One of the confusions I have with the education system in Malawi is how heavily politicised it is. It is always a song sung by Malawian leaders during the campaign for seats that teachers will be effectively absorbed into civil service soon after their graduation from college since the vacancy rate in teaching is high.
Since the mid-1980s, the efficacy of public education programmes has been challenged by policy makers, business leaders, professionals and the general public, with epicentre being the low number of qualified teachers in public schools.
Whether the impetus for reform comes from a perception of falling behind our international counterparts or falling short of providing equitable opportunities to all Malawians, the consensus seems to be that there are serious challenges with public education.
The problems are systemic rather than programmatic, and nothing short of major structural change will fix these problems.
While these concerns initially focused on improving general education, there are some things we need to closely align education programmes with emerging general education reforms of which teacher education for both secondary and primary schools is collectively monitored up to recruitment.
The reforms further invade the hiking of school fees in secondary schools which have inadequate qualified teachers, yet plenty of well-trained and qualified teachers remain unemployed. How can quality education be achieved alongside reforms with inadequate teachers? How can the implementation of science curriculum be effective with less than 2 000 qualified science teachers in Malawi? If I were the Minister of Education, Science and Technology, I would bang heads with the Head of State to prioritise teacher recruitment before embarking on some projects that are milking government resources but have little impact on Malawians such as the malata-cement subsidy.
In my view, I also look at the Teachers’ Union of Malawi (TUM) as powerless. My question is: where is TUM when teachers are fighting for their welfare? Does TUM see that there is a need for urgent recruitment of teachers? Where are political parties, organisations and interested prominent individuals who are pivotal players in education?
I tried to scrutinise the reforms in education sectors; all I see is the cutting of costs. Teachers are not taken care of and are mentioned in less than required frequencies. The hub of channelling education reforms is a teacher, not people who are at Capital Hill making hastened education policies. If you remove professional teacher development strategies alongside provision of quality teachers in our schools, then education reforms will lead to tragic failure.
The 2015 budget statement highlighted that the major pressure points for the budget included wages and salaries, which increased from K163 billion to K198 billion due to recruitment of 10 500 primary school teachers and 500 secondary school teachers, and the salary increase demands in the public service. Regardless of this statement, waves are always in ears of citizens that Malawi has more civil servants than required. As such, government will not recruit more civil servants.
So, what will the approved funds for recruitment of teachers be used for? If the august House approved the funds, then they have to be used for the intended purposes.
As trained teachers, we are waiting for effectiveness of this statement. Government should realise that the number of teachers in Malawi is far much lower than what is required. As such, government should consider recruiting graduate teachers for both secondary and primary schools.