Mangochi-based privately-owned DMI St John the Baptist University has instituted disciplinary proceedings against a lecturer for asking students a question related to United Transformation Movement (UTM).
Correspondence on the issue shows that the university has summoned the lecturer, Felicity Kadyampakeni, for asking her students in a Women and Development examination paper to mention what UTM promised to do to empower women if voted into power.
Particulars of Kadyampakeni’s charge reads: “That Ms Felicity Kadyampakeni drafted and presented to students for writing, an examination paper of module number 252 SW 54 Women Development, CAT 1 which wilfully or negligently included questions with political connotations which led the university to be viewed as if it is a sympathiser of the United Transformation Movement [UTM], a newly established opposition political movement supporting [Vice-President] Dr. Saulos Chilima.”
The university said the lecturer’s conduct is tantamount to “committing an act against the interests of the university contrary to article 13.1.2 of the Staff Regulation and Conditions of Service of the university”.
But secretary for DMI St John the Baptist University Council the Reverend Father Sengol Jeyaseelan, who signed a notice of the disciplinary hearing which took place on September 14 2018, said in a WhatsApp response yesterday the council was waiting for a report from the disciplinary hearing.
He said: “Since we are waiting for the panel’s report it is not advisable for us to comment on this matter.”
The incident has rekindled the academic freedom fight that took centrestage at Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, where the University Council and academic staff were locked in a standoff for almost nine months due to a similar incident in 2011.
Reacting to the fresh case, education rights activist Benedicto Kondowe and a political sciences lecturer at Chancellor College, Ernest Thindwa, have faulted DMI for what they called an ‘infringement’ of academic freedom reminiscent of the Chanco impasse.
Some DMI St John the Baptist University staff confided that the university currently does not have a staff union to fight for the rights of staff.
Kadyampakeni refused to comment on the matter, saying she had refused to respond to the allegations levelled against her.
Weighing in on the matter, Thindwa blamed the university for subjecting the lecturer to a disciplinary hearing on a matter which he said was purely academic.
He said: “It is very unfortunate that the lecturer is being victimised on a matter like this. What the lecturer did was purely trying to make her students understand issues by relating to local examples.”
On his part, Kondowe, who is executive director of Civil Society Education Coalition, described the disciplinary measures meted against the lecturer as an infringement of freedom of expression and academic freedom.
He said: “Our Constitution guarantees academic freedom and all institution, especially of higher learning, must understand this.” n