[LILONGWE] A Malawi parliament member has demanded an explanation for why the government has made no progress with Lilongwe's science and technology university promised since 2004.
Congress Party member Willard Gwengwe, chair for the parliamentary committee on industry, commerce, tourism, science and technology, made his comments in parliament last week (8 March).
He told SciDev.Net that the major problem is that there has been a lot of discussions about the university's construction, but no visible physical action.
"My intention was to remind government that it is time we had tangible results and action on the ground and not mere rhetoric," he says, adding that the location should have been decided by now, and the government should be giving the public frequent updates on developments.
But Zachary Mark Kasomekere, chair of the Lilongwe University of Science and Technology working committee, claims that remarkable progress has been made.
He told SciDev.Net that major developments include the establishment of a secretariat for the University, and its inclusion in the national budget.
The committee has also narrowed which areas of science and technology that the university could specialise in and possible campus locations for the government to consider.
"Two places have been identified in Lilongwe and the working committee is waiting for satellite maps of the two places in order to determine the comparative advantages and disadvantages so the government can make a final decision," said Kasomekere.
"We are setting up links with other science and technology universities both regionally and internationally to learn how other institutions were established," he added.
Kasomekere indicated that memorandum of understanding could be set up with other institutions to guide staff exchanges.
"A draft act for the science university will soon be tabled in parliament for legislators to approve," he said.
Kasomekere's remarks differ from comments made by the former science and technology minister Khumbo Chirwa, who told SciDev.Net in 2005 that the university will be created by converting and upgrading facilities at Lilongwe Technical College and the Natural Resources College, also in Lilongwe (see Malawi announces plans to boost science).
In a related development, the treasury today (13 March) announced a tripling of funding for science and technology projects in Malawi from around US$250,000 to US$US673,000. The move follows reports that some planned activities would have to be shelved due to lack of funds (see Shortfall in science spending cripples Malawi's plans).
Henry Mbedza, director of science and technology in Malawi welcomed the increased funding. He said the science ministry would soon hold a management meeting to decide future plans.
Kedron Chisale, the ministry's spokesperson, said, "We will have to look back at our planned activities and ensure that we give them the financial resources they deserve."