees for public universities. That was encouraging, commendable and a good thing for the President.
In his address during the Mzuni 25th Congregation and Silver Jubilee commemoration in Mzuzu, the President, sympathised with parents, students and guardians over the situation, saying government would do everything possible” to ensure that no student dropped out due to lack of fees.
However, when you look back, this is not the first time Chakwera has given hope to the hopeless Malawians. He first said something like this in 2019/2020 campaign and people expected more action on the ground now than speeches. It’s now three years since he took over power and government and poor Malawians have been waiting to see a clear step taken by Tonse Alliance Government.
Chakwera, with his usual American intonation, read his written speech and spoke on the fees situation barely days after the Ministry of Education refused requests by concerned students for a downward revision.
He attracted applause when he appeared to be sympathysing with the parents, guardians and students by saying: “I know many of you struggle and I know many of you are already complaining about fees. It is understandable knowing the context in which all of us are operating.”
The statement “I know many of you struggle and I know many of you are already complaining about fees” attracted applause because Malawians who were listening to the President thought now His Excellency President Reverend Lazarus Chakwera would make and announce a very important announcement regarding the Tuition fees.
The mood quickly changed when the President continued from there. It is understandable knowing the context
“I want you to know that government is doing all it can in order to make sure that we use all of our available resources to help with each one, so that nobody is out of school, out of university on account of fees,”
This is where the President attracted boos. Probably this was the time they looked forward to hearing something like this:
” I therefore declare today that the hiked tuition fees for public universities and secondary schools have been reduced with immediate effect.”
If the President was tactful enough, he would have sensed and capitalized on this moment to respond to the occasion, unfortunately, he continued with his written script without addressing the main challenge from the people.
Some students and parents were overheard asking “how?”, apparently in reaction to the situation on the ground where tuition fees have been doubled and scores of students have withdrawn and others are on the verge of withdrawing due to lack of fees.
Honestly speaking, this was an open challenge from the students and parents who were overheard asking “how?”. An alternative statement should have been given at this moment as a solution to the current situation.
It is unfortunate that many students from poor families continue to withdraw from public universities due to lack of tuition fees especially after the new hike. Of course, it has not been easy for poor families to get tuition fees for their children’s education even before.
Chakwera then proceeded with his prepared speech and said the country’s aspirations on education cannot be realised with government efforts alone, but through partnerships.
The above statement, in my opinion, is simply a clear indication of a President who talks, promises and turns around when given the opportunity to rule the country. President Reverend Lazarus Chakwera, at this point, doesn’t have solutions to the current situation and I even wonder why he promised to do something about higher education in the first place when he didn’t have any clear plan.
He said a $50 million World Bank grant and a loan of $50 million for Skills for A Vibrant Economy (Save) project as well as a $30 million loan for the second instalment of the African Centres of Excellence Project and United States Agency for International Development $17 million project on Transforming Higher Education System show that government valued partnerships.
“Of particular interest to me is the need for our universities to be more aggressive and innovative in securing partnerships with the private sector,” said Chakwera.
President Reverend Lazarus Chakwera is telling the nation here that our universities should depend more working with the private sector than government on monetary support. He is running away from the first stand which he had before he became president. That’s how I understand my President.
President Reverend Lazarus Chakwera must be clear on the measures he wants to put in place to ensure that no student is withdrawn due to lack of fees. Government should explore increasing the allocation during the next budget review.
There’s need for government to find some alternatives to solve the puzzle. The current timing and the poor economy make things harder for needy students.
University of Malawi proposed a fee hike of K800 000, but the Ministry of Education approved K650 000, Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences proposed K1.5 million, but K750 000 was approved.
Mzuni proposed K700 000, but K650 000 was approved while Must proposed K800 000, but government nodded to K650 000.
Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) has raised fees from K350 000 to K600 000. However, Kamuzu University of Health Sciences is yet to communicate its proposed fee hike.
In the 2023/24 financial year, the Higher Education Students Loans and Grants Board set aside MK13.7 billion to benefit 22, 406 students in both public and private universities.