Parents of Chichiri Secondary students agree to continue paying for extra costs the school incurs

By Duncan Mlanjira

Parents of Chichiri Secondary School students have agreed that following the abolition by the government of Tuition Fees, Text Book Revolving Fund and General Purpose Fund, the school’s management can go ahead and ask for approval from the Ministry to ask the parents to contribute towards School Development Fund at K5,000, PTA Fund at K4,500 and Computer Fund at K2,000.

This was agreed at a special meeting held on Saturday, January 12 at the school when the management, led by its headteacher A. Mjima, briefed the parents that indeed government, through the Ministry of Education had abolished fees but left out a close open that says “due to local community participation, there will be agreements between school management, Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) and school management committee for the school to undertake small scale projects at a particular school. 

Letter from ministry

“Government encourages such local participation and schools may collect from parents an amount  needed by the school as according to guidelines by the Ministry,” said the statement signed by Secretary for Education, Science and Technology Justin Saidi distributed on 26 September, 2018.

Mjima told the parents that what they were submitting to the Ministry was tuition fees which was at K500; text book revolving fund at K250 and the general purpose fund was at K500 — altogether at K1,250.

However, the school — as agreed through the local community participation agreements between school management, the PTA and school management committee long before the abolition of the mentioned fees by government — had agreed that parents can meet extra costs such as paying support staff (cleaners and guards) and supplementing payment of water bills.

Chichiri Secondary students

The extra funds are also meant to be used for purchasing detergents and other cleaning materials for students’ toilets, immediate maintenance of buildings, desks and water system and the purchasing of national, school-based examinations and assessment materials.

These small scale projects are extra administrative costs that the school management frequently meet which cannot be fully covered in the annual government subvention they receive from government.

Mjima acknowledged that they do get a fixed annual amount for water and electricity from the Ministry but in terms of water, since the school has over 900 students per semester, they receive a bill of over K1.2 million a month from Blantyre Water Board (BWB).

“The money from the K11,500 each we ask from you parents is supposed to cover for the excess costs we incur and which we all agreed sometime back and probably needs revising. 

“Since they were conflicting reports as regards to the way the communication of the abolition of fees was understood by many people, we decided to suspend the K11,500 extra you pay until we explain and get approval from you,” Mjima said.

He said in their liaison with BWB, the school’s water bill gets that high probably because, being a very old facility, it experiences undetected water leakages.

The school needs pre-paid water metres like these

He said they were in consultation with BWB if they could install prepaid water metres but that can only be done once the school settles an outstanding bill of over K5 million they currently have.

The school is also trying to rehabilitate the whole water system once funds are identified to address the suspected undetected underground water leakages.

The parents were also appraised of the contribution from the schools’ Alumni Association, who joined hands and rehabilitated some of the students’ toilets which had been in very bad shape but now are in perfect condition.

“The Alumni also replaced all broken window panes and from then on we warned the students that will carelessly break the windows shall be asked to replace them,” said Banda, second deputy headteacher.

Banda, who is head of academics, then announced that out of 257 students who sat for the 2018 Malawi Schools Certificate Examination (MSCE), 132 passed well by scoring points between 11 and 30.

He said one students scored 11 points as the highest as opposed to last year when they had four who scored 7 points.