Chakwera receives CSEC, stakeholders’ kudos for raising university upkeep allowance

Educationists and activists have applauded President Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera for addressing cries from University of Malawi (UNIMA) students to adjust their upkeep allowances so that they are in consistence with the prevailing cost of living.

On March 7, 2024, President Chakwera ordered the Ministry of Education to collaborate with the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) and Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs to review upwards the loan facility that students access as an upkeep allowance.

The presidential order followed an outcry from university students that the K350 000 academic year allowance is not adequate due to rising inflation and the 44 percent kwacha devaluation.

“I am directing you [Ministry of Education] to work with the National Council for Higher Education and the Ministry of Finance to review the university student loans. The allowances they get should be increased as we did last year… They should not be lacking basic needs like soap and sugar. Let us support them,” said Chakwera.

And barely two weeks after the directive, the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Simplex Chithyola Banda, announced an upward revision of the allowance from from K350, 000 to K560, 000 per student. This represents a 60 percent increase.

Reacting to the news, Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC) applauded the government for answering the students’ prayer.

“While slightly below the K600, 000 advocated by CSEC, this bold decision reaffirms the government’s steadfast commitment to supporting the educational aspirations of our youth,” said CSEC Executive Director Benedicto Kondowe in a statement jointly signed by the organization’s Board Chairpereson Dr. Limbani Nsapato.

Kondowe and Nsapato said they were pleased to note that President Chakwera and his government do recognize the financial hurdles students encounter during their pursuit of higher education.

They said by bolstering the allowance, the government cultivates an environment where students can excel academically without the burden of financial constraints.

“The decision stands to benefit students nationwide, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, by granting them improved access to crucial resources such as food, accommodation, and study materials. Ultimately, this enhancement has the potential to elevate their academic performance and overall well-being,” continues the statement.

But Kondowe and Nsapato were quick to encourage the recipient students to embrace this generous provision responsibly, viewing it as a catalyst for advancing their education.

They further emphasized their unwavering support for the Higher Education Loans and Grants Board (HELGB) to intensify its efforts in loan recovery, thereby mitigating the strain on taxpayers.

The activists said it is imperative that this fund implements a robust strategy for long-term sustainability.

“Moreover, going forward, the government should be proactive rather than reactive in adjusting the upkeep allowance, taking into account prevailing socio-economic conditions such as inflationary pressures, emergencies, and other pertinent factors. CSEC expresses gratitude for the government’s proactive approach in addressing the needs of university students and fostering an inclusive educational environment. We urge all stakeholders to continue collaborating to ensure that every student can realize their full potential and make positive contributions to society,” concluded the statement.

On its part, the Private Schools Association of Malawi (PRISAM) said the upward adjustment of the allowance will greatly assist to uplift lives of underprivileged students in institutions of higher learning.

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