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Ombudsman to audit PSLCE selection list

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Martha Chizuma

Office of the Ombudsman will investigate how the 2019/20 secondary school selection was done.

According to the 2019/20 Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education (PLSCE) results, 225,387 candidates passed the examination out of 277,007 candidates that sat the examination. This represents 81.37 percent, the country’s best results in five years.

In the preceding year, 77.46 percent of the candidates passed.

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Out of 135,478 female candidates that sat the examination, 104,781 passed, representing 77.34 percent pass rate. On the other hand, out of the 141,529 male candidates that sat the examination, 120,606 passed, representing 85.22 percent pass rate.

A total of 84,947 candidates, or 37.73 percent of those that passed, have been selected to start form one in secondary schools— which means 140,440 eligible students have been left out.

But, following criticism that the Northern Region has produced fewer students to  national secondary schools than other regions, the Ministry of Education announced in a statement Sunday that the Ombudsman would investigate the issue.

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The statement notes that after the release of the PSLCE results, there has been doubts on the fairness of selection of 1,860 students to national secondary schools, with others speculating that the government used quota system.

“The investigation/audit by the Office of the Ombudsman will review in detail the events and processes involved in the examination results and secondary school selection process of the 2019/20 school year.

“The audit report is expected to be available in four months to ensure any appropriate changes can be made for future examination and selection processes,” the statement, which Education Ministry Principal Secretary Chikondano Mussa has signed, reads.

The assignment comes at a time Office of the Ombudsman has other outstanding issues on its plate, including inquiries into alleged cases of mal-administration in parastatals.

However, Ombudsman Martha Chizuma Mwangonde said this was attainable.

“We discussed this with the Ministry [of Education] before they came public. We told them that we will need three months for us to conclude the assignment. We said we will start early weeks of February because we believe we shall have disposed of some of the assignments we have,” she said.

In the ministry’s statement, Mussa also says an independent expert group would be convened to undertake a multi-year analysis of PSLCE examination results.

She also said a special fund of K1billion would be created to improve the quality of community day secondary schools in the country.

Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition in Parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa has described the situation as sad, claiming that some officials are out to serve the interests of learners from other regions at the expense of learners based in the Northern Region.

“For example, how can the government select only one Chitipa District learner to a national secondary school when there are 1,800 spaces available while Lilongwe Rural West Constituency alone is sending over 13 learners to one national secondary school?” he queried.

Civil Society Education Coalition Executive Director Benedicto Kondowe has demanded that the selection list be suspended at least until the audit by the Office of the Ombudsman is done.

“The statement from the Ministry of Education is saying the report will inform future examination and selection process but what about now? If the audit finds that the process was flawed, what remedies will be made available to those who have been discriminated against. This also happened two years ago and government then said it was not going to suspend the selection but look at how to improve the situation and today they are saying the same thing,” he said.

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