Univesity Council insists on colleges ‘shutdown’

The University of Malawi (Unima) Council is insisting on completely shutting down two of the institution’s constituent colleges, Chancellor College (Chanco) and the Polytechnic, due to boycotting of teaching by academic staff.

In an interview on Thursday, Chanco associate professor and member of the college’s legal team, Garton Kamchedzera, said the lecturers were served with documents from the Unima Council on Thursday last week, challenging an earlier court decision that stopped the shutdown.

“The council has filed its defence that its order was not a lockout and that it [council] was entitled to shut down the two institutions. It also wants our salaries frozen because members believe we absconded work by boycotting classes,” he said.

The council ordered the complete shutdown of the two colleges last month. It also ordered staff to surrender any university property in their custody, including office keys.

A letter from the Unima registrar Benedicto Wokomaatani Malunga, dated April 4 2011, said the shutdown followed the boycotting of teaching by Chanco and Poly academic staff.

It further said disturbances of other activities at the two campuses by both staff, students and the sending away of students on April 1 2011 after the colleges were closed indefinitely contributed to the shutdown order.

But the Industrial Relations Court (IRC) overturned the order and ruled against implementing the decision to completely shut down Chanco.

The same IRC earlier issued an injunction to hold the shutdown pending a determination on the legality of the closure.

Meanwhile, Kamchedzera said there have been informal contacts from “some government people” with individual lecturers offering mediation in resolving the stalemate.

But he said the talks have not yielded anything as of now. He said the lecturers feel progress would have been made through formal contacts involving all parties.

Chanco staff started boycotting classes in mid February demanding an apology and assurance of academic freedom following Mukhito’s summoning of their colleague, associate professor Blessings Chinsinga, over an example he gave during his public policy class.

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