Authorities have reminded all headteachers and school management committees that primary education is free and whatever arrangement schools are making for fundraising activities should not affect the poor in the district.
Dowa Acting District Education Manager Joseph Chafukira made the remarks following a concern by the district council’s disabilities representative, Thomas Gervazio who wanted to know if indeed primary education is free in Malawi since children are failing to access education due to charges schools set.
Gervazio lamented that school going learners are being chased away from classes when their parents and guardians fail to pay for development fund, examinations, smart dressing and payment to watchmen.
“The development is demoralising school learners and parents and in particular persons of families with disabilities and they conclude that free primary education is not free in the country,” he said.
Chafukira said every school has its set of rules and payment of school development fund should be a sole responsibility of the parent or guardian and not learners saying if there is a punishment for failing to pay, learners must be exempted.
He asked all schools in the district to write his office for any fundraising activity and its purpose for holding such an activity saying all PEAs of the district received the communication but the problem is with some school headteachers resisting to change.
The DEM said it is a common syndrome that nowadays teachers do not want to write on chalkboards examinations as preference is made to printing for multiple choice questions.
He urged councillors of the district to take a leading role in advising the concerned schools to change for the betterment of all particularly to learners whose parents and guardians cannot afford payments for education which is free.
Msakambewa East ward councillor, Martin Luka Phiri, said school development fund is a traditional practice among all schools in Malawi but he noted that other people have found it as a loophole for reaping where they did not sow.
Luka expressed fear that the malpractice of enriching oneself through school development fund by school headteachers and management committees cannot end if there is no policy or law governing it.
He urged the authorities to put in place a policy that will allow the poor of the poorest in Malawi to be exempted from paying school development fund for free primary education to be truly free.