A K12 million school block built under Local Development Fund (LDF) has collapsed at Mpimbi Junior Primary School in Neno before learners could start using it.
The school block was planned to be completed by December last year and was meant to upgrade the school from a junior to a full primary school but following the collapse of the structure the school is still only offering Standards 1 to 4.
To access Standards 5 to 8, learners from the area need to walk almost 10 kilometers to and from the next school which is Chawe Primary School.
The headteacher of the school Ronex Fanuel Kundembo who is also a member of the school management committee said the contractor was using sub-standard materials and the building started developing dangerous cracks before it was finished.
He added that some walls of the school block started falling down in June before heavy winds blew off the roof in August, which led to complete falling down of the school block.
Kundembo said the school management committee was given mandate to choose a contractor from the community but was not involved in the procurement of building materials
“There was very little cement used, poor concrete quality, poor reinforcement detailing and more irregularities in roofing but the contractor choose not to take our suggestions. He always shouted at us saying we don’t know how things work,” said Kundembo.
He said it would have been a tragedy if the incident happened during the learning period because the roof was found in the morning scattered all over the school premises.
Councilor of the area Montfort Bwanali admitted that there were a lot of loopholes during the construction of the block that led to the falling down of the structure.
He said since commencement of the project there was poor coordination between council, school management committee and other players.
“Let me admit that we have failed this development, there was low supervision of the project and hired incompetent contractor. I am very concerned because we don’t know where we can get other funds for the needed school block, as duty bearers we have failed this development,” admitted Bwanali.
Efforts to talk to the Director of Development and Planning for Neno District Henry Chitema on the matter proved futile as he has been out of office for over a week now and his mobile number could not be reached while Member of Parliament for the area Emmanuel Lonzo is in the delegation that has accompanied President Peter Mutharika to United Nations General Assembly in New York. .
Group Village Head Kaingilira of the area said the falling down of the block means children in her area will continue travelling long distance to access Standard 5 to 8 in other schools.
“It’s unbelievable, the K12 million has been spent for nothing on the project,” complained Group village head Kaingilira.
Commenting on the fallen structure, Action Aid Programs officer for Neno District Francis Chapasuka said it did not meet minimum standard of construction.
“The structure was a death trap to learners. The community was not supposed to accept this kind of poor standard development. It’s a mistake waiting for officers to come and supervise a development project in your area. The community lacked the will on the progress of this project,” said Chapasuka.
He also urged the authorities to strengthen and empower Area Development Committees and Village Development Committee to curb the provision of sub-standard project.
Action Aid Malawi is carrying out back to school campaign in the area in partnership with Neno Women Forum.
Chapasuka said out of 144 learners that were on Action Aid sponsorship program from 2017/2018 school calendar, only 47 learners are still in school.
He added that the only solution to curb the high dropout rate at the school is having the school upgraded to Standard 8 because most learners cannot afford to walk a distance of 10 kilometers to access Standard 5 to 8.
Meanwhile villagers have constructed a grass-thatched shelter to be used as Standard five and six classrooms but the school is awaiting approval from District Education Office.