Infrastructure development is one of the challenges standing in the way of the provision of quality education in the country. As PATIENCE LUNDA writes, the situation is so dire in other parts of the country that teachers share a house with students.
Like all students in public schools in the country, Mubvi [not real name] wants to achieve his dreams in life.
However, much of his success in future hinges on the foundation he will lay at school today.
“And this [laying a foundation] looks impossible because of the challenges we face. For example, we do not have a conducive environment for boarding, which affects our concentration in class,” he said.
He is one of the students at Choma Community Day Secondary School (CDSS) in Mzimba District, where the problem of teachers’ houses has culminated in three teachers sharing a house with 10 boarding students.
In an ideal world, the employer of the teachers— namely the government— was supposed to provide decent housing to them.
However, all it has done is provide hardship allowance to teachers that ply their trade in hard-to-reach and rural areas and leave it at that.
Choma CDSS Head teacher Chimwemwe Sibale says they have a proper hostel.
However, the hostel was constructed for female students.
This means the three male teachers at the school share a house with male students.
“The development compromises privacy for both the teachers and students,” she says.
To make matters worse, the house which the teachers and students are sharing has no electricity and is not secure, as it has no proper door handles.
Sibale adds that her office [as head teacher] also serves as a laboratory and library.
She attributes the development to inadequate infrastructure, a development that hampers the provision of quality education.
“These challenges are affecting the performance of learners because they get de-motivated while some drop out of school and the trend has been that less than 20 students finish school when 100 were the ones that had been enrolled,” the head teacher says.
Maybe female students are fortunate, in that they do not have to share a house with female teachers, thanks to Speaker of Parliament and legislator for the area, Catherine Gotani Hara, who constructed a hostel for them.
The legislator says she is engaging community members on what should be prioritised between teachers’ houses and boys’ hostels.
“We have to deal with the current challenge and promote access to education,” Gotani Hara says.
Meanwhile, SOS Children’s Village Deputy National Director Hope Msosa has expressed interest in addressing some of the challenges at the school, which has an enrolment of 250 students.
Already, SOS Children’s Village has provided 48 beds and mattresses worth about K3 million to the school.
The items are being used by female students who board at the facility.
The hope is that the CDSS may start competing favourably with students in schools that have proper infrastructure.
Indeed, there is one common denominator among schools that performed well in 2021 Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations: Well developed infrastructure.
At least this is the impression one gets when they visit schools in South Eastern Education Division, notably St Mary’s Secondary School, Mulunguzi Secondary School and Zomba Catholic Secondary School, which came first, second and third on the list of star performers in the region.
One simply has to visit public schools in Nsanje District to appreciate that, without the necessary infrastructure, learners, and to some extent teachers, face insurmountable challenges to attain their education goals.
In the past five years, the district has been among the worst performers in national examinations, notably Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education, Junior Certificate of Education and MSCE.
According to the National Education Sector Investment Plan for 2020– 30, infrastructure is one of the challenges facing the provision of education services in Malawi’s public schools.
However, failure to address challenges besetting the education sector spell failure to live up to commitments that Malawi made to the international community, including its commitment to meeting Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) which the United Nations spearheads.
One of the 17 SDGs pertains to the provision of quality education. Goal number 4 addresses the issue of the provision of education to all, with the aim of promoting inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all by the year 2030.
Countries are, therefore, obliged to ensure that boys and girls, including learners with special education needs, enjoy access to quality education.
In addition, Malawi is a member of African Union and is committed to the implementation of its policies as guided by the African Union Agenda 2063: ‘The Africa We Want’. Specifically, African countries have committed to speeding up actions that will catalyse education and skills revolution.
The formal education system in Malawi follows an 8–4–4 structure. The broader early development education (ECD) covers the age range of zero to eight years with ECD centres focusing on the provision of services to children aged between three and five years.
Primary education covers eight years with entry at six years of age. There are four years of secondary education and four to five years of tertiary education.