Malawi vice President, Saulos Chilima, who was heading the Public Reforms Commission, is behind government decision to abolish Junior Certificate of Education (JCE) and the introduction of fees in primary schools, Malawi24 has learnt.
Reports that this publication has seen show that Mr. Chilima, as Public Reforms Commission chair, nodded to suggestions for government to introduce primary schools fees as well as abolish JCE.
“Chilima could have stopped these two crucial suggestions. But the moment he okayed the suggestions into becoming part of the reforms, he affirmed that the suggestions were good for Malawians in general. According to the vice president, free primary school and JCE were both bad for Malawi. This is why he blessed the decisions to have the two removed” reasoned our news and current affairs analyst, Williams Simango.
It is believed that Chilima, an economist by profession, supported the abolishment of JCE and introduction of primary school fees as part of some measures intended to earn government money while cutting on public expenditure.
“IMF has been on government’s neck demanding various austerity measures. But government cannot privatise basic primary education because it is widely acknowledged to be a human right. The closest Chilima and his public reforms commissioners could come to privatizing this sector was with the introduction of fees. With millions of pupils enrolled in primary schools, it is evident the economist target was to earn government about K1 billion/a month with the K950/per month school fees that he introduced. Whereas as government would cut on its expenditure in administering JC exams. The two decisions were intended to benefit government and not the general public” added Williams.
Asked whether Chilima should apologize to Malawians following a strong public outcry calling for the two reforms to be reversed, the analyst said Malawians should forget their wish to ever becoming a reality.
“Apologizing would be confirming these reports that he is the one who introduced the reforms which are evidently not widely supported by the general public. And also with well placed sources saying Chilima is also eyeing to replace [Peter] Mutharika in 2019 as president ‘should nothing happen by then’. As someone with ambitions of becoming a president, coming out to accept full responsibility for the reforms would undoubtedly end his chances in 2019, and his political career with it”.
Meanwhile, one of Malawi’s renowned education experts, Dr. Steve Sharra, has argued that abolishment of JCE will negatively impact on the country’s education standards.
“The reforms are happening at a time when the Malawi economy is undergoing severe problems. While it is true that necessity is the mother of all inventions, the danger in our circumstances is that institutions may be tempted to think of reforms dictated more by economic necessity than by the desire for wholistic efficiency. There is great risk here that the economic factors could triumph over common sense and end up skewing the reforms [in that] removing the examinations without a careful, deliberate process could create a vacuum that could paralyse the system” blogged Sharra.