10 November 2016 Last updated at: 11:12 AM

Hunger affects new school timetable: learners knocking off at midday to look for food

As the new primary school hours continue to face criticism, education authorities in Nkhatabay have disclosed that some learners are knocking off before time due to hunger.

Speaking during a spot check this publication conducted recently, authorities said most learners complain of being hungry soon after lunch hour.

A visit by our team established that in some schools like Kang’oma and Chitheka primary learners were deserting at midday, leaving their respective classrooms almost empty.

Malawi Primary school

Pupils hit hard by hunger. (File)

In an interview, the headteachers of the two schools conceded that they fail to control learners from deserting because even if they force them, the learners lose concentration in class after lunch hour.

“So we just let them go and eat. In fact, some of them, complain that they come to school without eating thus they can’t persevere to knock off at the recommended time of 2:30 PM,” said James Zimba- headteacher at Kang’oma primary school.

As if this was not enough, Zimba revealed that the new timetable has lowered the attendance rate at his school since some learners opt truancy in order to escape knocking off very late.


His counterpart at Chitheka primary school shared the same sentiments, stressing that the trend may affect the performance of learners in Nkhatabay.

“There is nothing we can do, because even if we force them to be in class, they don’t concentrate. We have tried to reason with their parents about the time but they seem to be as well against the timetable,” he said.

Earlier this year, government through the ministry of education, science and technology, introduced a new primary school timetable, which stretched knocking off time, from 12:30 to 2:30 pm.

According to the ministry, the move aims at improving education standards in the country.

District Education manager for Nkhatabay Mzondi Moyo, refused to comment on the issue.

Meanwhile, psychologist Gibson Chirwa has described the timetable as boring to learners, especially primary school scholars.

“Psychologically, children lose concentration after midday. At this time, they only think about eating lunch. You can’t keep a child from morning up to later in the afternoon without giving them something to eat,” said Chirwa.

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