The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology says it has engaged extra gear to fast-track the ongoing delivery of desks, and teaching and learning materials in a bid to stem out an acute shortage in some schools across the country.
About K2.5 billion has been set aside for the production of desks for both primary and secondary schools for all the 34 education districts in Malawi.
A total of 32, 000 double seater desks will be distributed to all the primary schools, while 27, 000 single seater desks will go to the secondary section.
According to an official of the Ministry, 18, 000 primary school desks have already been shipped out to various delivery hubs across the country. For the secondary sector, about 16, 000 desks have been delivered.
Mobile chalk boards, science kits and tables, text books and teaching and learning materials for special needs education are also some of the items currently under delivery across the regions.
"We have, within the constraints of resources, remained on course on this exercise. We anticipate full delivery in the next one month," the official said.
This is in response to a growing challenge of desks, class space and teaching and learning materials, brought about by a surge in enrolment of learners over the years due to the introduction of free primary school education in 1994 and the compulsory Primary Education in 2013.
Currently, the country has over 5, 700 primary schools across the country, with about 5 million learners in class. In 2017 alone, nearly 1 million pupils were enrolled in Standard One.
The gains that the country realized from implementing free primary school education have posed very huge challenges in that, the growth and expansion that occurred at that level surpassed available material resources, such as desks.
Although the schools are now managed by local authorities under decentralization, the Ministry has taken this step to help ease the burden, and also to ensure that learners are taking their classes in a conducive environment.
Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Bright Msaka, says resources that could be used to procure the needed furniture and other items are available at local authorities under initiatives such as the Local Development Fund, Constituency Development Fund and District Development Fund. Unfortunately, he says, this is not the case.
"Members of Parliament are fond of constructing school blocks, and they do this for visibility and popularity. However, they don't buy the desks," Msaka said.
This has left many of such structures operating as schools without the necessary furniture, subjecting learners and teachers to unfavourable learning conditions, and piling undue pressure on government to find lasting solutions to the emerging challenges.
And speaking during the presentation of the 2018/2019 budget plan in parliament on Friday, Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe said government has made procurement of desk one of the priority areas in the education sector.
"No pupil in this country will ever be without a desk," Gondwe said.
According to the Ministry, procurement of desks and chairs for learners is a continuous process as enrollment continues to swell. The Ministry also says there is need to continuously replace worn out pieces of furniture in the schools.