Malawian students at the International Islamic University of Africa (IUA), Sudan has accused Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) of breaking their earlier promise to assist them on their concerns and have warned that they will petition Malawi Government over the plight they are facing at the university, Malawi Muslims Official Website can reveal.
On March 1, 2012, the MAM Chairman Sheikh Idrissa Muhammad while talking to Malawi Muslims Official Website called upon the students not to panic saying his organisation would try to come in and hunt for the much needed financial support to supplement what the Islamic Zakaat Fund (IZF) is offering.
Since last year, the students claim that they have been complaining to IZF that it should increase their monthly upkeep allowances to 400 Sudanese pounds but the officials only managed to increase from 100 to 200 pounds ($35) which they say is not enough to meet even a quarter of their needs.
Sheikh Idrissa who expressed ignorance about the students’ predicament said his organisation did not know anything about the issue until the website broke the story. He therefore promised to do anything possible to save the students from the bondage of the financial constraints they were going through.
“You mean they want to come back? What about their studies? No, that is pathetic indeed. Of course, MAM has no money but will try to get in touch with some donors whom I hope will be in a position to help urgently,” said the chairman.
Open Letter to MAM
However, six months down the line, the students claim that MAM has not been able to meet its promise and has since written an open letter to the mother-body threatening to complain to Malawi government authorities.
“We, Malawian students at International [Islamic] University of Africa, Sudan last time we submitted our problems there (MAM) as the parent to all Islamic organisations…but you have assisted us with nothing. We told you about food that we are eating (rice with pumpkins as lunch and a bun as dinner). We also told you about the issue of medication, as we are saying; we are receiving 12 dollars each per year as money for medication but all these seem to be Ok with you that is why you are quite.
“Since you can’t do anything with our petition, we would like to tell you our next step. We are planning to submit all our problems to the government may be they can help. We are going to tell them how we are living here. We are also going to include photos as evidence,” reads part of the strong letter sent to MAM, which Malawi Muslims Official Website is in possession.
In his remarks, MAM’s Secretary General Sheikh Dr Salmin Omar confirmed that they received the ‘warning’ letter but said they have not ignored the students’ request as they have already scheduled a meeting with IZF officials to see the way forward.
“We want to hear both sides and see what we can do to help the struggling students but that does not mean that we have ignored their request. The meeting was supposed to take place today (September 20), but due to the other inconveniences, it has been shifted to a later date,” said Sheikh Dr Salmin Omar.
The Secretary General has since asked the students to be patient hoping that their problems will be solved soon once they get hold of IZF officials.
IZF Rebuffs the threats
However, in an exclusive interview with the Malawi Muslims Official Website, IZF’s Director Muhammad Osman rebuffed the students’ threats describing them as meaningless and counter-productive.
“What are they going to achieve by tarnishing the image of Islam to the non-Muslims?” wondered Osman. “I think their threats are ill-conceived and we know that there are only a few students who are causing all the confusion.”
Osman explained that the IUA has students from over 94 countries in the world and it is strange that it is only students from Malawi who are complaining about their welfare.
“Whether they are from China, from Pakistan, from America or from Africa, the students are given the same food and the same accommodation…..unless if they were complaining that they (Malawian students) are being discriminated against, which is not the case, then we could have taken up the issue with the University’s authorities,” he explained.
While not denying that the monthly allowances given to the students may not be enough for their upkeep, Osman said that IZF cannot manage to meet all the students’ demands since their budget is limited and only depends on zakaat contributions from the Muslim public.
“But other students have been able to get financial compliments from other Muslim organisations while others receive some money from their parents,” he added, “and you will be surprised to learn that some students are actually sending money to their relatives back home in Malawi.”
He has since challenged that any student who feels betrayed, can pack up their bags and return home while IZF will simply replace them with education thirsty students who failed to get a chance to go there in the first place.
“But they should get their own return ticket, because IZF will only give them after graduation and not otherwise.”
Studying in Sudan
The Islamic Zakaat Fund is a Muslim Non-Governmental Organisation that among other things offers full scholarships to needy students in Malawi to study at various international universities. Currently, there are about 300 students benefiting from this program in Uganda, Zanzibar and Sudan and there are about 116 students studying in Sudan alone.
In Sudan, the University offers free tuition, meals, accommodation and medical to sponsored students, with IZF contributing for registration, stationery, pocket money and emergency medical only.
It is this kind gesture from the University that is encouraging IZF to send more students to Sudan and even the quality of education is high compared to other universities where they sponsor students like in Uganda and Zanzibar.
According to Muhammad Osman, a graduate from IUA comes home a complete da’ee unlike from the other universities.
“There is a wide range of courses that are available in Sudan than the other Islamic universities…. (IUA) has produced outstanding personalities in the world….and you cannot become a graduate from the University without memorising at least five juz’u from the Holy Qur’an…..”
Enough is enough
On the contrary, the concerned students are not amused with all that and have since hinted that this time around they will lodge their complaints directly to the government.
“… We want to let the government know how its citizens are dying here… We know that our government is not Islamic and people in high positions few are Muslims. This is the main reason why we were trying to hide everything to them because we were afraid that they would insult Islam… But this time around we don’t have any option, and wallah we are going to do it,” threatened the students.
Muslim Association of Malawi is yet to make an official statement on the matter regarding the outcome of their discussions with the Islamic Zakaat Fund.