Malawi: Re-introduction of quota system in education: Is it a sign of societal progress or regression?

malawi.jpegThe re-introduction of quota system in education is a shameful policy and a big departure from the expectations of the people of Malawi who voted on May 19, 2009. Therefore government should think today about its tomorrows implications and her own reputation.


Prior to the parliamentary and Presidential elections of May 19, 2009, I presented a paper that was entitled: Is Malawi Prepared to have Leaders Based on Perceived Leadership Attributes?

The abstract of my presentation read and I quote: For those aspiring to be leaders either as president, Members of Parliament or any other position of influence, know that before you, are challenges of the shelved regionalism and tribalism. Regionalism and tribalism has its full expression in the way development is distributed and with what urgency such developments are carried out.

Therefore, you are being implored to know that leadership is being of service to both Jews and the Gentiles as demonstrated by Jesus in the Gospel according Mark 7: 24-30. In addition the citizens expect you leaders to be truthful during the openness of the day and the cover of the night.

During the run up to the elections, the campaign messages towed the line of an integrated Malawi and so was the voting pattern of May 19, 2009. The voting pattern had for once, since the introduction of multiparty system of government demonstrated that we were a maturing democracy that was moving together with integrative leaders.

Therefore, the talk about the re-introduction of the quarter system or equitable access to higher education is a shameful policy and a betrayal of the trust the people of Malawi had bestowed at different leadership positions during the May 19, 2009 elections.

Reflection on the Quarter System Education Policy and Leadership

In the same presentation I had highlighted the Silent Policy on Selection to Secondary School, the policy states as follows: Selection to National Secondary Schools will always begin with National Secondary Schools in the South and filled by students from the south, those from the south who do not make it to national secondary schools in the south are selected to National Secondary Schools in the Central.

The second priority is given to students from the central region to fill the places in national secondary schools in their region. The overflow students out of the National secondary schools in the central are selected into national secondary schools in the North. The remaining few places in the National secondary schools in the north are filled by students from the north.

The Questions for Reflection were:

1 Where do the surplus meritorious students from the north go?

2 Have you ever wondered why there are very few students from the north who are selected to national secondary schools?

3 With such a policy on selection to National Secondary Schools, are we not promoting a class system in Malawi?

Further in my presentation I had also asserted that Malawi was preparing to re-introduce the quota system of selection to the University of Malawi. In a letter written 8th October 2008 and signed by the Executive Director of ACEM, there is a statement that reads and I quoted:

Northern Region which has 12% of the total population of Malawi, gets one third of the University spaces and the Central and the South which have roughly 42% and 45% of the population respectively share the remaining two thirds of the spaces.

The Questions for Reflection were:

1 Where do those who are educated through the University of Malawi work after graduating?

2 If the north has been sending more students to the university, why is it underdeveloped up to now?

3 Has education to University level of the students from the north in any way induced development in the north?

In the same presentation, I made a quotation from the Bible according to the Gospel of St Luke. Lk7:24-30

From that place he went off to the district of Tyre. He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it, but he could not escape notice. Soon, a women whose daughter had unclean spirit heard about him. She came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs. She replied and said to him, Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the childrens scraps. Then he said to her, For saying this you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter. When the women went home, she found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

Questions for Reflection

1 Does Malawi elect tribal, regional or national leaders?

2 Do our leaders have the thinking of the Jews as reflected in the conversation that took place between Jesus and the Greek Women according to the Gospel of Mark 7: 24-30?

3 Are there among us leaders who can plead on behalf of others like the women in the Gospel of St Mark?

4 Will Malawi ever have leaders who will be prepared to turn the tables and reach out to the Jews and Gentiles alike as Jesus did?

Questions for Deeper and National Reflections

I would begin by quoting a statement from Minister Goerge Chaponda, who said: under equitable access to high education the University will make sure that no region sponsors more students than the other.

DD Phiri, had this to say on the same issue when the quota system was introduced in the 1980s, it was an instrument of regionalism. Those who suffered the brunt discrimination naturally do not want to be subjected to such injustices again.

Questions for Reflection

1 In the quota system or equitable access to high education what will be the determinants of where one comes from, is it the region of origin or region of residence?

2 How will the quota system treat students from tribal intermarried couples?

3 Is the quota system policy not a recipe that is laying the foundation for xenophobia of Malawians against Malawians?

Advice: the government of Malawi should think today about tomorrows implications in the choice of this policy, and consider its national reputation.

*The author is Secretary (Mzuzu Diocese) Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP).

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