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Amitofo stirs hornet’s nest

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Amitofo Care Centre’s decision to send 18 children to Taiwan without government consent has stirred a hornet’s nest.

The organisation, which is based at Mapanga in Chiradzulu, last week sent the children aged between 15 and 21 years to Taiwan without government approval.

Malawi News witnessed the departure of the children -14 boys and four girls – at Chileka International Airport at 12 noon on Wednesday, September 9.

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The organisation says the children are on a scholarship to study in various fields in Taiwanese universities.

But Malawi News can reveal that despite that the move has not been sanctioned by the government, the said scholarships have come under question as the children do not have university entry qualifications.

Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Principal Secretary, Mary Shaba, said her ministry did not authorise the trip.

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“Before children leave the country, the procedure is that I authorise the trip. As of now, I am not aware of that trip because I would have issued an authorisation letter,” she said.

Shaba added, “Before children leave, we conduct an investigation and write a case report which recommends the children to go or not, but in this case nothing of that sort has been done.”

The children involved came from Zomba, Chiradzulu, Machinga, Blantyre, Phalombe and Chikwawa districts.

And while Amitofo claims to have written social welfare offices in all those districts about the trip, Zomba District Social Welfare, Joseph Kalelo, said they were not communicated.

However, Amitofo Child Social Welfare, Symon Magombo, said they also sent a letter to the ministry responsible.

“We first wrote all District Social Welfare offices where the children are coming from and the letter we wrote to the ministry was delivered. Maybe, it is yet to be in the hands of the PS [Principal Secretary],” said Magombo.

He claimed that the children had graduated from its Yuan Tong Secondary School located at Amitofo after completing Form Four.

According to the centre, the children had applied for scholarships in Taiwan-based universities and the centre only facilitated the trip.

They also say they summoned parents and guardians of the children concerned to explain to them about the trip and seek their approval for the children to travel.

However, one of the concerned parents, Kalonga Boli from Nsomba Village, Traditional Authority Mwambo in Zomba, expressed reservations with the trip.

“Of course, they summoned us to a meeting where I filled a form. My son just called me to say preparations for the Taiwan trip had been finalised.

“However, I have been wondering that if Amitofo really wants to help these children, why they don’t accommodate them in local universities instead of sending them abroad?” questioned Boli whose 18-year old son has made the trip.

Boli said he asked Amitofo authorities to provide him with information of the outline of the courses the children would be studying but the centre did not.

“I am also questioning on the kind of university scholarship policy that allows a Junior Certificate holder to start pursuing for a degree,” said Boli.

His son is a JCE holder and is waiting for 2014 MSCE results.

The children are expected to stay in Taiwan for five years. Last year, the institution also sent four boys to Taiwan where they would stay for four years.

Amitofo Care Centre is an International NGO registered with the Malawi government to provide care and support to orphans and other vulnerable children.

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