ActionAid Malawi calls for swift abolition of compulsory indirect costs in public primary schools

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    LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-Compulsory indirect costs for parents and guardians costs for their children in public primary schools, is contributing to learners’ drop outs and absenteeism, it has been learnt.

    According to the latest study by ActionAid Malawi carried in 20 primary schools in Chitipa, Ntchisi, Lilongwe and Neno resulted the report, entitled “Citizen’s Education; Tax pays for education.” In it, ActionAid Malawi presents important findings of research and analysis by learners, parents, teachers, school stakeholders and community organizations. They actively scrutinized the performance of their local schools against core dimension of the right to education.

    The study highlights areas where the right to education has been undermined and promises to free primary education, broken.

    Among the contentious issues affecting free primary education including teacher-pupil ratio, compulsory indirect costs on parents for learners, poor sanitation facilities for the girl-child, sexual abuse, and violence.

    On compulsory indirect costs, that includes MANEB exams ID, mock exams, school development fund, school report card, and exams printing fees, remain a challenge to most parents and guardians to meet.

    The report found that parents cover 16% of total primary education expenditure in Malawi. This cost clearly deters many Malawian children, especially those from the poorest families, to send their children to school.

    For instance, if a learner fails to pay for national exams, he or she is not allowed to take them, and he or she ends up repeating the standard 8 class or dropping out completely; this is especially common among girls.

    This has always attracted the public to ask why learners should cover the charges when Government policy advocates the free primary education in public schools.

    Speaking after representing the report at the education stakeholder conference on Friday in Lilongwe, ActionAid Malawi’s Acting Executive Director, Mohamed Sillah, said there was numerous indirect compulsory schooling costs placed on parents for their children.

    Sillah said most guardians and parents are unable to meet all these costs needed for their children at school, which has compromised access to education for many poor families.

    “The research was based on the need to promote and protect the right to education. Education is not a privilege. It’s a right. This means that the right to education is guaranteed legally for all, without any discrimination.

    “The states have an obligation to protect, respect, and fulfill the right to education.

    This is the reason we are calling for the abolition of all compulsory indirect costs for parents at primary schools, so that learners enjoy their right to education without handles,” urges Sillah.

    In her reaction , the Director responsible for Secondary and Distance Learning in the Ministry of Education,
    Chikondano Mussa, welcomed the findings, however she quickly ruled out completely of indirect cost parents need to meet.

    Mussa observed that despite the primary school education being free, there are others cost needed to meet; she cited where the school feeding program is not provided; guardians are required to provide food to their children.

    She therefore appealed to the public to support Government efforts in implementing free primary education to fill the necessary gaps.

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