When it comes to the Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examination results, the Malawi National Examinations Board (Maneb) might be receiving blows best directed at the Ministry of Education, the main offender.
At times, the results and grading system suffocate the hopes of fresh students.
For the past three years, the best performers who got the coveted six points last year were from Maranatha Private Secondary Schools and the State-owned Dedza Secondary School.
Public schools ought to produce star performers because they enrol the cream.
However, the results do not tell us whether the star performers were first-timers or repeaters.
Most private schools publish only a list of those who pass whether they sat as internal or external candidates.
The students are cajoled and over-drilled on examination tactics.
This is a misleading marketing gimmick. Follow those selected to universities, you will see many students from private schools being withdrawn on academic grounds.
Of course, there are bright, hardworking learners in private schools who pass with flying colours to prove Maneb wrong for throwing them out of the academic train.
However, most private schools enrol many repeaters at Form Four. These learners just want to improve their previous grades and go to public universities or get a job promotion.
Some repeat several times, competing with inexperienced new entrants.
This is unfair. How do we measure progress for each new generation? Separate newcomers from old-timers? This will distort the pass rates.
Every candidate should have a unique number for life. This can help curb cheating since everyone will have their biographical data and photos in the database.
This does not mean that repeaters should be blacklisted.
Rather, let us develop a robust inclusive system that will take care of everyone.
Students fail due to various factors.
In a fair system, a learner at Yamba Community Day Secondary School in Chitipa cannot be compared to one from a high-flying grammar school or well-equipped national institution.
The grading system needs to safeguard those who do well on their first attempt.
Currently, if you score six points in the best six subjects, including English and Mathematics, you are deemed a college material.
However, not all those with six to 36 points go to public universities. Why not? There is not enough space in public colleges which are still experimenting with parallel and open distance learning programmes to accommodate all deserving students.
The sour part is that fees are discriminatory as mature entry students pay up to K950 000 per year while generic students pay K350 000 for a first degree. These figures exclude accommodation, meal and stationery expenses.
This is a system that treats a poor boy or girl aged 20 as a mature student.
Should both mature and generic students be employed by the civil service, they will earn equal benefits.
This makes our education and training system discriminatory, oppressive and punitive.
If you fail, you are in trouble. If you do well, you are in more problems!
You may think it is a crime to be from Nsanje.
Poor performers should be left home, whether they are from Kameme in Chitipa Mzambazi in Mzimba, Msundwe in Lilongwe Makanjira in Mangochi or Mtambanyama in Thyolo.
The capable will be deployed anywhere to serve fellow Malawians. We can do better for our learners.