Kapirinkhonde Community Day Secondary School (CDSS) Head teacher Oliver Mkonda is not sure whether the school has archived the first impression he has always desired.
Thirty-one learners from the school last year sat for Malawi School Certificate Education (MSCE) examinations for the first time in its history.
As of last week, however, Mkonda says they were yet to learn how the maiden Form Four class had fared in the national examinations.
“We still have not received the results at the moment but it has been my wish to create a first impression based on the outcome,” Mkonda says.
Though the school is among at least 269 schools that failed to settle examination fees balance, according to Mkonda, before students sat for the national examinations, Civil Society Coalition for Quality Based Education Executive Director Benedicto Kondowe says the incident is an infringement of the students’ right to education.
Kondowe laments the situation, saying it is unfortunate that a matter that does not concern students is holding them at ransom.
“The students have the right to know their results because issues of administration of fees are beyond them.
“Maneb [Malawi National Examinations Board] should find means of releasing the results to the students considering that they are the ones suffering here,” Kondowe says.
With almost a month gone after Maneb released MSCE examination results, Mkonda cannot hide why school authorities, parents and guardians were still in the dark about how their children had performed.
Being the first time to have a class sit for such an examination, Mkonda says the institution did not settle some fees balance with the national examining body.
Centre and administration fees, he says, were not paid in full as required by Maneb.
The school owes the national examining body K30,000.
“We are in the process of squaring up the amount such that two weeks from now, the results should be in,” Mkonda says.
Located in Chitipa’s hard-to-reach Nthalire, almost 118 kilometres from the boma, Kapirinkhonde CDSS, which for the past 17 years ended at Junior Certificate of Education level, in 2014 rolled out Malawi School Certificate Examinations classes.
But on its first attempt, the school has found itself wanting.
The school had to do without some sciences on its subject list due to lack of equipment.
It has had to do without a science laboratory, for example, although a laboratory is a requirement for mainly physics and chemistry.
“We have had to go ahead and introduce the class considering the distance learners were covering going to Nthalire CDSS, which is almost 20 kilometres from here,” Mkonda says.
Though others are celebrating the step taken, school committee Chairperson Tiyezge Mughogho believes the school is not progressing because of its hard-to-reach geographical position.
Mughogho could be right considering Nthalire’s terrain.
During rainy season, Nthalire is almost impossible to reach, not to mention scrappy mobile phone network.
Perhaps the only exciting thing in the area is the rural growth centre which is also not fully utilised.
“For the 15 years that I have chaired the school committee, there has not been any progress. The school is located in the bush and needs more support for these learners to progress. Please don’t ignore us just because of our location,” he says.
Maneb Public Relations Officer Simeon Manganga, in a written response, refutes Mkonda’s assertion.
Using district education managers, he says, Maneb sent out communication about examination fees balances early in September.
“Quite a good number of schools settled their balances. As I am writing, almost all schools have since settled their issues and collected examination results for their candidates.
“Unfortunately, some choose to ignore the indicated figures, some choose to completely default while others it is just a matter of reconciliation,” says Maganga, adding that to register for national examinations, candidates are required to pay all the examination fees including entry fee, form fee (for external candidates), subject fee, centre fee, administration fee and identity card fee.
It is the responsibility of every school, he says, to check with Maneb, “whenever they don’t get results of their candidates, and many times we have reached a compromise and releases the results to schools.”
For the learner’s right, he says, students too need to exercise responsibility by paying the relevant fees.
“And those who seek equity must come with clean hands. So, it might not be logical for one to demand their rights when they haven’t exercised their responsibility.
“And note that Maneb does not deal with individual candidates but schoo l s . Candidates do not pay directly to Maneb but through schools and schools in turn pay in chunks to Maneb. So the more responsible a school is, the more its learners will enjoy their right to education. And the vice versa is true,” Maganga says.
Though creating the first impression has almost eluded him, Mkonda takes pride in the new desks the school received a week ago.
To him, the 50 desks Petroleum Importers Limited (PIL) donated worth K1.5 million were a missing link to student’s good performance in class and during examinations.
“Please don’t ignore us,” he says “The school is located in a hard-to-reach area and needs more support for learners to progress.”
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