Grant-aided resource centres or residential schools established in some parts of the country for special needs students are in dire need of funding from government.
The institutions, which are not getting the required ‘special attention’ from government include those for the deaf and the blind.
One of the schools, Mountain View School for the Deaf in Thyolo, faces serious financial challenges that it largely survives on donations from well-wishers.
The school, according to authorities, has some children who were abandoned by their guardians and do not go home during holidays. Instead, they spend their holidays with Catholic nuns serving at the school.
Government admitted the problem of funding to the institutions in an interview on Thursday, but attributed it to general cash-flow problems.
Director in the Department of Special Needs Education, David Njaidi, said they were aware of funding challenges to special needs schools, such that his department has been lobbying district education managers (DEMs) to prioritise such institutions.
“These schools are funded per term and they receive their grants through district education managers.
“The managers may not get the full funding. For example, the education sector at a district level may ask for K100 million, but only get say K40 million. But you may have DEMs that may not prioritise the special needs schools,”he said.
Njaidi, however, said there was still more work to be done by his department for schools where they have problems.
He said his department would also be talking to Local Government Finance Committee, which allocates finances to districts, adding that this will happen during the budget preparation.
The special needs director said the grants vary, depending on intake of the schools.
Head of programmes at Federation of Disability Organisation in Malawi (Fedoma), Simon Munde, said in an interview on Wednesday his organisation was fighting for inclusive education because the idea of residential special needs schools has not helped much.
He explained that inclusive education is where all schools across the nation—primary and secondary—must have specialised teachers to attend to special needs students.
“In fact, it is a violation of the children rights to take away, say a six-year-old child, and put him/her in a residential school where they have no relation.
“If we have inclusive education for all where specialised teachers are found at every school, it means these children would attend schools that are in their neighbourhood. There shall no longer be need to send them to far away residential schools,” he said.
Munde said looking at what is happening in some special schools where students are sent home earlier, it was time government implemented the national [education] inclusive strategy which was launched last year.
Njaidi agreed with Fedoma that the national inclusive strategy launched last July would help to solve some of the problems that special needs students face.