Malawi University Closes Over Fee Increase Protests

Blantyre, Malawi — Malawi indefinitely closed one of its universities following violent student protests Friday night over a recent fee increase.

Police said 16 students were arrested and charged with disturbing the peace.

In a statement released Friday night, Yonamu Ngwira, registrar of Mzuzu University, a University of Malawi campus in the country’s north, suspended classes and ordered all students to leave campus by 5 a.m. Saturday, saying the decision aimed to preserve order and protect the university’s property.

Witnesses said the students blocked the main road and besieged two ambulances that were rushing patients to a hospital, forcing Malawi police to fire tear gas to disperse the protesters.

The University of Malawi in July announced a fee increase from about $350 to $600 per semester for undergraduate students, and from about $780 to $920 per semester for graduate students.

Students said the increases were too high and gave Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera 14 days to intervene. They say he did not.

Charles Dokera, a leader of the student group that issued the ultimatum, told VOA that Friday’s protests were not only justified, but predictable.

“We should first understand that the frustration among the students has gone beyond control,” he said. “The only language of the unheard … most of the time is protests, because you are demonstrating, and you are trying to show your anger.”

Dokera criticized university officials for closing the institution.