Dowa — The Education Division Manager (EDM) for the Central East Education Division (CEED), who has jurisdiction over schools in Kasungu, Dowa, Ntchisi, Nkhotakota and Salima districts, Billy Banda, has questioned the proprietorship of some public primary schools by churches, wondering how a church which did not spend a single Tambala on a school project could own it.
Banda expressed the surprise, in Dowa on Tuesday when he met Councilors and other education stakeholders during the division's program for the dissemination of its Customer Service Charter, a document that spells out an organization's services and their expected standards.
He said it was illogical for Primary Education Advisors (PEAs) to allocate communities' schools to a church as this may give it freedom to do what it wants.
"We all know that many schools belong to churches, but if you look carefully, you will discover that those schools, in actual fact, belong to communities around. As PEAs continue to allocate schools to churches, what may happen if those churches decide to privatize the school? As it stands now, churches are scrambling for schools," said Banda,
He then urged councils to take the community schools back to their rightful owners, and retain the church as an Agency.
The EDM went on to say that for the years he has been on his position; there have also been issues of school land encroachment and soliciting of contributions of money by schools from learners for various activities and projects such as examinations and development, among others.
He said this was unacceptable, as it defeats the whole purpose of free primary education, and asked the councils to stop any form of contributions to schools saying no school on its own, should solicit funds from the learner.
"In 1994, we adopted the free Primary Education Policy, but we are overwhelmed by issues of schools soliciting funds from learners. We want learners to enjoy free primary education. These demands must not suffocate the free primary education instituted in 1994," he said.
Banda said, when a school wants to solicit funds from the community, it must first get a letter of authorization from the council which should also coordinate the exercise.
On school land encroachment, the EDM advised councils to lease all school land so that they have the legal basis to challenge encroachers.
He said the leasing funds could come from the Primary School Improvement Plan Fund (PSIP), citing Mulanje as one of the districts in the country with its Primary schools pieces of land leased using the fund.
In her remarks, District Commissioner for Dowa, Fanny Msimuko thanked the EDM for disseminating the Customer Service Charter saying information was vital.
"Sometimes things appear normal when it's not because of lack of knowledge. The Service Charter will help to take people to task. Indeed we also sometimes take people to task when it was not supposed to be the case because of the same lack of knowledge," she said.
The Malawi government is implementing the Civil Service Reform Program to improve service delivery and every government Ministry, Department and Agency is expected to come up with a Customer Service Charter, among other requirements.