Opposition fights in vain for education
Opposition Members (MPs) of Parliament Tuesday fought in vain for an increase in the budget allocation to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
The recurrent and development estimates for the ministry have been reduced from K114.75 billion to K114.3 billion, but according to the opposition, the education sector was in fact supposed to enjoy a rise in its allocation.
And while Minister of Finance, Goodall Gondwe, said additional funds could not be allocated to the ministry due to the absence of ready plans, his counterpart in the Ministry of Education, Emmanuel Fabiano, said some projects have stalled due to inadequate funding.
Many opposition MPs argued that if there was a vote whose allocation was supposed to be increased, then it was the Ministry of Education.
Said MP for Dedza East, Juliana Lunguzi: “There are things like the [State House] banquet hall. The teacher-pupil ratio in this country is high and the reduction in the education allocation is going to further breed inequalities.”
This was reiterated by many other lawmakers including MPs for Salima North West Jessie Kabwila and Mzimba North Agnes Nyalonje who is also deputy chairperson of the Parliamentary Education Committee.
However, Gondwe continued defending the reduction to the Ministry, a thing which irked MP for Mangochi Monkey Bay Ralph Jooma who accused the government side of not getting on board proposals from the opposition.
“[The government side] is big-headed. If they are not willing to take our suggestions, then let’s not debate this at all,” charged Jooma, but he was asked to withdraw the term ‘big-headed’ after First Deputy Speaker Esther Mcheka- Chilenje ruled that it was unparliamentary.
After the disagreements on the education vote got intense, Leader of Opposition Lazarus Chakwera proposed that the vote should be deferred.
However, Gondwe objected to the deferment such that the government and opposition sides were forced into a vote process which saw the government side winning by 80 votes to 55 votes with 54 MPs absent and three opting not to vote.
Government’s victory on the allocation meant the vote had passed. However, opposition MPs took their frustrations to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs allocation which has been increased from K13.4 billion to K15.1 billion. The vote still passed.
By the time we went to press, Parliament had passed at least 11 votes. On Monday, they passed three votes and deferred three others which included the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) and the State Residences votes.
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