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Civil Society Coalition for Quality Basic Education is a network of 75 member organisations and 20 District Education Networks that have voluntarily come together to work towards a common goal. The aim of the Coalition is to contribute towards improved quality of education in Malawi through advocacy.

It is almost a month now since the state Presiderit Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika opened the current sitting of parliament. It was on 19th May 2008 that the president opened the budget session of the sitting. The Civil Society Coalition for Quality Basic Education (CSCQBE) has been following the tensed deliberations in the house with some hope that things will change for the better. As such CSCQBE wishes to commend the religious leadership in this country for accepting to take the challenge to mediate the peace talks between the ruling party and opposition to ensure tranquility in the august house which should definitely translate into a national political harmony necessary for sustainable economic development.

It is thus our hope that come next week the religious leaders' recommendations on the stand off between the ruling party and opposition will be fair enough to the politicians and the ordinary citizen of Malawi both in short and long term. CSCQBE is particularly concerned with the resolution to come because while national budget will continue to be a priority to us all, attempts to use under hand tactics to facilitate an eventual removal of section 65 from our constitution and vulgar language used by politicians in the house are not good enforcers of the formal curriculum on multiparty democracy, virtues and morals which our schools are currently teaching the children.

In the light of the above described context CSCQBE would like to express its views and concerns over the state of the nation address by the state President and the budget statement presented by the Minister of Finance Dr. Goodall Gondwe. True to his commitment to national development, His Excellency the State President presented to the august house on 19th May, 2008 his government's successes and challenges since 2004 and his commitment for 2008/2009 fiscal year. Following the national address, as is always the case, the Minister of Finance, Hon. Goodall Gondwe unveiled the 2008/9 budget before the National Assembly on 23rd May 2008. The views and concerns presented in this press release are intended to provide further food for thought to our honorable Members of Parliament (MPs) as they scrutinize the budget. CSCQBE would like the MPs to strengthen the on going lobby for an increase to the allocation in the education sector to save Malawi from its pangs of illiteracy and consequences of poor health and unsustainable economic development.

1. The President's National Address Speech vis-a-vis Commitment to Education

In the State of Nation Address under the theme, 'Malawi: A Nation of Achiever', the President recognized the important role that education plays in the provision of human resource base needed for any development endecvor. In addition, the President acknowledged that the introduction of free primary school education in the late 1990's brought with it unprecedented challenges including huge demands for infrastructure, teaching and learning materials and teachers. Among his government successes, the President cited the expansion of the School Feeding Programme in 2007/08 which now benefits up to 700, 000 primary school pupils in 17 districts an increase from 500, 000 pupils in 15 ditricts in 2006/2007 fiscal year. He also cited success in teacher education. He indicated that, while 3,700 teachers are undergoing training at Teachers' Training Colleges, another 2,500 are currenfly in schools on teaching practice.

With regard to future plans to improve quality education in Malawi, the President among other things said that the government is going to do the following:

  • enroll 7,700 school leavers as primary school teacher trainees,
  • construct 1,000 more classrooms,
  • upgrade teachers to Diploma, Bachelors or Masters degree levels,
  • upgrade 30 Community Day Secondary Schools (CDSSs) which will be provided with libraries, science laboratories and teachers' houses,
  • construct hostels at 10 girl's secondary schools whereby the first 10 will be completed by July 2008,
  • increase allocation to KI00 million to Mzuzu University and University of Malawi for purchase of books,
  • Set a National Council for Higher Education which will control the proliferation of unapproved colleges.

Response to the Budget Statement

CSCQBE wishes to commend the government for the well elaborated plans as presented by the State President's speech, however, we would want to be quick to advise the State President to walk the talk. We give this advice after noticing that the government is good at talking about or starting programmes which in the end stagnate. CSCQBE has an example of Liwonde TTC which was among the first projects inaugurated by the President quite early in his term of office but up to now very little has been done at the site. Similarly government has been saying a lot about devolving some primary school functions to District Assemblies and yet it has taken 10 years for the Ministry of Education to produce guidelines for the same. We are also concerned that while guidelines have been produced, elections of Ward Councilors who are pivotal in development at grassroots level continues to be dragged.

