Independent Schools Association of Malawi (Isama) is seeking about K3.8 billion bailout from government to pay teachers’ salaries for March and April, saying they are unable to do so due to closure of schools as a measure to contain Covid-19.
But education activist Benedicto Kondowe has described Isama’s demand as unreasonable “considering that private schools are a business”.
He said if government has such money it should be directed towards other needy sectors within the education sector.
“Why should they ask for such bailout? If government does that then every business will seek bailout and this will create chaos,” said Kondowe. adding that like other businesses, Isama ought to think of other alternatives instead of putting pressure on the public purse.
Minister of Education, Science and Technology William Susuwele-Banda has confirmed the request from Isama, saying government is looking into it alongside similar requests from other sectors.
Speaking at a press briefing in Lilongwe on Friday–Isama president Joseph Patel said they have met with the minister where the request for funding, among other issues, was discussed.
In their calculations, each primary school requires about K1 million while secondary schools need K1.5 million per month. There are 850 primary schools and 680 secondary schools in their records, which makes it about K1.9 billion per month; hence, the request for K3.8 billion for March and April.
“We are paralysed following the closure of schools on March 20. As Isama, we are still pressuring our ministry to ensure that they give us money to bail us out because I foresee a lot of lawsuits. Elsewhere, governments have bailed out schools and we need the same in Malawi. We are hopeful that government is doing something about it,” said Patel.
He said a number of teachers in private schools are yet to be paid their March salary because “most schools had not managed to collect fees balances due to the abrupt closure of schools” and this was communicated to the Ministry of Education in a letter dated March 30, which we have seen.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Susuwele-Banda confirmed meeting Isama and said government has taken note of the request “but resources are a challenge as there are a number of competing needs from other sectors as well”.
The minister also confirmed that international schools have been allowed to do e-learning for purposes of their international syllabus, which is still in full force.
“There is, indeed, an exception for international schools— whose students have to sit for international exams which are proceeding even with the global pandemic. So, this is why we have allowed them to proceed with lessons”. This, too, was part of a list of requests from Isama to the ministry.
Susuwele-Banda said with the prevailing situation of Covid-19 in the country—it is unlikely that schools will open anytime soon. This has affected Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education (PSLCE) examinations and will likely disrupt the Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examination as well. Some private schools have opted for e-learning at a fee—to cope with the indefinite break that has come as a result of Covid-19.