Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC) has bemoaned the decision by the government pay honoraria to only 2, 000 Early Childhood Development (ECD) caregivers, fearing this will demotivate thousands of other caregivers.
Malawi has 34, 000 certified ECD caregivers, according to statistics provided by the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare.
But the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, in the just passed 2022/2023 national budget, has allocated a meagre MK480 million for payment of MK15, 000 honorarium per caregiver per month for 2, 000 caregivers only, a development reportedly expected to face resistance from the ones left out.
The Treasury made the MK480 million allocation after it reportedly shot down a MK6.1 billion budget, which Ministry of Gender officials proposed in order to cater for all ECD caregivers, who volunteer in despicable conditions to shape the future of Malawian children aged between 0 and 5.
CSEC Program Manager, Kisa Kumwenda, expressed concern that such “unfair” development will negatively affect the already crippled ECD sector in Malawi.
Speaking at Mponela in Dowa during the presentation of an analysis of the 2022/2023 education budget to members of Parliament (MPs) belonging to Parliamentary Committees on education, budget and finance and social welfare, Kumwenda urged the MPs to lobby the Ministry of Finance to allocate more resources towards honorarium for caregivers.
Kumwenda described 2, 000 out of 34,000 caregivers as too small a number for the government to honour.
“Who and who will benefit the MK480 million allocation? What criteria is government going to use in order to identify the right caregivers who will receive the honorarium? This will just bring anger and confusion in the sector. We urge government to find money for all the caregivers. All of them must be motivated. The idea behind giving honorarium to caregivers, is to motivate all them. Not just a few!” Kumwenda said.
Paying ECD caregivers honoraria was a promise of the Tonse Alliance led government, a promise the administration first committed to fulfill in the 2021/2022 financial year, but it never did so due to “unavailability of resources”.
Deputy Director of Planning and Research in the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, Geoffrey Chimwala, acknowledged the challenge lurking ahead for the government to be able to manage the MK480 million in view of the 34, 000 caregivers.
Chimwala said, for a start, government has decided that each of the 2000 caregivers who will receive the honorarium, will become a supervisor of five other ECD centres as government works hard to consider the others.
“There will indeed be a serious challenge to identify the 2000. But I am sure the criteria will be transparent. There will be a proper assessment of those that will be considered. We know there will be resistance and reactions. But we will move on and keep pushing so that everyone is considered, eventually,” Chimwala said.
CSEC organized the budget analysis meeting in collaboration with its partners in order to empower the parliamentarians with relevant information to be able to lobby for increased resources to the education sector.
Some of the partners include Rays of Hope, ActionAid Malawi, Save the Children, Early Childhood Development Coalition, Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWEMA) and OXFAM Malawi.
During the meeting, participants also discussed many other crucial issues in the education sector, including the need for government to increase investment towards Special Needs Education and teaching and learning materials, which, they said, have been low for the last three financial years.