CSCQBE would also want to commend the government for significantly jacking up the numberof teacher trainees by bringing in the Open Distance Learning mode. However. we are not very sure if the teacher training capacity in terms of teacher educators has been improved enough to warrant success in the distance mode. Our memories are still fresh about the disaster that ensued from a similar project for teacher training (MIITEP) in the early 1990s in Malawi whose failure was mainly due to shortage of teacher educators and lack of commitment of the same to supervise the programme and evaluate trainees in the field.

The government is also commended on the renovation works which is taking place in model secondary schools and in the upgrading of Community Day Secondary Schools. CSCQBE agrees that the move will indeed contribute towards qualify education and attainment of EFA goals by building of libraries and laboratories this will ensure quality education and the attainment of EFA goals. However, early in the year the CSCQBE through one of its members already expressed worry over the pace we are taking as a country to reduce the gap between conventional and CDSSs. It was noted that if we go at the pace presented in the President's speech of 30 CDSSs in a year it will take us 120 years to renovate the planned 600 CDSSs. To us in the CSCQBE that is not justice to our secondary school age children the majorily of whom are in the CDSSs.

Government's efforts in the provision of teaching and learning materials should be commended. Its plan to provide 15 million books should be able to alleviate challenges which the country is facing in terms of the new textbooks for the new curriculum. The implementation of Primary Curriculum and Assessment Reform (PCAR) programme in standard six for example has been characterized by the late and inconsistent-supply of teaching and learning materials mainly because the printing is done outside the country and the budget for this is mainly donor driven. We would like to remind the State President that if there was any major hurdle to the implementation of the 1992 primary curriculum, it was heavy donor dependence on text book supply. For how long shall we continue like this while telling our children that education is our priority?

It also commendable that the government talks about expanding the school feeding programme. CSCQBE is quite aware of all the advantages that are coming from the school feeding programme. Our concern however, is the extent to which we can continue to expand this programme in its current mode of funding where almost all of the support comes from donors.

The 2007 MSCE examinations heavily leaked to the public forcing government to cancel five papers. The ministry up to date has not yet made public the findings of its assessment report to the leakage despite public commitment to do so by the State President. Speculations from the mass media were rife to the effect that the leakage was partly caused because government had to change printers from those based in the UK to those based in South Africa due to budgetary constraints. During our Global Campaign for Education week this year we focused on education of the disabled and other vulnerable children, where we raised concerns over serious deficiencies in the special needs education area. There are also other pertinent issues like ineffective school inspection and the financial support to teachers who have declared their HIV positive sero-status which we expected the president to include in his speech. We expected the State President to include these considering that our earlier budget tracking results have indicated that despite relatively adequate funding to inspectorate not much is done down on the ground. We recall the Kaphuka Secondary School disaster. We also have a considerable percentage of teachers in our schools who are struggling to teach whilst sick and yet they can not access the MK5,000 promised by the government.

2. Overview of the 2008/9 Budget

The total resources for 2008/2009 budget are projected at MK 208 billion, with MK 118 billion from domestic sources and MK 90 billion in grants. The government plans to spend a total of MK 229.2 billion, of which recurrent and development expenses are estimated at Mk 172.1 billion and MK 57.1 billion respectively.

The education sector has an allocation of MK 28.7 billion, accounting for 12.5% of the National Budget or 4.6% of GDP. This figure is Mk 3.3 billion (13.2%) more than the 2007/2008 allocation. MK 3.5 billion has been set aside for various development projects, including construction of hostels at Malawi Institute of Education; construction rehabilitation of extra schools and rehabilitation of existing ones.

