Minister of Information, Civic Education and Communication Technology Mark Botomani statement about ending quota system is not convincing enough. Never mind that it was a rebuttal to a statement made by vice president and UTM Leader Saulosi Chilima at a political rally that governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is copying from UTM manifesto about ending quota system.
The minister should not waste his trying to score political points because everyone knows that this has been the policy of the DPP government revived by late Bingu Wa Mutharika to limit northerners from accessing tertiary education.
The question is: “why is government announcing now that it has abolished quota system when all along it has vehemently refused to abolish it?” The quota system is even practiced at secondary school level whereby learners from primary school are selected on the basis of district of origin and not merit.
It is clear that with the impending fresh presidential elections on May 19 that DPP has a herculean task to convince voters especially in the north that President Peter Mutharika deserve their vote. Many people see the announcement as a desperate ploy to salvage the little popularity among the northerners who are the most affected by the quota system as some learners with 11 or 12 points are denied access to tertiary education.
The government has been very unpopular among the northerners because of the system, in addition to lack of development. All projects remain uncompleted, stalled or as foundation stone.
In attempt to justify the decision, the minister has given several reasons, among them provision of loans to students, construction of 250 secondary schools nationwide and the expansion of public universities from four to six.
However, giving loans to students and constructing more secondary schools has nothing to with with quota system while the creation of more universities, which will obviously increase intake, is not a guarantee that quota system will not be used. The government is known to renege on its promise and operates with impunity. For example, Malawians were not aware that government was secretly using quota system to select learners to go to national secondary school until last year when the malpractice was exposed.
It was discovered that secondary schools in the north were flooded with learners from the South and Central regions while less than 10 were selected to go to schools in the South. Learners from the South also dominated selection in schools in the central region. Very few students from the north were selected to schools in all the regions. This led to the formation Quota Must Fall Movement to engage government to end the evil system. It threatened to chase all learners from other regions in secondary schools in the north.
Although government denied that quota system was applied at secondary level, the results of second selection also showed that system was used.
The only sure way to end quota system is to pass a law in parliament to abolish it. Public statements should not be taken seriously, especially coming at a time when 50 +1 presidential elections are three months away. Any short of legal backing should be treated as politicking.