Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Update on University of Malawi Impasse on Academic Freedom


2NDJULY, 2011

Impossing structures, vacant rooms: Academic buildings without students spell gloom on the future of a nation-state, and Malawi is no exception

CCASU and other academic members of staff at Chancellor College regret to report that the dialoguethat commenced on Thursday 30thJune, 2011 between a Task Force of the Council of the Universityof Malawi and its representatives collapsed on Saturday 2ndJuly, 2011.

Academic freedom under threat

In the first round of the dialogue with the Task Force which was on 30thJune, 2011, CCASU firmly reiterated that its membership is keen as it has always been to resume classes as early as 16thFebruary, 2011 when they stopped teaching out of legitimate fears as confirmed by the CourtsUpon moderate dialogue, the Task Force undertook to inform Council to take concrete actions toaddress the initial causes of the fears on the part of academic members of staff and students. The key initial causes of the fears and the ensuing impasse were:

 the deployment and presence of spies/intelligence in Colleges by Government;
 the summoning and interrogation of academic members of staff over the contents of lectures;and
 the suspicion and deliberate disinformation calculated to intimidate staff; bring into disreputeor interfere with the legitimate pursuits of academic members of staff. CCASU also emphasised that the purported dismissal of the four academic members of staff is afurther gross violation of academic freedom and a blatant affront to Unionism, which is protectedunder the labour laws of Malawi.
CCASU underlined that the purported dismissals should berescinded before lectures could resume.It was agreed in the meeting upon CCASU’s suggestions that among the actions Council would haveto take before the College re-opens were:
 liaising with the relevant government departments regarding the deployment of intelligenceand use of spies in the College, and the occasions when the Police would be allowed intocollege campus;
writing to lecturers and CCASU rescinding decisions such as suspension of salaries andbenefits;
 the withdrawal of forms compelling lecturers to resume teaching; and
 instruct its lawyers to work with CCASU’s lawyers to draw up relevant consent orderswithdrawing the respective court orders , and Council’s judicial review and appeals.
The Task Force indicated during the meeting that it would have to consult with the University Councilon the issue of the purported dismissals because it was not covered in its mandate.
It was agreed that in the pendency of fulfilment of the above conditions the University Registrarwould issue an agreed statement “advising students to await an announcement on the date ofreopening the College.”Further, it was the common understanding of the parties to the dialogue that some of the issues thathave arisen in the course of the impasse would be resolved in the long run with the continuedinvolvement of all parties.
Having met in Lilongwe with full Council of the University, the Task Force convened a furthermeeting with representatives of CCASU on 2ndJuly, 2011 in Zomba, where they disowned theagreements made on 30thJune, 2011 regarding the concrete actions that would result in theresumption of classes.

The Task Force also reported the following decisions as taken by Council:

 That the purported dismissal of the four academic members of staff would stand and befurther pursued in the Court.
 That Council would proceed to call students and provide all the necessary security andsupport to ensure that classes resume on 4thJuly, 2011.
 That the College would be reopened notwithstanding that the conditions stated above have notbeen fulfilled by Council as undertaken during the first round of dialogue.
CCASU informed the Task Force that in the light of the above positions taken by Council, itsmembership will not resume teaching if students report for classes before the above conditions havebeen fulfilled.

Acting President, CCASU

Impossing building, empty rooms

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