Education experts have called for stronger governance and management systems to develop policies that will save the country’s education sector currently in dire straits.
Educationists Steve Sharra and Benedicto Kondowe made the call in separate interviews yesterday in response to the newly-released 2019/20 Malawi Education Sector Performance Report which reveals the multiple challenges facing the country’s education sector.
They have since warned that if nothing is done, the education system may collapse.
The challenges, according to the report, include inadequate classrooms, unqualified teachers and lack of frequent supervision.
The sector is also faced with high school dropouts, repetitions, limitations in fiscal space and infrastructure and poor performance in examinations as well as lack of basic facilities.
It also raises issues of inequality, stating that provision of quality education for learners with special needs faces inadequate teaching and learning materials, poor access to health services in school and poor public perception.
Most of the challenges, according to the report, are due to weak governance and management systems, to which Kondowe and Sharra agree, saying there is little interest in the country to develop policies based on available evidence.
For instance, at primary school level, it shows that enrolment gains made in lower classes are not sustained, calling on the sector to accord greater attention to the middle and senior levels of primary education.
Reads the report in part: “Such gains have been overshadowed by increased rates of repetition, poor performance in Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education (PSLCE), especially for girls, and transition rates to secondary schools.
“Besides limitations in fiscal space, most of these shortcomings have been attributed to weak governance and management systems.”
The report shows that teacher qualification is an area that needs to be looked into as the country still uses personnel with a mere Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) as secondary school teachers.
“The teaching profession in the country’s secondary schools continues to have a significant population of personnel with non-education certification at diploma [1 274], bachelor’s degree [1 420] and master’s degree  levels,” reads the report.
Other challenges include lack of supervision to monitor teachers’ performance, inadequate classrooms and funding, particularly in primary and secondary schools.
But while commending the Ministry of Education for coming up with the report, Sharra warned that it will remain a vain effort if policies guiding the sector are not developed with this evidence.
He said the 20 percent of the national budget allocated to the education sector was not enough considering the challenges.
On his part, Kondowe, who is Civil Society Education Coalition executive director, wondered why in the 2020/21 budget, government did not clearly indicate how much money was allocated for hiring teachers, yet lack of teachers is a big challenge.
Minister of Education Agnes NyaLonje could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, but during the handover of Luviri Secondary School in Rumphi recently, she admitted challenges facing the sector.
She said: “The secondary education sub-sector is facing acute challenges in access to education with a transition rate from primary to secondary at 38 percent. The sad part is that the system is only able to provide education to 15 percent of the secondary school age population in the country.”In the 2019/20 National Budget, government allocated K172.8 billion to the education sector, up from K142.2 billion in the 2018/19 financial year.
The report, titled Education Reforms: A Means to Reverse Education Losses from Covid-19 and Build an Inclusive, Resilient and Quality Education System, has been produced by the Ministry of Education.