The Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) has faulted some private schools for tying the provision of tuition fees to the supply of uniforms, groceries, books and other products, describing the practice as unfair.
However, Independent (Isama) has hit back at the commission, accusing it of failing to understand the education sector. Schools Association of Malawi
CFTC Executive Director Apoche Itimu indicated, in a statement released on Friday, that it had come to their attention that some schools were forcing learners to buy items such as uniforms as part of their continued association with the schools.
“The commission has previously received complaints alleging that some schools tend to force students to buy uniforms from the same school and they do not allow them to buy from alternative sources even when the uniform material is readily available on the market.
“Similar to this complaint, some schools have gone to the extent of restricting students from buying groceries from any other outlets except the school tuck-shop. Furthermore, the commission has received complaints alleging that some institutions of higher learning force students to buy books from their institution even when the same books are readily available on the market,” Itimu said.
Section 32(2)(d) of the Competition and Fair Trading Act prohibits traders from “making the supply of particular goods or services dependent upon the purchase of other goods or services from the supplier to the consignee”.
Itimu has asked learning institutions to desist from the practice.
“The commission will not hesitate to take necessary action to deal with education institutions that will be found engaging in tying or any other anticompetitive and/or unfair trading practice on the market,” Itimu said.
The development has not gone down well with Isama, whose president Wycliffe Chimwendo faulted CFTC for issuing the warning without consulting schools.
Chimwendo said CFTC should have done its homework to appreciate why schools provide things such as uniforms to learners.
“Uniforms, for example, are supposed to be uniform. If you let parents buy from elsewhere, you end up having a school which has students wearing uniforms that are not uniform. In that case, it’s chaotic.
“Similarly, schools have tuck shops to avoid cases where learners cover long distances to access basic needs such as food and pens. But we intend to engage them so that they can understand the education sector,” Chimwendo said.