Barely a month after the University of Malawi (Unima) Council suspended the university’s unbundling, government has overruled that decision.
In a press statement issued by the Office of the Vice-President, government informed the Unima Council during a meeting it had with a delegation led by Vice-President Saulos Chilima that it should proceeed with the delinking.
The statement, signed by Office of the Vice-President spokesperson Pilirani Phiri, reads: “Moving forward, the Ministry of Education will proceed to gazette the commencement date for the 2019 Acts of Parliament in line with Section 74 of the Constitution, implement a detailed plan of action on the delinking and establish a Transitional Unit to oversee and conclude the process.”
Unima Council chairperson Professor Jack Wirima referred the issue to Unima registrar Benedicto Okomaatani Malunga who could not be reached on his phone.
But in an earlier interview at the time of announcing the suspension, Malunga backed the council’s resolution, saying it was made to correct a legal error.
He said: “The statement [on reversing the delinking process] we issued is self-explanatory. I was not part of the council meeting, but the position of the council is that this is a legal issue. The council is saying that the delinking process was done in total disregard of the law, they are correcting the law.”
Ministry of Education director of higher education Levis Eneya confirmed that government will resume the unbundling process started in 2017, but stalled following the council’s decision to suspend the process in favour of a functional review.
However, he said government might consider revising the three-year timeline the Task Force on Delinking Unima Colleges proposed to effect some of the changes made to facilitate the unbundling process.
Eneya said: “We [the Ministry of Education] might be revising the time of three years, but we would like to assure the public that government has already put in place measures and mechanisms to ensure that the delinking process is completed. The public will get more information on how the ministry will be proceeding as time goes by.”
Chilima met with the Unima Council in Lilongwe yesterday alongside Minister of Justice Titus Mvalo, Attorney General Chikosa Silungwe, Eneya and officials from the Department of Statutory Corporations and Public Sector Reforms.
In January this year, the Unima Council suspended the delinking process after purportedly finding the decision taken by its predecessor council in 2017 ultra vires and “not in line with the powers and functions that these two structures [the senate and council] were mandated to undertake.
The decision by Unima Council to halt the process surprised many, including private practice lawyer Khumbo Bonzoe Soko who faulted the council for reversing a decision passed by Parliament.
In an earlier interview, Civil Society Education Coalition executive director Benedicto Kondowe, who participated in the consultations process on the delinking, described the council’s decision as “irresponsible”.
During its 117th Extraordinary Council Meeting in 2017, the Unima council resolved that Unima constituent colleges, namely Chancellor College, The Polytechnic, Kamuzu College of Nursing and College of Medicine be delinked to become autonomous universities.
The government resolved to unbundle Unima to pave the way for the creation of three universities. The resolution was made to improve access to higher education as well as improving governance and operational efficiency in public universities.