* It is our interpretation that you did it to disgrace and tarnish the image of the university
* Revoking an awarded degree is a serious matter that cannot be driven by emotions—Kondwanie Chirembo
* This is not an honorary degree and what she has committed is not an academic misconduct—Francis Chiumia
* It will just take one crazy lawyer to finish the university with a lawsuit—Kruger Bantuworld
By Duncan Mlanjira
The decision by Exploits University to revoke its graduate, Bridget Thapwile Soko’s degree after she publicly burnt her academic paper — which she posted on social media — has received a backlash from the public.
Soko filmed herself on TikTok burning her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (BBA), reportedly in frustration for not getting a job since she graduated some four years ago.
The video clip went viral on social media in which she said she decided to burn the degree and keep her marriage certificate instead — because no institution was giving her a job opportunity to engage her or even invite her for a job interview despite having a degree.
Her action annoyed Exploits University, which wrote Soko informing her of the revocation of the degree, saying it is their interpretation that she did it “to disgrace and tarnish the image of the university”.
The letter from the private university’s president, Desmond Bikoko — dated October 21 — says: “Consequently, you are no longer a graduate of Exploits University and as such your degree certificate is invalidated with immediate effect,” while also indicating that his “decision will also be made public through the media”.
But the public described Bikoko of being too reactive and that he did not even quote any of Exploits University’s statutes.
In his reaction on Facebook, Kondwani Chirembo was incredulous that Soko can decide to burn her degree out of frustration — “jokes or not — and the University that conferred it decides to revoke the awarded degree”.
“For me, the reaction of the University actually brings the institution into disrepute!” said Chirembo. “This was an opportunity for the university to show the country (and the world) that [the degree] is not as useless as the girl made it feel.
“Revoking an awarded degree is a serious matter that cannot be driven by emotions. This has been a big fail by the university if that letter is genuine.”
Francis Chiumia concurred with Chirembo, saying: “This is not an honorary degree and what she has committed is not an academic misconduct” while Kruger Bantuworld indicated that “it will just take one crazy lawyer to finish the university” with a lawsuit.
Schulbz van Koleka agreed to this, saying Soko “earned that degree and she can sue the University for this gross misconduct”.
Several others were of the option that the university should have engaged their graduate first — not just after seeing the video on social media, asking the question what if the one burning in the video was not the owner or it was not the degree itself but a substitute paper.
Edna Sewani said: “Two wrongs do not make a right. They should have reissued it and employed her in their Admin Dept” which Elia Mwalwanda agreed, saying: “If I were a top administrator at the University, I would have facilitated the employment of the destitute and frustrated female youth.”
Madalitso Makwandu said: “If indeed it’s true the revocation is genuine, then the university is more of a person as opposed to a well-regulated institution of higher education. The administrators themselves need to be sensored on their credentials.”
Edingtone Kavulala took cognizance that Soko was just frustrated since “her expections haven’t been achieved as per the assurance got from the institution” and that “to the contrary, the institution has joined her former student’s frustration by revoking the burnt certificate”.
“The school is a disgrace, how can the Senate call for a meeting discussing a minor thing like that one? The college is exposing it’s weaknesses!”
Others who came to her defence argued that Exploits University seems to be denying facts on the ground because Soko did not mention that her unemployment is due to the institution she attended — “it’s like a general reaction to high levels of unemployment in Malawi at large”.
As she burnt her degree, Soko sang alone saying: “manyazi agwire inu osandilemba ntchito (shame to those that are failing to employ me”) and not those who taught her.
Chris Chawawa said it is not only her but many other graduates from this institution that are failing to get jobs because most companies still don’t recognize it and that this was time the university’s marketing team to engage more companies so that it should be well known and be recognized.
University of Malawi (UNIMA) senior lecturer Henry Chingaipe joined the debate indicating that academic management “can only revoke in this way an Honorary degree — not an earned degree. An earned degree can only be revoked if evidence comes up much later that the bearer did not satisfy the requirements for the award.
“This is the case because a university degree only certifies that the candidate completed a study program at the university and met competence requirements for the award of the degree. It ends there.
For the young degree holders, Chingaipe advised them that “a degree is not a promissory note to anyone to give the bearer a job on demand — self application and initiative are key.
“Times are hard but the future belongs to the organized, the determined and those with a disciplined work ethic and approach. Take charge and responsibility for your lives.
Your education is important for many things. Using it to get a regular job is only one of them, albeit the most important one for a majority. But we live in a sluggish economy where even episodes of economic growth do not translate to jobs and the Government has a nondescript strategy for job creation.
“The few jobs available are allocated or accessed on the basis of things other than educational coalitions. In fair process, it is skills and education counts only to the extent that it has developed your specific skills.
“In most cases, it is social capital and networking where education may count for nothing. Mmm the political economy of employment in Malawi has it’s own strange logic.”
Chingaipe further urged policy makers to “get back to using direct state intervention and other policy instruments to get a functioning economy that creates decent jobs; reclaim the macroeconomic policy space from international capture and its destructive elements of the gospel of neoliberalism; and to discover education, merit and hard work as social mobility pathways rather than partisan politics, nepotism and all those other vices create dangerous divides among us”.
“So can the revocation be revoked? Universities should know better about degrees, shouldn’t they?” signed of Chingaipe.
KVing Njeru said: “Whether she did it out of jokes or it was real, it was wrong. It may not be an academic crime but surely she disrespected the school. Her video might be viewed by other people outside Malawi and many will also disrespect — not only her school — but schools in Malawi. I totally agree with her former school to revoke her academic paper.