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Civic education crisis as Nice scales down

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Efforts to civic educate Malawians on Covid vaccine issues, this month’s by-election, increasing cases of rape and defilement as well as mob justice have been dealt a major blow as National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Public Trust is scaling down its staff.

The Daily Times understands that the trust will only remain with 14 district civic education officers and one regional office.

Nice Board Chairperson Zolomphi Nkowani confirmed that the trust was downsizing, attributing the development to the end of one of the projects it has been implementing in the country.

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The project in question involves Nice and the European Union (EU) and ends in February 2022, according to the two parties’ contract agreement.

“Nice staff members have been on fixed term contracts based on EU project funding in cycles of five years. All staff members have been attached to the EU-funded projects and, every five years, the project comes to an end, like the situation is now, and staffing is reduced. When another cycle comes in, the staffing levels expand.

“In fact, we, realising this experience as a trust, lobbied government for subvention in 2018 so that Nice [work] could be sustainable. Following this, from 2019, Nice has been sub-vented and receives K500 million, which is by far inadequate to cover the huge wage bill of over K1 billion,” he said.

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Nkowani was quick to add that they were lobbying the government to increase funding levels so that, in future, cases of such challenges could be minimised.

“For the future, Nice is finalising a functional review that will determine the structure and government will be lobbied to fund Nice with or without donor funding in order to avoid the current situation. This will make Nice sustainable, project funding will be complementary and Nice will hire addition staff based on the need and demand,” he said.

Civic Education and Public Unity Minister Timothy Mtambo said it was worrisome that Nice had found itself in this predicament when the country needed it the most.

“Everything we are talking about now hinges on civic education. You talk of Covid vaccine [administration], you talk of the by-elections and cases of gender-based violence as well as mob justice. The answer to all that is civic education and Nice is key. Last year, we launched National Civic Education Policy and the main implementer is Nice. In fact, we should be talking of expanding Nice presence in the districts and not the opposite.

“We will be talking to the development partners for an extension of the agreement with Nice,” Mtambo said

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