Missed target in public university students’ demands on increased loans and upkeep allowances

In the past few days, major and other small media houses and platforms were flooded with reports indicating that groups of students from different public universities have petitioned the Malawi government over higher education loans and grants board’ students upkeep allowances.

In preamble, a petition to the government and copied to the vice president, Saulos Chilima, dated 4th November 2021, seems to have been eloquently presented to the relevant authorities. In fact, Students from different colleges and universities right from Chitipa to Nsanje, smiled at the petition and hope to see the other positive end of a reply from the responsible officers at the loans and grants board offices.

Looking at the decorated faces on these public universities students, one may be tempted to conclude that the presentation of the petition to the government, in students’ minds on the other side, feel that the petition has already yielded a positive note and that the board responsible for students’ loans has responded in favor of the demands: let’s wait and see first – anyway, that ought to, as usual, be normal within students when they hear news pointing to money and its affiliates.

 In the sentiments above, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resource (LUANAR), agriculture student, harnessed his opportunism by hailing the public universities students’ leaders in taking a brave step on pushing the officials for careful consideration to increase the upkeep allowances to a minimum of K280,000 from the initial amount of K100,000. Another Biomedical engineering student Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) concurred with LUANAR students on the same.

On the contrary, Mzuzu University (MZUNI) Theological studies student, goes parallel to the general hopeful song being sung by the university students since, if the battle succeeds, the financial pockets of these students shall get fatter with the proposed hiked loans and upkeep allowances from the higher education loans and grants board in our mother nation, Malawi.

The student theologian claims that the demands are myopic in nature since the students’ leaders are failing to fight for the common good of both rich and poor scholars from all over Malawi. He added that, for example, if one visits MZUNI and many other colleges, the very first features one will cross are the rivers of tears from cries of needy students who were not even selected to benefit from the public funds in form of loans and grants. To him, those enjoying are the ones who were picked up and accessed the students’ loans.

Fees must fall
Unima students protesting against fees hike

The bible studier, further suggested that it could have been much good if the public universities students’ leaders petitions the government for universal loans and grants to all students; as there are so many other tertiary students who are struggling to access the same loan facility hence vividly rumbling to survive during their studies, and of course, risking withdraws from colleges and universities on financial grounds.

In other views, Nalikule College of education student lined her thoughts to that of MZUNI students, saying the students’ leaders could have indeed opted to press over the authorities to consider dashing every student at colleges a loan rather than leaving out other needy students who come from malnourished financial statured families from Mzimba at Nthalire, Thyolo at Thamva, Kaboola in Dedza, and the list is endless.

 Continuously, some passionate Malawians including the likes of Gerrald Chavez Kampanikiza of GCK cameras and Onjezani Kenani, embark on different initiatives of sourcing funds aimed at bailing out needy students in Malawian universities including UNIMA, LUANAR, who were at the vent of withdrawing from their studies due to financial constraints on tuition fees and individual upkeep allowances. These separate initiatives from these well-wishers have benefitted, in their little capacities, a bunch of needy students in many schools and colleges.  

To that contention, it is truly unmerited and, indeed, a missed target for the students to petition the government to increase upkeep allowances which will benefit only those that are already receiving the so-called ‘little upkeep allowances’ instead of fighting and petitioning officials for universal loans and grants which would largely benefit a big chunk of students including those who were left on the beneficiaries list. From the onset, public universities students’ leaders, look broader and consider fighting even for those who are struggling to access the Tambala in that loan facility alone.

If, for example, the said upkeep allowances remain at K100,000 per semester, the remaining K180,000 from the proposed K280,000 from at least 1,000 students, it would be used to pay tuition fees for a bunch of needy students. The students’ leaders should rather press for all students from higher learning institutions to be granted loans to at least hundreds of needy students who are dancing the poverty tunes would benefit from the monitory facility thereon.

The author is a Mzuzu University finalist. He was propelled to write the article post-affective to the struggles needy students are facing after being left out from the loans and grants board selection of beneficiaries in the recent years.

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