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Editorial CommentOpinion & Analysis

Stop overlooking education sector

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It must be common knowledge by now that without knowledge, people perish. This is because, through the acquisition of knowledge in both formal and informal set-ups, people are able to make informed decisions.

Additionally, apart from aiding in knowledge acquisition and application, education— especially formal education offered at early childhood development, primary, secondary, vocational and tertiary levels— helps people acquire skills that may aid sustenance.

We are talking of skills that enable people to earn a living through self-employment. We are also talking of skills that enable people to secure employment.

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Perhaps, for this reason, the government has been making sure that it prioritises the education sector in national development plans. We are referring to the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy, which continues to advance goals previously promoted in the Malawi Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper.

The government’s commitment, or part of it, is shown when it lists the education sector among areas that get a lion’s share from national budgets.

Sadly, though— as observed by education experts— there seems to be lack of progress in the sector despite receiving a lion’s share of the national budget in past two years.

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In the 2017/18 national budget, for example, the sector was allocated K235 billion. This year, according to the budget statement presented in Parliament on Friday, the sector is set to get K166 billion.

However, despite pumping in a lot of resources, the sector remains far from meeting its goals. Just last week, pictures of Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education examinations’ candidates sitting on the floor were awash on the social media, an indication that we are committed only on paper.

As we are speaking, tertiary education continues to be a preserve of the few. Students from poor backgrounds have no money for tuition, accommodation and other resources, more so because the Executive is not giving the board entrusted with the task of administering loans enough funds.

To make matters worse, some of the projects promised through the 2017/18 budget have not been accomplished.

As we are speaking, new textbooks, in tandem with the new curriculum, are yet to saturate in schools, especially those in rural areas, thereby putting learners in remote areas at a disadvantage.

No wonder, students from affluent families cruise to tertiary education institutions, as those from less privileged families continue to be dragged down by the giant hand of resource constraints.

Sadly, this is happening at a time we were supposed to move towards free secondary education, as stipulated in Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4), and changing primary school teacher qualifications from a certificate towards a university diploma.

While the Minister of Education, Science and Technology told Parliament in February that the ministry was beginning to work on this idea, the budget statement presented in Parliament says nothing on this.

There are a number of areas, too numerous to mention, that require the government’s attention but the government seems hell bent on feeding us false hopes.

Moving forward, we would like to ask the government to harmonise its plans and put an end to the state of confusion that reigns in the sector. This way, we will begin to sail in the same direction.

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