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Voice of America: University of Malawi Students Protest Over Plan for Just One Semester Per Year

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Students at the University of Malawi are protesting over the school’s decision to have only one semester per year, doubling the length of time needed for a degree. The school closed Wednesday after students blocked roads to the campus, and administrators say classes will not resume until the demonstrations end.

The students have been holding demonstrations on and around campus since Friday in an effort to make officials abandon the new academic calendar, set to begin next year.

On Wednesday, protesters blocked roads to the campus by burning tires in the streets.

Humble Bondo, president of the university’s Students Council, said protests were stepped up this week after management failed to address students’ concerns during a meeting Monday.

“During the meeting we presented our stand, and we said to them, ‘We will not stop our vigils until the academic calendar changes,’” Bondo said. “So, instead of addressing our issue on the table or the option that we gave them, they said we cannot manage to do this.”

The university, so far, has not stated a reason for cutting back to one semester per year.

Similar protests in September ended in clashes between the police and students.

The University of Malawi administration said in a statement Wednesday it decided to close the institution because the protests were threatening the security of management and members of the public.

They instructed all the students to leave the campus by noon.

Bondo said closing the institution was unfair.

“The impact is a lot,” he said. “Mind you that we are fighting this so that we should have the same academic calendar, we should finish the period within one year, two semesters. But this will also prolong the time that we will stay at the university. So, this will put us in an awkward position.”

University spokesman Alfred Banda told VOA Wednesday he would not make further comments about the matter.

Education expert Benedicto Kondowe faults the university administration for closing the institution and said he hopes the matter gets resolved soon.

“If they take longer, some of the students would drop out because they will lose motivation because it does not make sense to do a four-year program in five, six years,” Kondowe said. “So, there is already a risk there, what about a girl child? Some of the girls will fall pregnant, so there is huge implication that the duty bearers will need to consider in the circumstances.”

Student union president Bondo told VOA the students are seeking a court injunction against the closure of the institution.

Voice of America

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