Dreams of learners and their parents/guardians to have a full primary school within their locality have been dealt a blow after a K12 million school block collapsed before it was handed over.
The school block at Mpimbi Junior Primary School in Neno, funded by the Local Development Fund (LDF), was expected to see the institution upgraded to a full primary school.
But following its collapse in August this year, the learners are back to square one with a junior primary school and those in upper classes still have to endure 10 kilometres walking to the nearest Chawe Primary School.
Mpimbi Junior Primary School head teacher Ronex Fanuel Kundembo, who is a member in the school management committee, said the structure collapsed due to use of sub-standard materials.
He said the building developed cracks even before it was handed over while some walls started falling off in June this year before heavy winds blew off the roof in August.
Kundembo claimed the school management committee was sidelined in decisions relating to procurement of construction materials.
His sentiments were corroborated by ward councillor Montfort Bwanali who said there were loopholes during the construction of the block that led to the falling down of the structure.
He said since the start of the project, there was poor coordination between council, school management committee and other players.
Neno District Council director of planning and development Henry Chitema could not be drawn to comment on the matter as he was reportedly out of office while legislator Emmanuel Lonzo was said to be abroad.
Group village head Kaingilira said the collapse of the structure means children in her area will continue travelling long distance to access standards 5 to 8 in other schools.
Desperate locals have since put up a grass-thatched shelter pending approval from the District Education Office to be used as make-shift Standard Five and Six classrooms.
The collapse of the structure comes against a background of an investigative series in September last year by Nation Publications Limited (NPL) newspapers—The Nation, Weekend Nation and Nation on Sunday—that LDF, Constituency Development Fund (CDF) and District Development Fund (DDF) projects were becoming the biggest fraud with sub-standard structures or uncompleted projects despite billions of kwacha in investments.
But on Wednesday, LDF denied responsibility and referred the issue to Neno District Council who they said had adequate capacity to monitor projects.
LDF acting chief executive officer Alufeyo Banda said the council should explain because councils are given a percentage of the resources as an administrative fee.
He said: “Once we fund the council, the project belongs to the community who should take part in ensuring all processes have been followed. Apart from community monitoring, the council has a director of public works, enough capacity at council level to monitor such works. LDF from Lilongwe cannot monitor every project it funds.”
This year, the government allocated K4 billion to LDF to fund various projects at council level, including construction of school blocks, guardian shelters at health centres and bridges, among others.
However, the funds are not allocated according to sector but on need basis when the council submits proposals to LDF, Banda said.
Banda admitted that there have been incidences where poor monitoring at council level has led to departures from set specifications and drawings as outlined by LDF for infrastructure projects.
In 2018/19, Parliament approved an allocation of K20 billion for social cash transfers of which K12.8 billion was expected to be transfers through LDF.
Additional reporting by SUZGO KHUNGA, Assistant Bureau Chief