Student leaders from public universities across the country descended on Parliament today to deliver a petition demanding that the government increase the allocation to Higher Education Students Loan Board from the current K1.5 billion ($2.7 million) to K3 billion ($5.3 million).
The students have also asked the government, through Ministry of Education to respond and act on their petition within 14 days failing which the whole student body at public universities would demonstrate.
The students comprised student union leaders from University of Malawi constituent colleges, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar), Mzuzu University and Malawi University of Science and Technology (Must).
The demonstration follows the abolition of government sponsored tuition for a selected number of students which required that all public university students would be paying K275 000 ($482) per semester unless they qualified for a loan or grant.
In their petition which, David Jiva told the deputy chairperson of the Education Committee who received the petition on behalf of Parliament, Agnes Nyalonje, that the number of beneficiaries for the loans and grants was small compared to the number of needy students in the public universities.
Jiva said the students had information that only 96 students at Malawi Polytechnic out of 3 000 would be given a stipend for accommodation and meals while 90 out of 4 500 at Chancellor College are beneficiaries.
As he read out this part of the petition, the students started mimicking cries moaning ‘mayooo’ as they held their heads in mocking despair.
“The core purpose of establishing the Students Loans and Grants Board was to help needy students as such government should increase its budget allocation. The students’ leadership should be consulted and involved to allow the board understand some of the indepth issues of the students,” the petition recommendations read.
The University of Malawi Students Union president Peter Mvuma added: “We expect to get feedback on our petition within 14 days failing which, the whole student community will come to Parliament to have their voices heard.”
In her response, Nyalonje said the petition would be discussed at the committee level before it is tabled in Parliament for the attention of the Minister of Education.
“Thank you for the passion you have for education. I can assure you that as vice chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Education, we will pursue the petition and get responses on your behalf,” Nyalonje said.