The back-to-school season is here and thousands of learners are excited to be back in class to continue with their academic journey.
Some are embarking on a completely new journey of secondary school life after successfully conquering the Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education examinations.
Others are entering college with the hope of securing the much needed professional qualifications in anticipation of a life they always dream of.
It is always exciting as a child to see your parents and guardians going all out getting you ready for the school year ahead; at least, that is what I felt back in the days.
The reality, however, out here is that not every child has such a privilege for various reasons.
If you are an ardent user of Facebook and Twitter like I am, you will agree that in recent weeks, people’s timelines have been flooded with posts of schoolgirls and boys seeking help with school fees, uniforms and other requirements.
Some of the learners we are told are orphans; coming from child-headed households; others are being raised by a single parent, and at times have both parents alive but living in abject poverty such that they cannot afford anything for their wards.
What is happening is that these children resort to asking for alms, banking their hopes on well-wishers to help them attain an education.
When that happens, luckily, we see men and women coming through for such smart students in want, assuming the responsibility of their government which we all trusted to accord every child access to quality and equitable education regardless of their social status.
Some women social media groups have gone as far as adopting a leaner each year, contributing a minimum of K2,000 each a month just to see their benefactors attain an education.
Need I talk of university girls and boys we see offering themselves for any casual work in people’s homes, in desperation to eke a little something for their upkeep in school?
Though I applaud the goodwill of all Malawians that come through for such needy students, the truth of the matter is that this is not sustainable.
It seems to me there are vulnerable children everywhere; who is looking out for them?
Clearly, these are children falling victim to a broken system which has over time rendered itself dysfunctional and useless to the people it is meant to serve.
These are children being raised in a depressed economy, where microeconomic indicators continue to deteriorate each passing day.
This is a system that is unable to support their parents and guardians so that they are able to earn substantial livelihoods for survival.
Your guess is as good as mine, that in an economic crisis like what Malawi is going through now, it is impossible to expect parents to prioritise education for their children.
You do not expect a parent who is struggling to bring food to the table to have anything to spend on their child’s education.
The Covid pandemic has worsened the burden, the shambolic Affordable Inputs programme, is nothing but an overrated scam perpetuating the suffering of vulnerable households.
All am saying, good people, is that the education challenges Malawi is experiencing today are tied to the country’s governance and economic policies which are seemingly very slow at yielding any results.
And now that government is aware of the problem, may it rise to the occasion and start fixing some of the challenges that directly affect the Malawian learner.
I personally would like to see a vibrant government bursary system targeting all needy students selected to secondary schools in all the districts.
Since it is clear that the Higher Education Students’ Loans and Grants Board is failing to live to its billing of providing accessible and affordable loans and grants to deserving students pursuing higher education in Malawi, government scholarships should save the day.
After all, such programmes were there in the former years, tried and tested; before some selfish and unpatriotic individuals decided to infiltrate the system and messed with the future of mother Malawi.