By Feston Malekezo & Vyalema Kaluluma-Phiri:
Where there is a will there is a way! This is the inspiration that, for over eight years, has been driving communities around Chambidzi Community Day Secondary School (CDSS), Traditional Authority Dambe, in Mchinji District.
In 2010, the communities took a bold step to relocate the secondary school after noting that the area where the school was only had one classroom block.
Chambidzi CDSS Head teacher, Davie Mwasiya, recounts that the community at Mazenga, could not even produce a brick in a period of more than 12 years.
“This school was established way back in 1998 in Mazenga Village. By then, the campus had only one classroom block with two classes. Efforts to engage the community around the school to initiate different developments that would see the school campus grow did not yield results,” Mwasiya says.
Ponye Village stands at a distance of close to five kilometers from Mazenga Village.
“The new site had no structure because, by then, it was all bushy. Students were, for some months, studying together with Kapiri Primary School learners until the community managed to construct one school block with two classes and an administration block,” Mwasiya, who joined the school in 2010, says.
In 2011, the community ventured into irrigation farming to raise more funds for the school projects.
Tancy Sumaili, the school’s Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) chairperson, says the genesis of the programme followed interventions by ActionAid Malawi which donated soybean seeds to Chambidzi Mother Group to support girls’ education.
“ActionAid Malawi in 2011 gave us soybean seeds to invest in farming. But this was done midway through the farming season so we decided to start irrigation. The money realised was being channelled to girls’ education and school projects,” Sumaili said.
The community’s efforts were revamped as, later, ActionAid Malawi joined the community in the construction of an additional classroom block of two classes. The organisation pumped K6 million in the school block project which started in 2011 and was completed by 2012.
The fruits of the community’s labour bore two classroom blocks, a temporary library, two teachers’ houses and an administration block.
Chambidzi, which started with 120 students in 1998, now has an enrollment of about 333 students.
However, as the communities were contemplating other projects, which included another teacher’s house and a girls’ hostel, their wings were chopped.
According to the school’s management committee, the introduction of free secondary education is a setback to development.
Effective January this year, the government abolished tuition fees, Textbook Revolving Fund (TRF) and General Purpose Fund (GPF) in all public secondary schools in Malawi.
In this case, the students are exempted from paying K1,500 as tuition fees in a year, K1,500 for GPF and an annual contribution of K250 for TRF which translates to K3,250.
But spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Lindiwe Chide, maintains that abolishing fees in secondary schools will not affect schools’ operations because the government will apparently be funding the secondary schools in due course.
As at now, the government is funding public secondary schools with money amounting to K403,500 per quarter.
While saying all the development funds would still be collected, Chide warned that no child should be sent home from school for failing to pay the funds.
“Statistics have shown that, of the many reasons why learners drop out of secondary schools or fail to report after being selected, the majority cited lack of school fees.
“In the spirit of empowering people of Malawi through education as stipulated in the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy but also in line with the global agenda of ensuring education is inclusive for all [Sustainable Development Goal number 4] government removed these fees to ensure that each child in Malawi accesses secondary education,” Chide said.
At least 14,000 students are on bursary scheme supported by United Nations Children Fund (Unicef) and the government.
Unicef Malawi’s Chief of Education and Adolescents, Kimanzi Muthengi, says there is need to seriously look into ways that would ensure that development funds are not deterrent to students’ academic participation.
“Removing fees is just one part of making sure that more students attend secondary education. I believe that the next thing we should be looking at is how best we can make development funds affordable to most families so that more children attain secondary education,” Muthengi says.
Statistics at Ministry of Education, Science and Technology show that there are 867 public secondary schools, of which 733 are CDSSs and 25 are national secondary schools with 21 being grant-aided schools and four government secondary schools.
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