ZOMBA--Chancellor College, the largest of the University of Malawi colleges, may not open next month due to an impending industrial action by its academic members of staff.
The Chancellor College Academic Staff Union (CCASU) Tuesday voted to withdraw their labour following a salary dispute with their employer, the University of Malawi Council. The issues go back to three years ago when the Council endorsed a report by Ernst and Young who recommended that staff salaries should be adjusted by 200% to bring them closer to what prevails in other similar institutions in the region and to take care of a revised salary structure.
The staff however only received a 60% raise with the promise that the remaining 40% would be implemented incrementally in due course.
An eight-month long fight for academic freedom last year saga overshadowed the salary issue but the recent massive devaluation of the local currency and the attendant high cost of living has rekindled it.
Interestingly, the university staff didn't get any salary adjustment at the beginning of the fiscal year in July 2012 following the general increases awarded to the civil service and other institutions. Recently, the government recommended an increase of 15% and was adjusted upwards 21% a week later but the UNIMA Council hasn't made any offer to its employees.
Meanwhile, the strike at The Polytechnic, another constituent of the University of Malawi, is entering its third week and the university support staff at Chancellor College, the Polytechnic and the College of Medicine are already on strike. Media reports indicate that dead bodies brought in for embalming are being returned at the College of Medicine due to the strike.
Any slight delay in the opening of Chancellor College would mean three groups of first year students not starting their university education at the college. There are already two intakes waiting to come in, and a third on its way. The college was planning to have a double intake this September which may not materialize. If the issue remains unresolved, there's going to be more chaos in the academic calendar at the university.
©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment.