More money, more problems in education sector


Early this month, Finance, Economic Planning and Development Minister, Joseph Mwanamvekha, unveiled a K1.7 trillion 2019/2020 budget at the National Assembly in Lilongwe. In the budget, which members of Parliament (MPs) are yet to pass, the education sector has been allocated K172.8 billion, representing 2.7 percent of Gross Domestic Product. The amount represents an increase of 21.5 percent from the approved budget of K142.2 billion in 2018/19 financial year. In that financial year, it was also the highest allocation. But as REBECCA CHIMJEKA and MACDONALD THOM recently found out, despite getting the lion’s share, the education sector remains one of the pitiable sectors, which needs urgent attention.

Talk that the sector leads in sectoral budget allocation seems untrue.

A visit to Simbi Community Day Secondary School (CDSS) in Dowa District reveals it all.


It is not surprising, therefore, that more voices are calling for a lasting solution to such challenges in the education sector.

Louise Ndinda, a Form Four learner at the school, says they experience many challenges.

“At home, I am busy with household chores. This makes me to be late for classes. I always miss first lessons. I cannot go to school early in the morning as I fear that thugs can attack me,” Ndinda says.


Ndinda, who aspires to be a teacher, complains that lack of a laboratory and library at the school affects learning.

The 16-year-old girl is not the only one struggling to access quality education.

Jonam Kambola, another Form Four learner at the school, covers six kilometres to get to the school.

He uses a bicycle but this has its own challenges.

“It becomes extremely difficult when the bicycle I use needs to be repaired. I arrive at the school very tired and it is very hard to concentrate on my studies,” he says.

Taona Mithi was the only female teacher at the school who used to travel daily from Madisi to teach.

She has recently moved to another school. But she remembers how hard it was travelling to Simbi CDSS.

She says learners through the same routine. She was lucky that she was using a bicycle.

But most earners walk. She says it is not surprising that dropout rate, especially among girls is high.

School committee chairperson, Mathias Lewa, says since the school opened its doors in 1995, there has been little progress in all aspects.

“We started the school in 1995 with only one classroom block. Members of the community are trying their best to make children access education. We have tried to build classroom blocks and teachers houses. However, the classrooms are not enough; they do not have laboratories and we do not have girls’ hostels,” Lewa says.

The situation at Simbi CDSS is just an indicator of why delivery of quality education is just a dream in these schools.

In July, in the first meeting of the 48th Session of Parliament, some MPs sought Education Ministry’s intervention on the plight of learners and teachers in the schools.

Lilongwe Kumachenga MP, Marko Ching’onga asked Education, Science and Technology Minister, William Susuwele Banda, to consider constructing a new CDSS at Mbavi.

He said students there walk long distances to access secondary education as Mpando CDSS or Chitedze CDSS are far away from the area.

According to Ching’onga, the new school would ease the hurdles experienced by learners who complete primary education at Mbavi, Lingadzi and Mtokale primary schools.

Rumphi Central MP, Chidumba Mkandawire, raised a similar question. He asked the Education Ministry to consider constructing a secondary school at Mjuma, saying that zone of the constituency lacks a secondary school.

He said girls travel long distances to access education.

Mulanje Bale MP, Victor Musowa, also raised similar concerns.

He wants the Education Ministry to consider constructing Ntepuwa Secondary School which the government promised in 2016.

He further asked the government to consider constructing a laboratory at Satemwa and Dzenje community day secondary schools.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 eyes inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

One of the targets is to ensure that by 2030, all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.

The situation in the country’s schools obviously raises doubts on the achievement of the goal.

Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC) Executive Director, Benedicto Kondowe, says it is sad the education sector continues to struggle despite getting more resources than any sector in recent national budgets.

“The ministry had the lion’s share, and the money was supposed to go to a number of areas, including CDSSs. It is sad that these schools are being neglected. What is happening there is a clear indication that the school is not benefitting much from intervention the government is putting in place to promote education,” Kondowe says.

The government recently rolled out a new curriculum, which encourages the learning of science subjects.

According to Kondowe, it is sad that the government is not doing enough to promote such subjects.

“If you go to community day secondary schools, you will find that there are no laboratories. The question that can be asked is: ‘What type of education are you offering in CDSSs?’ The type of education being offered there is not giving the learners the skills that will turn them into productive citizens,” he says.

In last year’s selection to institutions of higher learning, 53 percent of the selected students were from the government conventional boarding schools, 33 percent from private schools while 14 percent were from CDSSs.

Kondowe says looking at the trend, the government was supposed to put in place measures to improve teaching and learning in the community secondary schools.

“School dropout rate is high. That is not surprising because when you look at the distance which learners cover to access education, it is too long. That becomes a big challenge to girls. Some learners have to cover 20 kilometres to get to school. Who can manage that distance on a daily basis?” Kondowe says.

He adds: “When we are talking about quality education, it shouldn’t just be mere talk. We should walk the talk.”

SAIDI— We are building hostels

But Secretary for Education, Science and Technology, Justin Saidi, says the government is aware of the challenges experienced in CDSSs.

He says the government is doing a lot in making the teaching and learning environment conducive.

“We are aware that since free primary education was introduced in 1994, many community day secondary schools have been opened. Some were built without necessary facilities like laboratories and libraries. The ministry is working to build such facilities. Currently, we are in 29 sites. It is an ongoing process and we will continue doing so,” he says.

He also says with support from the Japanese International Corporation Agency (Jica), the government has either rehabilitated or constructed new CDSSs with relevant amenities.

He said all the 21 schools under the project have libraries and laboratories.

“Being a science-based curriculum, as a ministry, we noted that not all schools have laboratories. We made it a point to procure mobile laboratories to various community day secondary schools, as they are waiting for construction of the laboratories,” he says.

Saidi has said although initially most teachers in CDSSs had primary school teaching qualifications, in recent recruitment, the government deployed graduates to the schools.

He also says measures have been put in place to reduce distance learners walk to school.

“We are also aware of challenges girls face in accessing education, particularly walking long distances. As a Ministry, we are building hostels, particularly for girls so that they are closer to the schools and concentrate on their studies,” he says.

He also says the government would soon roll out a project of constructing 250 new secondary schools, emphasizing that each of the country’s 193 constituencies will have at least one school.

He adds that the government, with support from the World Bank, will construct 100 CDSSs.

One can only hope that such intervention would ease the challenges which learners continue to face despite that the ministry gets a lion’s share of the national budget.

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