21 April 2017

Malawi: 'Box 2' Maladministration, Bribes, Divisions Behind Zomba Catholic Secondary School's Shut Down

Maladministration, bribes and divisions which have stunned Zomba Catholic Secondary School (Box 2) have forced students there to revolt and damage school property, subsequently leading to an indefinite closure of the school.

Investigations have revealed that students were protesting of the school management's maladministration, which includes the boarding master demanding bribes from students who display improper conduct or when they are in the wrong as well as divisions among the school teachers and the management.

Students who cannot be identified in the story as they are minors said they were tired with what the boarding master a Mr. Mpoto has been doing by demanding bribes from students who are found in the wrong.

"In fact, we have been tired of the behavior by some teachers especially our boarding master who has been getting bribes from learners. For instance, the fracas happened after the boarding master asked for bribes from two form four students who were found drunk. Our colleagues refused to bribe the boarding master as he was demanding five thousand kwacha from them.

"Our boarding master found some learners smoking Chamba and they were asked to bribe him with four thousand kwacha each to brave suspension. They paid and got no suspension.

"Last term, he withdrew cell phones from two students of which one is a relation to him but what happened later was that his relation got the cell phone back while the other student did not up to date," one students said.

Another source described the current school's management under Brother Jumbe as weak failing to take to task the boarding master as he has been always been claimed uncontrollable.

"It is a pity that the whole boarding master could be asking some learners to bring milk every term when coming from holidays so that when they misbehave, he should stand by them. For instance, some learners were found playing cards during prep sessions. However, the one who has been bringing milk for him was spared while others were suspended," said another learner.

One of the teachers at Zomba Secondary School confided that the school has serious divisions among the learners, teachers and management that have contributed to the students' revolt.

He explained that there are some teachers who think they are better than others especially those claiming to have saved for a long time at the institution.

"A good example was when our former head teacher, Brother Mulakho got sick and medics advised him to be relieved of his duties due to his condition. Mr. Kholopa who is the current deputy head teacher was the then acting head teacher and as acting head, identified two teachers to be assisting him but this did not go down well with the so called long serving staff.

"They were even encouraging students to talk bad about the then interim leadership so that they look as failures. I am very double sure that our administration is a source of the learners' revolt," said the source.

Efforts to speak to a Mr Mpoto, the boarding master proved futile as his phone could not be answered after several attempts.

Head teacher, Brother Jumbe said investigations were still underway to gather information as much as possible claiming that currently they are yet to establish how much is true on what has already been gathered.

"We are in a process to gather information on what happened and thereafter we will sit down as management and come up with a decision. On the involvement of other staff, as I have said we are still investigating and by the end of this week, everything will be known. After the outcome of the investigations I am sure that some will be given disciplinary action," he said

Brother Jumbe said if they find that some staffs contributed to the revolt, there are administrative procedures that will be applied which he did not mentioned.

"At the moment, there is no information gathered which is implicating some of the members of staff on the incident but if found, administratively we have procedures under ministry of education which will be applied," he concluded.

Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC) Executive Director, Benedicto Kondowe acknowledged the challenges ranging from the leadership of the institution; weak governance arrangement which is not open to constructive engagement and not responsive to addressing concerns emerging from students.

"Our take is that these governance deficiencies will have a long term impact on the image of the institution which has been quite commendable in this country as far as quality secondary school education is concerned.

"Our own view, these are matters that are supposed to be investigated thoroughly, they have to be followed to the letter so that the Catholic leadership is able to unearth the truth because if they are not addressed, there is potential that the image of the institution will greatly be affected. These tensions might also grow at a level that might be unmanageable between the students' constituency and the school management.

"May I appeal to the Catholic leadership to expeditiously come in to thoroughly inquire into the allegations so that the nation is told the truth and proper remedies are instituted to avert the growing tensions," explained Kondowe.

He said it is unreasonable for students to be punished because of the school's maladministration which ignited the revolt.

"The catholic leadership should investigate thoroughly the major players leading to the crisis the school has found itself in and specific management officers who are involved. Let appropriate disciplinary measures be taken against such officers as it means that they are not there to serve the institution,"

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