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National Aids Commission pulls out funding for needy students

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Thousands of needy students risk dropping out of school as National Aids Commission (Nac) has finally stopped providing bursaries to the students across the country.

This comes a year after the commission trimmed bursary funding to the students in the 2015/16 academic year.

We have established that in the last three months Nac officials have been going to district councils informing them that the organisation is encountering funding hiccups and it will no longer be providing bursaries.

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The officials from some of the councils we contacted said Nac has told them it will only provide bursaries for the last group of form four students in the academic year 2016/2017 which has just started.

Random checks in some district councils have confirmed that the Nac officials went there to explain the new development during District Aids Coordinating Committee meetings (Dacc).

Since the opening of the 2016/2017 academic year on September 5, 2016, Chiradzulu District Social Welfare Office has already received over 100 bursary applications from needy students. This is in addition to the 547 students which were carried over from last academic year.

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“We tried to lobby the councillors to help us out from Constituency Development Fund but there has been no luck,” said Chiradzulu Assistant District Social Welfare Officer (DSWO) Patrick Supuni.

In Mulanje, they already have 1, 350 bursary applications and are still receiving applications.

DSWO for Mulanje Robert Sawiche said the district does not have any bursary funding for this academic year, adding that in the last academic year (2014/2015) only 20 students received a full bursary.

DSWO for Dedza Benjamin Kapuchi said the district has 243 students on the waiting list and it has received money amounting to MK1 million to pay for needy students in this academic year.

Last year we reported that over 3,871 needy secondary school students in Blantyre, Mulanje, Thyolo, Mangochi, Chiradzulu, Balaka, Dedza,

Dowa, Chikwawa, Neno, Mzimba, Nkhata Bay, Salima and Karonga were in need of education support.

Executive Director for Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec) Benedicto Kondowe said it is unfortunate that this is happening at a time Malawi’s economy is underperforming.

“This is an indication that we need a more sustainable bursary programme which should be managed through our national budget. I feel like Nac should have had a clear exit strategy to prepare learners and guardians,” he said.

Kondowe said everyone has the right to education and government has to reflect on the issue and see how it is going to help the stranded needy students.

Spokesperson for Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoeST) Lindiwe Chide said the ministry does not handle bursaries from Nac.

But she said the ministry has a bursary scheme with assistance from other partners such as Camfed and Unicef. This bursary covers about 24,000 learners.

“We have lots of learners who require this facility but we may not be able to reach all due to resource constraints. Therefore, we still are calling on partners to come to our assistance as far as scholarships/ bursaries are concerned,” she said.

Nac started providing bursaries in 2006, with funding from some pool funding partners and Global Fund.

Nac had not yet responded to our questions as we went to press.

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