The education sector total recurrent and development budget for 2007/08 was estimated at MK 17.6 billion. Out of this figure MK 12,552,512,772 were for recurrent and MK5,024,446,000 was development. The recurrent budget was broken down into MK9.6 billion for personal emoluments and MK 2.9 billion for other recurrent transactions (ORT). The rest of the estimates appear in Table 1 below.

Table 1: Overview of Education Budget Estimates for 2007/08 and 2008/09 financial years.

National Budget 174.9 bn 229.2 bn 54.3
Education budget 24.7 bn 28.7 bn 4
MoEST Recurrent Budget 12.6 bn 19.3 bn 6.7
MoEST Capital Budget 5 bn 3.6 bn -1.4
MoEST Emoluments Budget 9.6 bn 11.8 bn 2.2
MOEST ORT Budget 2.9 bn 4 bn 1.1

Source: (1) Ministry of Finance Budget Document No.4 for 2007/08 financial year (2) Ministry of Finance Budget Document No.4 for 2008/09 financial year

3. Observations and Analysis

Table 1 shows that 12.5% of the total national budget has been allocated to the Ministry of Education Science and Technology. The allocation has significantly decreased as compared to that of the last financial year which was 14.1 %. The capital budget has decreased from MK 5 billion to Ml( 3.6 billion in 2008/09 financial year. MK11.8 billion of the MK28.7 billion for education is allocated to personal emolument alone This means that only 51% of the budget is going to development and ORT activities, signaling that funding for education sector is inadequate as compared to the critical issues to be addressed by the ministry.

CSCQBE greatty regrets the reduction to funding to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology as it actually justifies that the government's claims that it also prioritizes education are but political rhetoric. It disheartens us that the trend shows that Malawi will not effectively address its educational woes and realize universal education of good quality and halve the illiterates by 2015. It scares us because we realize that development of physical infrastructure like roads and improvement of other social sectors like health in a context where the majority of users are illiterate is a sure way of creating unsustainable gains in the long term. We strongly believe that sustainable economic development is that which balances the educational advancement of a country with physical infrastructural development. We still are able to recall incidences in the formative years of multiparty democracy when people destroyed various roads infrastructure due to political anger which simply manifested low level of education among the masses. It is also worrisome because come 2015 Malawi will still remain a backward country education wise, still heavily depended on donor good will in a context of growing donor fatigue.

4. Recommendations

In the interest of long term and sustainable development and passion to have the majority if not all our people to get education of good quality as a right, CSCQBE wishes to recommend the following:

  • Government should increase the education budget by at least the same percentage it reduced it (1.6%). Such a move will demonstrate our commitment to the education of all our people as per our consent on international Education for All (EFA) and the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs).
  • Political statements should always be followed by substantive actions. It is one thing to lay a foundation stone to the site of a Teacher Training College and it is another for government to take 3 to 4 years before it commences the construction of the concerned college.
  • Our budget should also give enough funds for quality confrol programmes across the board, just as government has plans to form a National Council for Higher Education our budget should also begin to consider the formation of a similar council for lower education.
  • As MPs have started debating the national budget, CSCQBE would like to urge the MPs to:
    • Scrutinize and reduce the votes that have been over allocated in the budget estimates to release funds for increasing the education budget.
    • Discuss the modalities of ensuring that fertilizer subsidy plays a role in promoting the capacity of schools to feed their children during months of hunger rather than leaving fertilizer coupons to the vagaries of corruption.
    • Consider the plight of disabled children who are highly disadvantaged in the education system by ensuring that adequate funds are provided in the capital and recurrent budgets to make education accessible and affordable for them and improve working conditions for their teachers.
    • Lobby for increased allocation for teaching and learning materials.
    • Lobby for the transparent examination printing tenders to allows saving of scarce resources for improvement of MANEB infrastructure and condition of service for MANEB staff.

Signed by


Appeared in Malawi News 7-13 June 2008

(c) 2010 Malawi SDNP