Malawi’s squeezed taxpayer risk footing a K320 million compensation claim to the Malawi Writers Union (Mawu) following a Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) decision to withdraw a Chichewa Literature textbook from the secondary school curriculum.
Through lawyer Kuleza Phokoso, Mawu last week obtained an injunction stopping MoEST and Malawi Institute of Education (MIE) from removing the book titled Kusintha Maganizo ndi Nkhani Zina from the list of Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinable textbooks.
In an interview yesterday, Phokoso said the union is demanding K320 million compensation from government for what he described as ‘wrongful decision’ to withdraw the book, a collection of short stories.
He argued that the withdrawal has made the writers’ body to suffer pecuniary losses.
Further, Mawu is also seeking relief from the court to overturn government’s decision and not to replace the textbook with any other.
Said Phokoso: “The decision to remove the book was made without, according Mawu, a lawful and procedurally fair administrative process where their legitimate expectations are known.
“… [the decision] was made in violation of rules of natural justice, and through the abdication of MIE as the Ministry of Education does not have powers to remove, exclude or include a book into the national curriculum and that the decision to remove the whole book from the syllabus because of one story was unreasonable.”
Three weeks ago, MoEST through a notice signed by its principal secretary Justin Saidi advised all education division managers and other stakeholders that the book had been withdrawn because it contains a story titled Mdalitso Wabodza which was deemed as immoral in nature and portraying a damaging image of the Roman Catholic Church.
Court documents under Case Number 80 of 2017 which The Nation has seen show that High Court Judge Jack N’riva granted Mawu the injunction pending a judicial review of the government’s decision to remove and prohibit from use the said book.
Mawu argues that from January 2017 the book followed every bidding process up to September 2017 when it was approved for inclusion into the syllabus for a period of five years.
According to Phokoso, the court order means that the textbook remains on the syllabus as well as examinable and students will continue using it.
In an interview yesterday, Saidi said MoEST had been served with the court order not to remove the book from the syllabus and has referred the matter to the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
He said: “As per protocol, the matter was referred to Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs so we will be guided by that ministry on the way forward and we will deal accordingly. But what I should say is that as a ministry we did the right thing.”
Attorney General Charles Mhango, whose office is the chief legal adviser to government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), could not be drawn into commenting on the way forward regarding the court order and claim as his phone went unanswered.