By Justin Mkweu & Mathews Kasanda
The National Planning Commission (NPC) has estimated that the social cost of closing schools will be around K3.8 trillion ($5.2 billion) the present value of income loss for 6 million children over the next 50 years
In a document assessing the medium and long-term impacts of a moderate lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic in Malawi: ‘NPC urged that closing schools for nine months means that each child will receive nine months less education.
“This will make each child less productive in their adult years. In total, it is estimated that the social cost of closing schools for Malawi will be around K3.8 trillion ($5.2 billion) – the present value of income loss for 6 million children over the next 50 years.
“Given that the benefits from school closure cannot result in a higher number of deaths avoided than what would come from moderate social restrictions (6,800 deaths), the maximal benefit from this policy would be K168 billion ($228 million). This means that on current knowledge, a policy of school closures will leave Malawi much worse off with a net social cost of around K3.7 billion ($5 billion),” reads part of the document.
NPC has since recommended that government should reopen schools as the cost of the closure is graver than the pandemic it is trying to avoid.
“In the presence of school closures, authorities might consider non-face-to face education modes for all school-going children to avert the opportunity cost of reduced future productivity of students especially for the girl child in a country where early marriages affect 42 percent of girls,” reads part of the statement.
Given that the benefits from school closure cannot result in a higher number of deaths avoided than what would come from moderate social restrictions (6,800 deaths), the maximal benefit from this policy would be K168 billion ($228 billion).
Meanwhile Ministry of Education has set out a National Planning Task Force that is expected to be advising the ministry on the reopening of education institutions review and organize the school calendar.
Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Justin Saidi, who is part of the task force, says an all stakeholders national planning meeting was held in Blantyre on Wednesday.
The stakeholders reflected on the impact of schools closure and the need to strategize on a safe return to learning.
“The meeting agreed that all decisions for return to school will be based on proven science and health expertise with the best interest of learners and teachers,” reads part of a press statement.
The Independent Schools Association of Malawi (ISAMA) President Joseph Patel has applauded the suggestion.
He adds that government will have huge difficulties to handle double stream if current students are to meet with coming students.
“This will bring sanity because we need to create space for the students and if government does not do this, it is going to have a tough time as it will be starting another academic year,” Patel said.
Civil Society Education Coalition Executive Director, Benedicto Kondowe, who is also a members of the task force, The Daily Times he hopes that the task force will put the interest of Malawians first and make decisions that will not infringe the future generations.
He said the education quality in the country already leaves a lot to be desired; hence the closure of schools worsens the situation.
“If we can’t think through of what we can provide we will not be forgiven by the future generation because as leaders in different capacities will have made,” Kondowe said.
The task force is chaired by Professor Lewis Dzimbiri from Lilongwe University of Science and Natural Resources with other 14 members from education and health sectors as well as non-governmental organisation.
Government directed the closure of all schools in the country on 23 March this year as measures of containing the spread of the Covid-19 which has killed over 290 thousand people globally and three in Malawi.
Mathews Kasanda is a journalist who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from University of Malawi (The Polytechnic).
In 2015, Media Institute of Southern Africa awarded him the Best Print Media Education Journalist of the Year accolade.
He joined Times Group Newsroom in September 2019.