Malawi: Opposition Leader Nankhumwa Raps Tonse Govt Over Form One Selection

10 January 2021

Leader of Opposition in parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa has described this year's Form One selection in public secondary schools as flawed, saying the selection process was marred by favourism and political interference.

This was after many Malawians took up in various social media platforms and traditional media to accuse the government of favouring the central region in the selection of form one students into public secondary schools.

Nankhumwa said the 2019/20 selection of learners from Standard 8 in primary schools to Form 1 in public and national secondary schools in Malawi has raised very serious suspicion.

He said according to what he gathered, 1 860 learners were selected to national secondary schools.

"Among these, 929 learners have been selected from the southern region; the central region has provided 749; and in the northern region, a negligible figure of 182 learners has been offered secondary school places," he said.

He says in percentage terms, the southern region has 40%, and 50% and 10% for central and northern regions, respectively.

" While the central region has the lowest pass rate, it has been given lion's share in selection of learners to national secondary schools," he said.

Nankhumwa said he found the current situation grossly flawed, and only aimed at serving the interests of learners from other regions at the expense of the northern region learners.

"I question the procedure that has been used where learners from the northern region have been denied access to national secondary schools, even for those who are based within their ecosystem," he said.

He said it is clear that politicians may have interfered with the selection process.

"It is clear that there has been favouritism in the selection of learners into Form 1 to the detriment of deserving northern region learners' future.

"This is uncalled for and retrogressive in the new democratic Malawi where all citizens must enjoy equal rights, including the right to education" he said.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential aspirant said he is in disbelief at this turn of events saying because it is just not right and inconceivable to have such an education system in this democratic dispensation.

He said the Government must never compromise on education if it is serious about the country's meaningful social and economic development.

Nankhumwa said there had been long-standing concerns over how difficult it was for learners, especially from the northern region, to get a place in public secondary schools and universities owing to the 'Quota System'.

"Opponents of the Quota System vehemently argued that the core principle of educational equity requires that learners should not have their educational opportunities determined by their district, region or tribe.

"It is for that reason that in 2019, the DPP Government, under His Excellency former President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, abolished the Quota System," he said.

Nankhumwa said the DPP Government fully engaged the people of the northern region, through the influential Livingstonia Synod of CCAP, to review the Form 1 selection policy with a view to look at processes from examination to selection.

Following consultations that took place from 28th September, 2019 to 18th October, 2019, the two parties agreed that:

National Secondary School places shall be allocated on the basis of merit across the country regardless of proximity and economic cost. This meant that use of Quota Policy in selecting learners to secondary schools fell away;

Equitable access policy shall be applied to cater for women and vulnerable for Form 1 places as it was a common practice the world over where school places are limited; and

Selection to district boarding school, district day and community day secondary schools shall remain the benefit of learners within the same district.

Nankhumwa accused the Tonse alliance led government of renegating on the issue of quota system of education.

"It is, therefore, heart-breaking that despite political campaign rhetoric about abolishing the Quota System, the Tonse Government has reversed the selection policy decision that the DPP Government and the Livingstonia Synod made.

"Indeed, President Lazarus Chakwera informed Malawians on the campaign trail in the run-up to the 23rd June, 2020 court-sanctioned fresh presidential election that he would not only end the Quota System but "bury it" too," he said.

He therefore demanded that the President and his Tonse Alliance administration must implement what they promised Malawians on the Quota System.

He said while it may practically be difficult and costly to nullify the entire selection process, there are some isolated instances, which require urgent review and correction.

He said for example, the case of northern region learners being denied national secondary school space even in secondary schools within their region should be looked into and corrected as a matter of urgency.

He said the Tonse Alliance Government to desist from politicizing education in this country.

"Memories are still fresh in the minds of Malawians, mainly from the northern region, how the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) regime used education to persecute and disadvantage some sections of the society.

"It is widely documented that in the late 1980s, the MCP regime ordered all teachers of northern origin to return to their home region. This was one of the most disturbing and shocking declarations by a regime whose leader preached about One Malawi and One Nation," he said.

He said as a nation, we must jealously guard against the return of such autocratic tendencies.

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