Insults, witchcraft threats shut school in Nkhata Bay
By Sam Kalimira
Located in a hard-to-reach area in Traditional Authority Kabunduli in Nkhata Bay, Kauvi Primary School has on several occasions being rocked by bad blood between teachers and the communities.
This time, when insults and witchcraft threats flew, teachers decided to abandon the school altogether –unbeknown to the government.
For almost the entire third term, the school remained closed.
That left learners like Shida Mhango, 15, from Kandanzimu Village in the area contemplating dropping out of school altogether and get married instead.
She wants to stay in school but after Kauvi closed, her nearest alternatives include Kamwala Primary School, Phwechi Primary School and Kajiliro Primary School.
But Kamwala is 20 kilometres away from the village; Phwechi is 15 kilometres away from Kauvi and Kajiliro is 30 kilometres.
After all, in all her school life, Shida has been learning at Kauvi where she is in Standard 7.
The school was opened in 1985.
“We just learnt in the first week of this third term. Our teachers stopped teaching us saying they were on strike. Then, last week we were told that they have been transferred,” Shida said when we visited the area last week.
We visited the school at the time schools in the country were administering end of third term examination. There, we did not find teachers and learners as one would expect of a school.
We did meet two learners’ Willard Mkandawire, 14, and Glory Mphande, 15, both in Standard Seven at the school. But they were only studying.
Shida, Willard and Glory are among the hundreds of learners who were left stranded following the closure of Kauvi Primary School due to the disagreements between the communities and teachers.
Village Headman Kanyukuta disclosed that the disagreements this time started when some three drunken young people from Kajiliro area insulted the teachers at Kauvi, a development which made them down tools.
The boys were quizzed, they apologised and paid a fine of K60, 000 to the school.
However, according to the chief, things went haywire after the teachers demanded that the money be shared amongst themselves.
This was contrary to the school’s policy which stipulates that money generated from any misconduct connected to the school should be used for development activities at the school.
The school’s management committee chairperson Jovester Mwale said the teachers handed over the keys to his committee and five of the seven of them left.
He also disclosed that learners have not sat for end of year examinations.
Primary Education Advisor (Pea) for the zone, Simon Shaba, said he was aware of the misunderstandings between the teachers and communities. But he said he was not aware that the learning process had stopped and administration of end of year examinations has been affected.
Shaba said what he knows is that teachers have always wanted to move out of the school due to the misconduct of communities as well as witchcraft related threats — the matter which he said was reported to the district’s education office.
Nkhata Bay District Director of Education and Social Services Muhawi Chivunga said teachers that are deployed to Kauvi Primary School always complain about the ill-treatment they suffer at the hands of the communities.
He said the problem has been there for decades.
Chivunga said he has been engaging the communities on their behaviour but nothing is changing.
“Imagine that the headteacher lost his daughter and later some of the communities told him openly that they can bewitch him just as they did with his daughter. Does this community want teachers in their area?” Chivunga wondered.
He said none of the teachers at the school has received any transfer letters because there are no such plans.
But he said only the headteacher was deployed to another school after he had earlier complained about the ill-treatment he was going through.
He also said his office has not closed the school.
Darles Banda, a parent of three children at the school, said the community is moulding unproductive young people by encouraging bad behaviour against the teachers.
“We are pleading with the government to help us. We need our children to have access to education just like others in the country,” Banda said.
Ministry of Education Public Relations Officer Chikondi Chimala described the development as unfortunate.
He said the ministry, in conjunction with local education authorities and traditional leaders, are working at resolving the differences.
“The ministry is confident that all differences will be resolved so that the teachers work in a peaceful environment for the benefit of the children,” Chimala said.
Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec) Executive Director Benedicto Kondowe said what is happening at Kauvi is a demonstration of irresponsibility on the part of community leaders and local education office.
He said pupils staying the entire term without learning is a total violation of their right to education.
“This is punishing innocent learners. It is a total discrimination to a number of children because their friends in other schools were learning. This is not acceptable,” Kondowe said.
Sustainable Development Goal Number 4 focuses on inclusive and quality education for all.
The Kauvi case also runs contrary the Malawi 2063 agenda which underlines human capital development as a prerequisite for national development.