Education for all is the target
* To provide almost 60,000 new secondary school spaces by end of 2021
* To build 250 Community Day Secondary Schools by 2023 with US Govt. funding
* So far, 16 schools have been completed and are in use with 30 to be completed soon
* Long-term objective is for all children to attend a minimum of 12 years of formal schooling
By Duncan Mlanjira
In order to address the inequalities in the selection process of primary school learners into secondary school due to inadequacy of classroom spaces, government has disclosed that by the end of 2021, close to 1,192 classrooms would have been expanded which will provide almost 60,000 new secondary school spaces.
This comes amid dissatisfaction that the public has openly expressed following the 2020-21 selection results in which, out of 225,387 that passed the Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education (PSLCE) examinations, only 84,497 learners were selected for secondary schools.
And the vast majority that passed — 140,440 — were left out due to inadequate places and dissatisfaction was compounded with speculation in the social media of suspected unfairness selection in which majority of the only 1,860 students selected into national secondary schools were from the South and Centre — infiltrating the already inadequate spaces of those in the North.
The debate on the selection process that raged on on social media has forced the Ministry of Education to release a statement that the Tonse Government is taking the responsibility to address any inequalities present within the country’s education system.
The statement issued on Sunday, January 10 by Principal Secretary for Education, Chikondano Mussa says the 1,192 classrooms to be completed by the end of 2021 is being funded by the US Government under Secondary Education Expansion for Development project and World Bank financed Equity and Quality Learning at Secondary school project.
“In addition, the Ministry is currently implementing a major US Government funded project to build 250 Community Day Secondary Schools (CDSS) by 2023, which are targeted to locations most in need of additional secondary school spaces,” Mussa said.
“This construction will massively increase the capacity of Community Day Secondary Schools to accept primary school students who pass the PSLCE exams.
“So far, 16 schools have been completed and are in use and 30 schools are soon to be completed and handed over to the Ministry. By the end of 2021, 92 additional schools are expected to be completed.
“The total number of new spaces made available through this is 29,200. The Ministry, together with USAID, is committed to achieving this construction as quickly as possible, with minimal administrative delays.”
Mussa also said a major commitment is being made to increase the numbers of teachers and improve their qualifications so that there are more qualified teachers available to provide an improved education.
“A long-term objective for national development is that all students should attend a minimum of 12 years of formal schooling — eight at primary level and four at secondary level.”
Mussa said this development will be highlighted in the upcoming ‘Malawi 2063’, which will be launched on January 19 by President Lazarus Chakwera.
“In order to achieve this long-term objective, Government will ensure an annual commitment of resources for not just the construction of schools, but ensuring that existing schools have adequate learning materials and equipment as well as enough professionally trained teachers to meet the needs of an increased student population.
“We are dealing with an inequitable system that has resulted from many years of neglect. It will take many years to fully address these issues. We present these actions as part of our initial plans to address these longstanding inequities.”
In the meantime, Mussa says there is an independent audit, the Multi-Year Study and the utilisation of the MK1 billion Special Fund which is under way as the Ministry will continue to address outstanding capacity gaps that afflict the education sector.
“The two major capacity gaps preventing the expansion of access to quality primary and secondary education are the lack of appropriate school infrastructure and the shortage of professionally qualified teachers.
She added that on November 23, 2020, the Minister of Education, Agnes NyaLonje signed an undertaking for a number of education sector reforms that address most issues of inadequacy of the education sector.
The Ministry is also developing short, medium and long-term strategies for future development that take education capacity issues into account.
The mandate of the Ministry of Education is to provide quality education to all children in Malawi.
Mussa said: “We should not be working in a situation where providing one Malawian child with an education means that we are depriving another Malawian child of an education.
“Until we can say that all children are receiving a good education, we cannot be content that our job is done.
“Where politicisation, self-interest and maladministration obstacles stand in the way of the Ministry of Education’s mandate, we will work tirelessly to overcome these obstacles.”