CSOs lament Malawi govt’s procrastination on Education Act

Education activists in the country have faulted Malawi government’s failure to fully implement the Education Act of 2013 arguing that this is affecting the education standards in the country.

Makhumbo Munthali: Faulted government for lacking commitment 

Malawi enacted and assented the Education Act in 2012 and 2013 respectively replacing the old 1962 Education Act after emerging developments and change of policies which had characterised the education sector especially after the transition to multiparty democracy.

The Act aims at addressing challenges in the education sector by amongst other things providing for the establishment, administration and management of primary schools, secondary schools and Teachers Training Colleges (TTCs); establishment of the Teachers Council of Malawi and the Advisory Council comprising of 15 education experts to regulate teachers and school boards.

But Civic Society Education Coalition (CSEC) executive director Benedicto Kondowe said government had failed to come up with teachers’ councils which he said is affecting education standards as teachers are not properly regulated.

“Even the issue of fees, there is supposed to be a control measure. Schools charge fees anyhow but we have an Act that is supposed to regulate that,” said Kondowe as quoted in the local newspaper.

He was speaking on the side-lines of a stakeholders sensitisation workshop on the Act organised by Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) and Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC) with funding from European Union (EU) in Mzuzu.

Various stakeholders during the sensitisation meeting blamed government for failing to honour the dictates of the Education Act which provides for free and compulsory education in Primary Schools by failing to adequately fund primary schools, a scenario which forces primary schools to overburden poor parents with other fees.

“While the Education Act clearly provides for free and compulsory education in primary school, we wonder if this is really practiced. We continue to see how schools overburden poor parents with certain fees (or contributions). To make matters worse there is no control measure or standard to ensure uniformity across the schools in how they charge these contributions in order to avoid overburdening parents. This is a clear violation of the Education Act”, argued Khumbo Harawa, Mzuzu City Council Education Committee Chairperson.

National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) Wisdom Nyirenda noted that these challenges were as a result of the failure of the Ministry of Education to adequately fund primary schools, and that as a result primary schools have resolved to fill the gaps created by the Ministry’s failure to honour its obligations by overburdening parents with these contributions.

However, taking his turn Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) project manager Makhumbo Munthali faulted government for lacking commitment to implement crucial aspects of the Act like the establishment of the National Education Advisory Council, Teachers Council and National Education Appeals Tribunal arguing that this is affecting education in Malawi.

“The Act is a very good document that promotes quality and inclusive education. It talks about the establishment of an Advisory Council that would help advice the Minister of Education on matters affecting education in the Country. The Council would also help on accountability. However, the Council has not been put in place. The same applies to the Teachers Council and the National Education Appeals Tribunal. All this coupled by the continued delays by government through the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology to formulate guidelines and policy directives that reflect and track the extent of implementation of the Act are retrogressive developments”, decried Munthali.

However, Munthali said that irrespective of these challenges VSO in partnership with CSEC through a pilot project titled Act Together for Better Long Term Education (ABLE) project with funding from European Union had since 2016 raised awareness on the content of the Education Act in 20 primary schools in Lilongwe rural west and Mzuzu.

“So what we have been doing in this project is basically to raise awareness on the contents of the Education Act with two districts Lilongwe and Mzuzu being the pilot districts of the project. Our target has been the head teachers, teachers, Primary Education Advisors, School Management Committees, Village Development Committees, Parent Teachers Associations (PTAs) and traditional leaders.

”This has eventually helped in capacitating these structures on how they can effectively work towards improving school governance, participation, and transparency and accountability on various funds disbursed to primary schools like the Primary School Improvement Grants. We have worked hand in hand with the Ministry of Education in the project through the Directorate of Inspection and Advisory Services (DIAS). The project has been a success hence our coming to share the learnings from the project with members of DEC, district council, head teachers and DENs present here”, said Munthali

However, the stakeholders present requested VSO and CSEC to upscale the initiative to more districts, schools and stakeholders bearing in mind that only 2 districts had so far benefited from the initiative.

Besides mandating the Minister of Education to establish the Advisory Council and The Teachers Council, the Education Act of 2013 mandates the Minister to establish the Education Appeals Tribunal on recommendation from the Government Teaching Service Commission.

According to the Act, the function of the Tribunal is to allow persons to lodge complaints or make an appeal if the Ministry refuses to register a school and if a school is closed. It is mandated to hear complaints and take actions to address the complaints lodged to it.

The Tribunal has also powers to close a school or college based on the reasons provided in the Act.

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