European Union (EU) Ambassador to Malawi, Sandra Paesen, has expressed shock at the deteriorating standards of infrastructure in public schools.
The EU envoy expressed her concerns amidst combined efforts by government and its development partners to address the problem.
Paesen made the remarks when she handed over six modern classrooms, library, a hall and twin laboratories to Chankhanga Community Day Secondary School in Kasungu on Monday.
EU is supporting 21 Community Day Secondary Schools (CDSSs) across the country with additional infrastructure and teaching and learning materials.
It is also working with three non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which are operating in 34 CDSSs, providing support to girls with bursaries and bicycles to ease their mobility to school.
Paesen said it is saddening that 'despite the global and national efforts to provide free and compulsory primary education for all Malawian children, there is no space for them at the next level'.
"When I look at the state of the education system in Malawi, it becomes apparent that many challenges still remain.
"Every year, the Ministry of Education is put in a difficult situation of selecting only a few learners from among the many that excelled in the primary education system to enter secondary school," Paesen said.
She added: "The poor infrastructure, the lack of teaching and learning materials, the high number of students against qualified teachers; all of these indicators testify to the continuous need to support this sector.
"Based on the current 36 percent transition rate from primary to secondary, 64 percent of young, capable learners are excluded from the system because we cannot accommodate them in the available schools."
However, the EU Head of Delegation to Malawi expressed hope that, with financial and technical support from various development partners, Malawi could increase numbers of learners entering secondary education and to see that girls and other vulnerable learners successfully complete their education.
She also challenged authorities to ensure that secondary subsector becomes more strategic and efficient, for improved learner outcomes
"And we remain committed to working closely with the Government of Malawi to achieve this. EU remains committed to supporting the education sector in Malawi and I am pleased to announce here that funds have been reserved for another programme to support secondary education.
"However, when such a sizable investment is made, our expectation is that government and all the stakeholders will fully commit to the achievement of results under this ISEM programme," she emphasised.
In his remarks, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Justin Saidi, admitted that providing equitable access to secondary education is one of the major bottlenecks government is facing at the moment.
Saidi said 83 percent of learners qualified to enter secondary school are currently out of school because public secondary schools have no space to accommodate them.
"I therefore commend EU for targeting increasing access and improving quality in the secondary education subsector in Malawi where there are lots of bottlenecks, especially on equitable access. This scenario indeed calls for urgent action to see doors to secondary school get open," he said.