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Malawi government undecided on school fees

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Three days before schools open for the second term of 2015- 2016 academic year, government is yet to decide on whether the school fees should be maintained or raised as per its earlier decision.

The second term, which begins on Monday January 4, 2016, was earmarked for the implementation of the fees hike.

In September 2015, government announced fees hike which saw fees for national secondary schools pegged at K85, 000, K35, 000 for district secondary schools and K11, 000 for community day Secondary schools. Tertiary institution students were required to pay between K190,000 and K280,000 without government allowances.

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In an interview on Thursday, Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Emmanuel Fabiano, said ministry officials are currently on holiday and the statement on the issue will be released after the holiday.

“We will only be able to release information on that issue next week. But for now, people are on holiday,” Fabiano said.

Ironically, a snap check shows that schools are still holding on to the raised fees circular.

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Member of Parliament for Salima Central, Felix Jumbe, who moved a motion that successfully stopped government from implementing hiked fees in public secondary schools and tertiary institutions until the economic situation improves, has said the expectations are that schools will not execute raised fees on Monday.

Jumbe moved a motion for the postponement of the hike with an argument that it would be unfair for the government to raise fees at a time many Malawians are experiencing hunger and financial challenges.

In an interview on Thursday, Jumbe said it would be unrealistic for the government, that is failing to sustain itself economically, to demand more from the citizenry that is equally struggling economically.

“If you ask the government to fund a certain project today, they will tell you that they have no money. So, it is the same thing with people. I don’t think it is fair to excessively demand from people what they cannot afford. The people of Malawi are getting impoverished at a very high rate and raising school fees in the current situation cannot be justified,” Jumbe said.

He said the point for not raising the fee is that people are too poor yet education is important.

“Of course there are some people who do not accept reality. But the reality is, even if they raise the fees, some people will not be able to report for their studies. Maybe, it will be easy for the sons and daughters of ‘cashgaters’. But original Malawians, who work and get money out of integrity, will be unable to raise money for the hiked fees,” he said.

While saying the matter was not discussed within the committee, Chairperson for the Parliamentary Committee on Education, Elias Chakwera, also said it is expected that the government will adhere to what the parliamentarians agreed on revised fees.

“As a committee, we did not meet on that issue but the matter was discussed in the chamber and the view of the Parliament is that the timing is wrong and what was agreed is that the government should postpone the hike until the situation improves.

“Therefore, the expectation is that people will adhere to that, and the government will adhere to that, especially in public institutions. The motion came in Parliament and was approved,” Chakwera said.

During the debate in Parliament, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Samuel Tembenu, said parliamentarians went beyond their mandate in passing the motion.

Just after the fee hike decision was made, Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec) Executive Director, Benedicto Kondowe, said the government was justified to raise the fees given the current economic status, but needed to be careful on the magnitude of the increase.

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