Malawi Govt told to treat all schools equally

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Kandodo Chiponda

An education expert has demanded the Malawi Government to prove that it treats all schools fairly and equally following revelations that Army Secondary School which is owned by the Malawi Defence Force was still offering lessons to students in Blantyre while other schools in the city were on two-week extended holiday.

It has been learnt that despite a directive from the presidential taskforce on Covid-19 and cholera that all primary and secondary schools in Blantyre and Lilongwe cities remain closed, Army secondary school of the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) in Blantyre, was until Wednesday open and offering lessons to students.

Surprisingly, Minister of health Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda who is also the co-chairperson of the taskforce, told the local media that the taskforce was aware that the school was open and that it wrote MDF earlier this week reminding them of the order but  the military was yet to respond.

Few hours later, MDF publicist, Major Kelvin Mlelemba also told the media that the school remained open because authorities were confused if the directive was also affecting them on grounds that they are in Blantyre rural and that their understanding was that the directive was for schools in urban not rural.

“Follow-up communication indicated that all schools are supposed to be closed and we have complied. The school has been closed and the students are returning (home) until an announcement on re-opening is made,” said Mlelemba.

Sharra

Reacting to the development, education expert Steve Sharra, said government needs to prove to the nation that it treats all schools equally because the Ministry of Education recently threatened Maranatha Academy which fled Blantyre to Neno and Balaka respectively where classes were to resume last Monday.

Sharra told this publication that government’s decision to extend the holiday for schools in Blantyre and Lilongwe while other schools countrywide are open, is what has caused the controversy.

“The order to keep schools in Blantyre and Lilongwe closed while schools in the rest of the country are open is creating considerable, if not understandable, controversy. It boils down to balancing between protecting student’s lives, on the part of the government, and ensuring student success especially in forthcoming national examinations.

“Government needs to show that it treats all schools fairly and equally, without due favouritism. So, government needs to take appropriate measures to send that message. Schools need to know that flouting government directives attracts sanctions,” reacted Sharra.

He then tipped government that the best way to handle decisions regarding school closures in the face of rising cases of cholera is to come up with an evidence-driven alert system, guided by health experts which he said should be devolved to local authorities where they can decide based on available data and trends.

He added that the country needs to invest in resilience systems that would allow schools to continue offering education in times of disruption, claiming school closures cause national anxiety, and have ripple effects on the economy and the society.

He admitted that it is important to save lives but measures need to be based on data.

Meanwhile, it is not known what the future holds for Lilongwe and Blantyre schools as the two-week extended holiday will elapse this Friday 13th January, 2023.

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