By Chogmezgo Mkandawire
Timveni investigations have unearthed startling upshots on the challenges that young higher education students face in the country, with some forced to engage in piece works just to stay in school.
Hundreds of students are also dropping out of both public and private universities due to fees challenges and failure to secure loans to support their education.
Out of desperation, some students, especially girls, are on record to have engaged in promiscuous activities to earn fast cash.
To put the issue into perspective, Timveni did a case study of the African Bible College (ABC) in Lilongwe.
The institution has not been spared from the aforementioned challenges.
With some students dropping out and others being stuck in the maze of uncertainty over their academic future, piece works have become a mirror of hope for some fortunate students.
The administration at ABC deliberately made efforts to introduce jobs on campus in order to assist needy students so that they should earn something for their upkeep.
Both male and female students carry out diverse roles in several departments. Some work as cleaners, security guards, librarians and others work at the schools clinic.
However, some students still struggle as the money they get paid is not enough to meet all their needs.
Speaking with Timveni Online, a second-year student at the college, Tupochere Chasowa, said she took a job at the college after consulting her family on how she could find other ways of funding her education.
Chasowa is one of the students that work as receptionists at the clinic.
She further said even though she has the privilege to work on campus, this has affected her education as it is often hard to balance between being a student and an employee as sometimes she misses out on group discussions and studies.
Socially, she has also been affected as she hardly interacts with friends.
In addition, Chasowa says she feels drained from her tight schedule.
Wisdom Madimbo is a student who works as a guard and admits he nearly quit his studies after being overwhelmed by everything.
Madimbo has told Timveni that he does not get enough therefore he sells soft drinks on campus to pay for some academic expenses.
He usually studies while on duty at night and goes straight to class after knocking off in the morning.
The ABC Students Union has not been passive in all this.
Several fundraising initiatives have been held to support needy students, but they usually end up flopping.
Emmanuel Malaidza is the president of the Students Union and has asked well-wishers all over the country to help out in raising funds for needy students in all colleges in Malawi.
When Timveni requested for information on the number of students that are doing piece works on campus, ABC Registrar Mcally Chinganamuno said he will comment on the matter later.
Despite all these challenges and the dropping out of hundreds of students annually on financial grounds, the Higher Education Students Loans and Grants Board says it has paid out over MWK 5 Billion to students that are pursuing higher education in various public and private institutions of higher learning in the country.
The boards acting Executive Director, Prince Phwetekere, says a number of institutions across the nation have been granted finances in order to assist needy students.
Some records indicate that On 11th April, 2022, ABC was paid about MWK20 Million for second semester tuition fees for 37 students.
In Malawi, some of the schools that have been granted the loans include Domasi Teachers College, Catholic University, Blantyre International University, Daeyang University and DMI St John the Baptist University.
Furthermore, Phwetekere says while the number of applicants continues to grow, loan recoveries have been a challenge.
According to a loans board list on financing per student per academic year, one student at a public university gets an average of MWK420 000 for tuition and MWK350, 000 for upkeep. This means on average, the government spends about MWK750 000 on a student per academic year.
Recently, over 100 LUANAR-NRC students and hundreds of others at MUBAS sounded an SOS on tuition fees. Some dropped out.