Government spends about K42.80 on teaching and learning materials (TLMs) for each of the country’s 5.3 million primary school learners in public schools, an analysis of the national budget allocation towards the Ministry of Education has shown.
That amount is not even enough to buy a learner a ballpoint pen which costs about K100. At primary school level, TLMs include books, writing pads, pens and illustration materials.
In the current budget, allocation for primary school TLMs is K230 million.
The Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) carried out the budget analysis as part of its advocacy for pro-youth development and empowerment budget. The non-governmental organisation presented its report to the Youth Caucus of Parliament.
The Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) has since decried the K42-per-learner-spending, describing it “as good as not spending at all”.
Mejn observed that TLM budgetary allocation for primary and secondary schools has been dropping since 2016.
Reads the report: “Teaching and learning materials are not enough. In 2020/21, about K1.6 billion (down from K2.2 billion allocated in 2019/20) was provided for procurement of TLMs.
“Sadly, allocations towards TLMs have over the last five years been declining from K3.4 billion in 2016/17 to K1.6 billion in the 2020/21 budget.”
The primary school TLMs budget has reduced from K659 million to K230 million.
TUM president Willy Malimba said shortages of TLMs have been prevalent for years.
“I have inspected some primary schools where the whole class of 250 learners is sharing four [text] books. There have been other cases where it is only the teacher who has a book,” he said.
Malimba has since asked government to stock schools with TLMs, warning that significant success in the education sector cannot be achieved under the current circumstances.
Mejn executive director Bertha Phiri said the report, which also focused on lack of funding towards youth programmes in agriculture and entrepreneurship sectors, aims to persuade government to increase funding towards schools and youth-related initiatives.
The report has been submitted to Parliament as legislators are deliberating the 2021/22 National Budget.
Presented late last month in the National Assembly, the budget gave the education and skills development sector a lion’s share of around K327 billion.
Ministry of Education did not respond to our questionnaire seeking how it intends to address the TLMs shortages in the country’s public schools.
Youth Caucus of Parliament chairperson Owen Chomanika said they would push for increase in budget allocations towards youth education and other programmes.
“This report has enlightened us on which issues we need to address in the budget so that youths, who are in majority. We will make sure that in the next budget youths programmes in sectors such as education, health and agriculture get meaningful funding,” he said in an interview. n