The 2018 Population and Housing Census (PHC) rolled out yesterday with glitches, ranging from unavailability of equipment and unsettled enumerator allowances in some districts.
Some enumerators from Nkhotakota, Mangochi, Balaka, Kasungu and Salima districts said the exercise—scheduled to run from yesterday to September 23—had not started in the districts as of yesterday due to non-payment of their training allowances and lack of equipment as a reason.
The National Statistical Office (NSO)—which on August 22 rolled out a six-day training of all 25 000 enumerators in all districts nationwide—has since said it is working to resolve the challenges.
According to the enumerators, the exercise failed to start in some districts as staff demanded payment of K120 000 stipulated in their contracts, having only received K20 000 each.
Among the equipment said to have not been delivered include, tablets, power banks, T-shirts and bags.
Spokesperson for enumerators in Kasungu Wyson Lapken said in an interview the exercise will not start unless they receive their money and the equipment.
He said: “As we are speaking now, we are yet to receive the money we are owed for the seven-day training programme. We were promised that the money would be deposited into our accounts by last Sunday. So we resolved that we will not start working.”
Lapken added that there are also some equipment and work protocols that have not been worked on.
“For example, every enumerator has to enter Enumerator Area [EA] codes which are yet to be entered. We are still waiting for control supervisors to come and enter the codes,” he said.
In Nkhotakota, an enumerator who opted for anonymity said unless NSO pays their outstanding allowances, they will not conduct the exercise.
He said: “We only got K20 000 at the start of the training which ended on Sunday. Enumerators from faraway areas struggled during the exercise.”
The disgruntled enumerator alleged that some of his colleagues have been moved to other areas, contravening an earlier arrangement that enumerators would be residents of that area.
Nkhotakota PHC district coordinator Derrick Mwenda attributed the delays to late completion of training in readiness for the census.
“We finished the training late and some enumerators arrived in their respective areas late; hence, the delay. I am optimistic that the situation will improve as time goes,” he said.
But an enumerator from Mangochi who refused to be named, said there was commotion at Monkey Bay on Sunday where training of enumerators was still taking place.
The source said the enumerators asked NSO officials to pay them before they left for their assignments.
Mangochi district commissioner (DC) Moses Chimphepo said while he did not have enough information, there was some progress.
“What I know is that the census has started today. I do not know of the problems that have cropped up because I was not in office in the past few days.”
But Salima DC Charles Mawembe admitted having registered concerns both from enumerators and district council staff.
“There have been these complaints over money owing to problems that they had found with some bank accounts. But we do not know if they have reached a level of boycotting. Last week NSO promised to pay the staff and we hope this was done quickly. We want to ensure that the process is credible for quality results,” he said.
Kasungu District Council officials refused to comment on the issue, referring us to NSO.
NSO spokesperson Kingsley Manda in a telephone interview said as of yesterday, the problems were noted in Mangochi, Kasungu and Ntchisi and that his office was working to overcome them.
Said Manda: “We can say we have started well save for the fact that there have been a few challenges to do with delivery of equipment. But we are doing everything to finalise. Mangochi has been one of those few areas we have registered these problems.”
He said there would not be need to extend the registration period as enumeration would be finished in 20 days.
“As for the money issues, we told them that they will get their money by today and some have already had their money credited to their accounts. The challenge was that some bank accounts had problems so they had to sort out those problems first.”
Manda said the census will help government to formulate policies and plans based on statistics from the census.
Parliament last year approved K21.3 billion for NSO to conduct the exercise but NSO commissioner Mary Kanyuka said the body needed an extra K9 billion to effectively carry out the activity.
NSO earlier projected that the country’s population would this year be around 17 million and that by the time another census will be held in 2028, the country will have 24 million people.
This year, NSO has hired 20 000 enumerators, 5 000 field supervisors, about 500 control centre supervisors and 80 district supervisors for the census.
Malawi is, for the first time, conducting digitalised census using tablets, a move from paper-based data collection in previous censuses.
In January this year , NSO received 180 tablets from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) worth K23 million. Last week, United Kingdom’s Development for International Development (DfID) and UNFPA donated tablets and accessories worth $2 353 000 (about K1.7 billion), while the Chinese government donated an additional 20 tablets.