Government is breathing a sigh of relief over the future of the (MUST) after the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organisation (Unesco) pledged that it will partly meet the cost for rolling out the university.
The announcement was made on Thursday evening after President Joyce Banda held talks with Unesco Director General Irina Bokova who was on a three-day official visit to the country.
Government has been failing to open the controversial Chinese-constructed university due to funding problems with Treasury failing to source funds to recruit staff, develop a curriculum and other operational matters like furniture.
The late president Bingu wa Mutharika relocated the university from Lilongwe to his private Ndata Farm in Thyolo. Following his sudden death from cardiac arrest last year work on the university stalled.
President Banda reportedly requested financial and technical support from the United Nations agency for MUST and other public universities.
Speaking to the press after the talks, Bokova said her agency will explore ways to help government fulfil its vision of constructing five universities, including the already completed MUST.
“We are making a commitment to support curriculum and staff development for the University of Science and Technology. Unesco will soon be presenting a new initiative for supporting African universities and Malawi will be among those. Malawi government has an ambitious plan to establish five universities by 2016,” she said, adding:
“We welcome the initiative and we would like to promote science and intangible culture education particularly at the science and technology university.”
Bokova also saluted the leadership of President Banda, saying from the on-set of her rule she has delivered on pledges of reforms that are stimulating economic recovery.
Unesco and Malawi will explore ways of partnering in girls’ education and eliminating gender-based violence. Currently Unesco is already supporting a programme to encourage girls’ participation in sciences and mathematics.
She also said she discussed media freedom issues and future of Unesco support to community radio stations in the country, among others. Minister of Education Eunice Kazembe said government was delighted by the pledges of support on MUST and other areas of cooperation.
“It was our intention to open MUST during the current financial year but we are facing some challenges. The President asked Unesco for support, especially as this our first ever university of science and technology,” she said, adding:
“The President has strong interest in ensuring number of girls going to universities increases so they also discussed on ways to promote gender equality and how culture can be used to promote women in our society.”
While in the country, Bokova presided over the launch of Phase 2 of a capacity building project on education for all, an initiative which will see technical and vocational skills imparted on teachers across the country.