Government has recruited 9,630 primary school teachers in a major drive to beef up teaching staff levels in the education sector to tame overcrowding in classrooms that is affecting delivery of quality education to learners in the country.
Speaking in an interview on the sidelines of community campaign on combating sexual and gender based violence in schools at Enkondhlweni Teacher Development Centre in Mzimba, the Minister of Education, Science and Technology Bright Msaka said the move is part of government efforts to reduce the teacher pupil ration, which at around 1-70 is considered one of the highest in the region.
Msaka said government is targeting to lower the ratio to around 1-40 in line with other regional countries, which he says will enable teachers to effectively manage their classes, leading to improvement in the quality of education.
He said the new recruits have already been deployed to all the corners of this country.
Unlike in the past when newly recruited teachers would go for months without pay due to what others said were administrative lapses, the minister said this time around the Ministry has instituted new systems that have resulted in timely salary pay outs.
"Quality education is at the centre of our competitiveness in a global order. It is at the heart of our development agenda and without quality education, our teachers would be producing professionals of mediocrity. We have to raise the bar," Msaka said.
According to the education minister, the government has also employed 1, 200 more secondary schools teachers to increase access to secondary education to give chances to more learners to go beyond mere primary education.
The numbers of primary school learners in the country have over the years swelled up to about 5 million, owing to the introduction of free primary education in 1994. However, critics says the majority of these learners hardly attain secondary or even tertiary education due to among others overcrowding in classrooms.
With overcrowding, some teachers have been finding it difficult to effectively supervise all learners and in most cases, homework was not provided for fear of ending up with a huge work load.
On infrastructure development in the sector, the education minister said soon the government will embark on a rehabilitation exercise of old teacher training colleges, while new ones are set to be constructed in Chikwawa, Mchinji and Rumphi districts.
To address the thorny issue of teachers' welfare, Msaka also said the ministry will also review and improve on teacher incentives to boost up the morale among the rank and file in the teaching service.
"We will leave nothing undone to make sure that the Malawian teacher is a happy person because they are architects of the future of Malawi," Msaka said.