The authors of the article “Who benefits from abolishing secondary school fees in Malawi, and what are the costs?” have highlighted the issue of ending secondary school fees in Malawi by the Minister of Education, and its consequences. Surely, I agree with the authors that timing of this announcement – ahead of presidential elections – the decision of making secondary education fee-free seems politically motivated.
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As the article points out that a similar announcement in 1994 resulted in 50% rise in enrollment overnight. However, there was no appropriate planning before the announcement the decision did more harm than good. Similarly, I believe that writers of this article are right beyond doubt about the recent decision of fee-free secondary school education may have grave consequences without proper planning. To fill the gap of fees, schools are charging other amounts which will burden the parents rather than relief. This change will hit the poorest hardest.
Furthermore, the article rightly notes that the primary education needs more attention of the authorities. The different problem such as lack of classrooms and teachers are still exist. If only “5% of all enrolled children” remain in the last primary grade and a majority of the pupils drop out, how can the poor benefit from abolishing secondary school fees? The Malawian government also seems less serious in providing better education opportunities at the primary level. This can clearly evident from decreased spending on primary education over the years.
Without prior homework and thoughtful preparation, any decision cannot give fruitful results, no matter how attractive it looks. If more students get enrolled in secondary schools, it will require more resources. The resources are infrastructure, more teachers, which will of course require more funds from the government.
The solutions proposed in the article will have positive implications. The idea of prioritizing funding for the most disadvantaged is very relevant in that poorest children leave school during primary education. Apart from this, if the government spends in the beginning, there are higher chances that they continue the secondary level. Education in general and primary education, in particular, should be the highest priority in the national budget of the Malawian government if they really want to help the “rural masses”. Lower primary grades must get a fair share of resources and the most disadvantaged should get support to make a successful transition to secondary school.
Furthermore, the authors beautifully present the point that primary education should be the top choice of the donors. But here, I slightly disagree with them. In my view, Malawi can make primary education better without foreign aid. The Government needs to makes education top priority and increases the education budget. It can be done by bringing slow but consistent reforms which, in turn, need well-considered planning and clear goals. Also, it requires a strong will to help the people to get better education because where there is a will, there is a way.
We My Scholar Education really appreciate the Azizullah Khaskheli for expressing the views and sharing with us.