Inability to select 140,440 learners to secondary schools is a tragedy, says Oxfam

Oxfam Malawi says it is a tragedy and a recipe for poverty that the Ministry of Education is unable to select 140,440 learners to secondary schools despite the learners passing the Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education (PSLCE) exams.

The Ministry of Education announced Monday that out of the 225,387 students who passed the 2019/20 standard eight examinations, only 84,947 have been elected into various secondary schools representing only 37.73% of those who passed the examination.

Lingalireni Mihowa, Country Director for Oxfam in Malawi, described the situation as a total recipe for exacerbating inequality and poverty for the country.

“This is demotivating for the learners, disheartening for the parents and unacceptable for the nation,” said Mihowa.

She added that the admission by the Ministry of Education that the low selection rate is ‘due to severe shortage of secondary school spaces’ is very worrying and reveals how Malawi has neglected making serious investments in our human capital development through the education sector.

She said: “Education is a key equalizer. The Inability to facilitate our 140,440 learners to automatically transition into secondary school education this year is a tragedy, as this has a direct negative impact on the economic and social development and growth of the country.

“In a country where more than 70% of the population lives below the poverty line of $1.90 a day, many children from poor households depend on public services such as public education. Failure to invest in education infrastructure means the government has failed learners with requisite capacities to progress with their studies. This denies many deserving learners their right to education and the negative consequences on their personal and overall national development cannot be overemphasized.”

Oxfam has since asked government to enhance the level and allocation of education budgets particularly towards infrastructure development and to strengthen procurement functions, supply management, and other elements of the public expenditure chain.

The organisation has also urged government to enhance fiscal transparency and accountability at national and sub-national levels throughout the budget cycle as well as to be gender responsive in its solution of expanding secondary school plan by deliberately allocating resources to the construction of girls boarding facilities as this supports girls’ enrollment, retention and completion of secondary education – leading to achievement of gender parity in secondary education.

“Oxfam and its partners also call upon country’s development partners and the private sector to support the government’s pathway to constructing more secondary schools’ infrastructure that will accommodate more learners since education is an essential service and a public good,” the organisation said in its statement on Tuesday.