Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Faculty That Was Fooled

Trouble seldom ceases to brew at University of Malawi’s main constituent college in Zomba. It is either lecturers are in a civil conflict with college management or the university management; or students are taking to task college management or even Unima governing body for failing to address their needs. On very rare occasions, it is students against their lecturers or lecturers against their students.

Chancellor College suffers numerous anomalies, but, oftentimes, the powers that be seem less interested to find lasting solutions to the problems that have sadly established roots. They even appear to disregard every cry from those below them with careless abandon. And, in every way, that is a very dangerous style of running an institution of higher learning.

The graduation ceremony that took place at the College of Medicine sports complex recently might have appeared a glamorous event garnished with its deserved splendour. But, in the background, there was a loud faint cry from a faculty that felt it had been fooled. The historic event of 26 October perfectly analogised the proverbial fortune for one man, misfortune for another scenario.

The Faculty of Education is the largest at Chancellor College, but that doesn’t mean it has to dictate the progress of other faculties. Perhaps, that’s why Unima Council decided to leave it behind when it graduated all faculties from Bunda College, CoM, Kamuzu College of Nursing and The Polytechnic. Well, even from the aggrieved faculty, there were some sections which graduated, but these did not join the college more than five years ago.

Those that joined the college more than five years ago are still doing their Teaching Practice, and Unima couldn’t wait for them. It even stings deeper when the governing body engages in no soothing comments to allay the fear of the students who still believe they might graduate a year later or so.

Education students on TP are not crying for the ceremony to make a virtue of necessity; they are concerned about their futures which look bright, but can be easily dampened by any delay in accessing their formal and legitimate papers. Others have been delayed before, and it is from such experiences that education students have learnt the dangers of delaying to access one’s paper. Impressive opportunities have the tendency of slipping out of the fingers of those that don’t access their formal qualifications early enough.

The other trouble is that it takes forever for one to access their performance transcripts after finishing their undergraduate studies. Yet, in the absence of the actual degree, that is the only significant document for those who want to pursue higher studies. In fact, it is imperative for someone who has finished their undergraduate studies to immediately access their transcript for the sake of alternative employments and other personal adventures.

The aggrieved students issued a press statement before the graduation ceremony so that the authorities could consider their plea. But, Council – in its usual sloppy approach to essential matters – described the students’ concerns as a waste of time. This has to hurt.

It is a credible fact that the ceremony was long overdue, but the decision to hold it should have been reached at after extensive consultation considering the fact that Unima constituent colleges have inconsistent calendars which create problems when it comes to organising graduation ceremonies. But, now that the ceremony has already been done, the only thing the students are asking for is to hold their own soon after finishing their TP.

Every student who finishes their undergraduate studies expects to graduate as soon as possible, not a year later. Of course, many irregularities continue rocking Unima’s constituent colleges’ calendars, but these irregularities can be partly solved by letting students have their graduation ceremonies soon after finishing their undergrad studies. Such an approach may indeed be costly, but if we look at the greater good, we come to conclude that it is better to spend money on individuals who are going to help in the development of the nation as soon as possible, than to let their potential stall.

Council states that because of the ‘extra’ three months which education students add to their four years of theory lessons, it was only by coincidence that previously they graduated together with their colleagues who pursued different programmes. The observation seems attractive, but it ignores the important fact that holding a graduation ceremony soon after finishing one’s studies shouldn’t be an option. The world is moving very fast and wasting time unnecessarily should be avoided.

The students rightly feel that holding their ceremony next year – probably, October – isn’t even a sure thing. It is hard to predict the progress of Unima calendars where a four year programme has the possibility of being finished in six years. Thus, if the education students don’t graduate soon after their TP, they can never be sure of when they will. It may be next year, the year after next, or even three years from now, when potential outlets for higher education and other opportunities have been shut.

Even though the university management argues that it was by sheer coincidence that in the past education students from Chancellor College held their graduation ceremony together with their counterparts from other faculties, such a coincidence was more reasonable than Unima’s ‘normal’ arrangement. It was a beautiful coincidence that remarkably pursued the route of ethical justice.

There is an option which will be a line of least resistance for both Council and education students on TP. The higher education governing body can hold a graduation ceremony for both Chanco students on TP and Bunda College students who wrote their final year examinations last month and are still going to graduate under the Unima banner.

Otherwise, Chancellor College education students on TP feel greatly discriminated against and fooled by a mother body that seems disinterested and unconcerned. And, if the anomaly isn’t addressed now, the victims will not only be those that were recently fooled and are being fooled now. Future generations will continue being fooled.

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