The evil quota system in Malawi education: Take the bull by the horns

That the Quota system, in all its sheds and manifestations is evil, there is no contestation. The Quota system was first introduced in 1987. Council of the University of Malawi (Unima) recommended that each district should have 10 guaranteed spaces in the university and the balance of the spaces should be shared amongst all the districts in proportion to their population sizes. It further determined that in cases where a given district fails to meet its quota, the unfilled spaces should be allocated to those districts in that district’s region which produced adequate numbers of academically qualified candidates.

The writting is on the wall for quota syetem

In 1993, the High Court of Malawi ruled in a case involving Mhango and others v University Council of Malawi against basing university selection on district Quota other than on merit because it was discriminatory and of no solid foundation. It is clear that Unima Council was not happy with the ruling. That is why in 2007 it introduced what it termed the Equitable system for admission to public universities. Under the Equitable system, Council for Unima made a resolution which makes a distinction between students on full government scholarship and non-residential students. In essence, this was the re-introduction of the Quota system effective 2008.

The rationale for the policy shift was that selection to public universities had been disproportionate as fewer students were being selected to public universities from some districts than others. But Unima Senate determined that such a policy shift required thorough consultation.

Council then noted that arguments for or against quota may have just been impressionistic, and therefore, requested the Centre for Education Research and Training (Cert) to conduct a comprehensive study to confirm or trash the impressions.

However, after 11 years, Cert has not conducted the said study. Cert is an agency of the Malawi Government under Unima. It is, therefore, dependent on Unima or government for funding. For 11 years, Unima Council has not funded Cert to conduct the study because it does not really want to conduct the study.

In 2011, Unima Council wrote the Malawi Human Rights Commission that what “the University of Malawi is implementing at the moment is not what you erroneously referred to as Quota system of selection. The real Quota system is what was done from the 1987/88 academic year up to 1993/94 academic year when the High Court ruled that it was wrong for the Council of the University of Malawi to use a quota system of selection without consulting its Senate. However, in 2008, in keeping with the priorities set in its Strategic Plan, Council of the University of Malawi, resolved that it would employ an Equitable system of selecting first year students as part of widening access to higher education to benefit disadvantaged groups (Kondowe, 2018).

When the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) which now coordinates selection of students into public universities came on the scene in 2013, it inherited the system from Unima.

From the foregoing it is clear, Ministry of Education and Unima Council have both not been interested in providing the funding to Cert to conduct the study to confirm or trash Quota or Equitable system for admitting students to public universities and colleges. Both are not only complicit in perpetuating the vice, but are also guilty by omission and negligence. To the list of culprits, add Luanar which did not divorce the Quota system after it was delinked from Unima.

Truth is that Quota or Equitable systems are one and the same—just two sides of the same coin. They have the same effect of disadvantaging students from some regions or districts.

The explanation the Ministry of Education gave this week for the small number of students from the North it has selected to national secondary schools in the country, let alone in the Centre, is an affront on the aggrieved. The ministry said it did not want students to travel long distances to and from secondary schools, saying this is expensive to both guardians and students. This is most laughable and should be taken with a pinch of salt. Why if such was the case has the ministry populated national secondary schools in the North with students from other regions? Is it, for example, shorter from Zomba to Mzuzu and vice versa only to students from other regions?

Quota or Equitable system of selecting students to tertiary institutions as well as secondary schools will remain divisive for as long as there is no political will to end it. What is indisputable is that those perpetuating it are benefitting from it. Not long from now—when University selection is done—people will once again be crying that students the system has left out students with very good points while taking in others with poor grades.

Agitating against the vice by merely crying wolf and complaining against the system will not yield anything. Take the bull by the horns. To kill a snake you hit the head. It is foolhardy to expect those benefitting from the system to champion the needed change.

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Mbwiye
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Mbwiye

Guys we should not treat this issue with emotions. Allow me to say the truth here. The missionaries who brought the whiteman’s religion first settled in the north and they brought with them education. These missionaries also briught with them system of government administration such that those who early went to their schools were employed in their churches, government mainstream administration as well in schools. Thereafter, they started moving to other regions. Therefore, at a certain point in time, there were more educated pipo in the north than the centre and south combined. But of late the situation has changed… Read more »

braveheart
Guest

Nhlane ur time as a writer passed it’s shelf life.Its idiots like u who have made Malawi poor thru stupid ,sell out ,unpatriotic and unprofessional writing.uR lost generation of graduates who contributed nothing to Malawi but ignorance in writing and shit!..u inspire nothing. uR just a grumpy old madala now.Nothing to write about but hate! Partisan stories. .bla bla bla.Go and hung!

Hate it or take it but it's a fact
Guest

This tendency of using quota system to select students to high levels or secondary schools must come to an end. Use merit to select students not region as it is now. Am from the south myself but it doesn’t make sense leaving someone with 12points bcoz he/she is from North or Center but selecting someone with 20 points bcoz he/she is from South. We are encouraging laziness in our kids from south so let’s change our mindset . My grandpa a Nsena by tribe used to tell me that if u want to win a race start by sharpening your… Read more »

Jakison Laanje
Guest
Jakison Laanje

This is a simple issue. I am not sure with what is the problem with MCP. They want to divide Malawi. Does MCP know that many Malawians from north and central regions live in the south and they have made the south their home. They have businesses there too. They have bought land.Its their home please. Where should their kids do their primary schooling?.

The Ministry of Education should release the names and district of origin of those from the south who have been selected secondary schools in the north and central regions. They have these data.

Innoxy Charles
Guest
Innoxy Charles

Shaaa!! malawi.

Innoxy Charles
Guest
Innoxy Charles

Shaaaaaa!…malawi!!!

Jeff Mpotazingwe
Guest
Jeff Mpotazingwe

We do not need quota on people as if they are tobacco leaves. We need more Education facilities were all who have passed exams should automatically migrate to from one level to the next. Consequently more infrastructure must be built were the intellectual mind can practice acquired knowledge (Jobs). In Africa we are happy when one stays unemployed and impoverished while another is looked to as Big man. There is everything for everyone and the Darwinian concept of survival of the fittest is a lie. The poverty of our fellow Malawians is by few others who are greedy and amass… Read more »

Chigadula Rabson
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Chigadula Rabson

There is undoubtedly all kinds of ‘evil justice’ systems that Malawi has seen being introduced and then reinforced by what I believe are people who have allowed themselves to operate from fear of the unknown for selfish reasons. This myth that a certain region produces ‘learners’ who are the most ‘intelligent’ as compared to other regions is truthfully speaking a ‘kind of fear of the unknown’. The origins of all this evil mindset have their roots deeply imbedded in tribalism and nepotism. A friend of mine who comes from the northern region, when he saw that raising up his children… Read more »

Saulosi
Guest
Saulosi

Qouta system is enough reason to start war and federalism in malawi.Those exams are written on a national level and maneb is in zomba had it been in the north,you would be saying that exams are leaked for the benefit of northerners.