POLYTECHNIC JOINS CHANCO STRIKE


Polytechnic College lecturers have also started boycotting classes in a strike following suit to their colleagues at Chancellor College (Chanco). However, they say their aim is not to demand an apology from the Inspector General of Police, Peter Mukhito.

Peter Mukhito as IG of Malawi Police summoned a political science lecturer over an example he gave in a public policy class. But Mike Nazombe, a lecturer in Communications at Poly, said, ‘we want to pursue relevant authorities to safeguard our academic freedom. In respect of Tact and Diplomacy which characterize our profession, we are not looking for an apology from the police chief but a position/statement that will ensure our academic freedom without which we cannot work effectively.’

‘This is the freedom that is carved in the constitution of our country and is clearly construed by all academic members of staff in the University of Malawi,’ he said.

Poly lecturers’ decision to abandon classes comes after President Bingu wa Mutharika directed that Chanco academic staff should return to class.

In a letter to University Council signed by president of Polytechnic Academic Staff Committee on Welfare (PASCOW), Griffin Salima, the lecturers in Blantyre resolved on Monday not to teach in pursuit for ‘the safeguarding of academic freedom until the matter is resolved.’

The letter reads: ‘What we demand is a clear and unequivocal statement that what happened to our colleague at Chancellor College will not be replicated in future.’

It all starter after lecturer Chinsinga at Chanco reportedly gave an example in class which drew parallels between Malawi’s current fuel crisis and the uprisings that toppled governments in Tunisia and Egypt. He was then interrogated by the Police chief.

Jessie Kabwila-Kapasula, president of the Chancellor College Academic Staff Union, says the professors in Zomba will not return to class until they receive assurances of academic freedom guaranteed under the Malawian constitution which she said it guarantees that academic freedom cannot be mitigated by any one or any state functionary.

But President Mutharika in remarks aired on state radio MBC and also quoted in the press, said academic freedom should be distinguished from anarchy.

“If some teacher one day just wakes up, ignores the subject for that hour and come and says: ‘You students you know you can overthrow this government and the way to overthrow this government is to follow what’s happening in Egypt. Is this what you call academic freedom?” Mutharika said at the graduation ceremony at Domasi Teachers College in Zomba.

“If a teacher teaches revolt against an established government, is this what you call academic freedom?” wondered Mutharika, who is also Chancellor of the University of Malawi.

He is quoted as saying: “If academic freedom means: ‘I’m a teacher and I’m paid by government and I go there and say, ‘Overthrow this government’ then I would like to believe that that’s academic anarchy. Let us distinguish between academic freedom and academic anarchy.”

Kabwila Kapasula said they will hold a news conference at Poly on Tuesday.

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