Ministry of Education has admitted delays in the construction of 383 low-cost classroom blocks and the drilling of 502 boreholes nationwide as part of Covid-19 response, saying they are following all due processes of procurement law.
In an interview yesterday, the ministry’s spokesperson Chikondi Chimala said preparations have started with community sensitisation a n d procurement of construction materials will be done next week.
In February this year, Treasury released K17.2 billion as part of the Covid-19 response, of which K5 billion was for the Ministry of Education to procure 266 tents, construct 383 low-cost classrooms and drill boreholes nationwide.
Chimala said the boreholes and classroom blocks will help reduce congestion in schools and improve hygiene, thereby protecting schools from Covid-19.
He said: “Construction funds were already transferred and are in schools’ accounts. Preparations have started with sensitisation of communities already conducted, communities have started mobilising resources like sand. Procurement of construction materials will happen next week and the construction starts after next week.
” On boreholes , community sensitisation is still in progress and procurement processes will take place in the next two weeks. Thereafter drilling will start. Take note that in all these processes, the ministry is making sure all due process of procurement law is followed; hence, the delays.”
Initially, government had planned to purchase tent to temporarily decongest classrooms during Covid-19 but a source who spoke on condition of anonymity yesterday said government has opted to construct low-cost classrooms because tents are not permanent.
The source said each borehole will cost about K3 million while the classrooms are pegged at a maximum of K3.5 million each.
Meanwhile, Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) and Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec) have expressed concern with the delays ad questioned government’s seriousness on the issue.
TUM president Willie Malimba in an interview said government should not have taken this long to carry out the works, arguing drilling boreholes in schools does not need sensitisation meetings that take forever.
He accused the government of double standards, saying teachers have to date not been provided with personal protective equipment (PPE), yet the country faces the risk of a Covid-19 third wave.
Said Malimba: “Go round the schools and check the congestion in schools. The situation is pathetic and you take this long to start
construction works? Teachers were just given low-quality cheap masks a long time ago. So, where is the money?”
On his part, Csec executive director Benedicto Kondowe said the argument that government have to follow the due process of the prcurement law was not convincing.
“We are talking about Covid-19 third wave, but we are not constructing classrooms, we are not drilling boreholes and teachers are not adequate. Is this how you respond to a crisis?” he asked.
A 2019/20 Education Sector Performance Report (ESPR) on availability of potable water indicates that 51 percent of secondary schools depend on boreholes for their source of water and that only 44 percent of secondary schools have piped water.
The ESPR also indicates that there is need to construct 1 981 classrooms and rehabilitate 1 573 classrooms across the country