Students cheat quota system


Students seeking to enter public universities in the country have found a way of beating the equitable system of selection into the institutions by lying on their district of origin, Malawi News can report.

The administration of late President Bingu wa Mutharika introduced equitable system of selection [popularly known as quota system] to make it possible for all districts in the country to be able to send some number of students into the universities.

In the system, each district has an allocation of 10 students into the universities with the rest of the places competed for on the basis of merit.


Now Malawi News can report that some students have been beating the system all the same by faking their district of origin so that they stand a better chance of entering the universities. The development is happening at the expense of districts where there is less competition.

And both the government and the National Council of Higher Education which conducts the selection process seem to be hopeless on how to deal with the situation.

We managed to identify three students from three secondary schools from the North, Centre and South who had changed not only their district of origin but also surnames to stand a better chance of selection.


In an interview, one of the students who gave the information on the condition of anonymity said switching from a highly- populated and competitive district to a less populated and less competitive one makes it easier for one to get considered for admission into the universities.

“I changed my district from Blantyre to Nsanje because the competition for a place in college is higher in Blanytre. It is difficult for one to compete and be among the top 10 or even be considered on merit because you find that there are more than 70 students from the district with less than 15 points. But if you indicate that you are from Nsanje, for example, chances that you will make it are higher as you compete with fewer people,” said one student.

Another student who is in final year in the University of Malawi said he would not have made into the university had he indicated his proper district origin. The student comes from Karonga.

“I’m certain it’s the change in my surname and district that got me here. Karonga has a lot of smart students who I would barely compete with; so I chose to change my surname to a Lomwe name and I indicated that I am from Phalombe,” he said.

National Council for Higher Education Deputy Executive Director, Golden Msilimba, said the council was not aware of this practice.

He however said it was not easy to trace such issues and said they have not received any formal complaints on the matter.

“It’s not easy to trace the district of origin because the candidate declares that. We have not received any formal complaint on that. But I think there must be a system of verifying such issues. The problem will continue for a while until the National ID system is implemented,” said Msilimba

Minister of Education, Science and Technology Emmanuel Fabiano also said he was not aware of the problem as his ministry was not responsible for university selections.

But he said correcting the problem does not necessarily need the National Identity system. He said the National Council of Higher Education (NCHE) and the universities themselves have the mandate to make thorough scrutiny on the applications to check any malpractices.

“There is need to get more information about the applicants. The council and the universities have to come up with mechanisms to deal with that practice,” said Fabiano.

An education policy analyst Steve Sharra described the development as “unfair and unjust” as it was robbing some deserving students in some districts the chance to enter the university.

“During the one party era people changed their names so

they could sound as if they came from some parts of the country that were believed to be politically-favoured. If people are doing that now, it is unfortunate. It means people are being denied a chance to pursue higher education based on their ethnic identity. That is unfair and unjust,” said Sharra.

He said the revelations make a case for the need to study the underlying factors that enable some groups to excel while others fall behind.

He said understanding these factors would help the country to come up with policies and plans to support those doing poorly to do better and have equal chances of going to university.

He added that if the number of students going into colleges is increased by a higher percentage, there would be no need for quotas nor would people be driven to cheating on their district of origin.

For the 2015/16 intake, the National Council of Higher Education (NCHE) which coordinates selection into the public universities received up to 17,000 applications.

This was against a total intake of around 3,500 for all the four public universities in Malawi, namely, University of Malawi, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Mzuzu University and Malawi University of Science and Technology.

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