The Malawi Council for the Handicapped (Macoha) has expressed concern over government’s failure to address challenges that have been hindering learners with disabilities from accessing basic education in public schools.
The concern follows reports that government had maintained a K80 465 monthly (US$181) budget for Montfort Demonstration School for the past five financial years, which has forced the administrators to manage the institution on alms.
Weekend Nation has learnt that government last revised the budget for the Chiradzulu-based institution in its 2010/2011 budget when the school was allocated an annual budget of K965 580 (US$2 169).
In an earlier interview, Montfort Special Needs Education College teacher-in-charge, Clement Kaleso, said school authorities pay bills, buy and transport firewood and foodstuffs for the 50 plus learners using the same monthly allocation.
“This has greatly compromised the quality of services we’re supposed to provide to our learners. We can’t feed the pupils as we are supposed to because then we’d nothing to save for the other month,” he explained.
He said every month the school needs about 600kg of maize to adequately feed the pupils, which at the current market price of about K8 000 (US$18) a 50kg bag translates into K96 000 (US$216) per month.
Macoha acting director, Peter Ngomwa, observed last week that this is testimony that Malawi has a long way to go to address challenges rocking the inclusive education sector.
Ngomwa said the initiatives government has introduced, so far, are not enough to help the country meet the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
He explained: “There have been some strides, but they’re certainly not enough. We need to triple our efforts for us to achieve the goal.”
Ngoma disclosed that learners with disabilities continue to face hindrances to enjoy their right to education just like their friends without disabilities.
He cited lack of disability-friendly classrooms and or inadequacy of special needs teachers as some of the problems rocking inclusive education sector.
Minister of Gender, Child Welfare and Community Services, Patricia Kaliati, said government appreciates the challenges persons with disabilities are facing and is working towards addressing them.
But Kaliati asked for patience, saying government is currently going through tough economic challenges.