Mist surrounds the last-minute no-show by Vice-President Saulos Chilima at a Plan International report launch he was supposed to preside over yesterday at a hotel in Lilongwe.
An announcement at the event indicated that Chilima, who was scheduled to preside over the launch of a study on the ‘Education Investments in Middle East, Eastern and Southern Africa (Meesa) Region Report: Gaps and Opportunities Towards Sustainable Financing Beyond GPE Commitments’, did not make it because he was attending to other more pressing duties.
The Vice-President’s protocol and security teams were already at the venue when the announcement was made. They were seen unrolling the red carpet and other things set up in preparation of the Second Citizen’s arrival.
The development came barely a week after President Lazarus Chakwera said he would withhold delegated functions to the Vice-President pending investigations into his alleged involvement in corruption.
Office of the Vice- President Principal Secretary (PS) Lucky Sikwese yesterday said the Ministry of Education and organisers of the meeting were better placed to explain why Chilima did not turn up.
But Ministry of Education spokesperson Chikondi Chimala asked for more time before commenting and had not responded as we went to press.
In a telephone interview last evening, Plan International Malawi country director Phoebe Kasoga said they received a communication that due to pressing issues, the VP could not attend.
She said: “Events such as this one are managed by public events and that has been our main avenue of communication. We haven’t had an opportunity to speak with him [Chilima].
“Normally, we don’t try to do that we follow protocol, because of who we are we try to stay clear of anything that might turn out to be partisan because we are really non-partisan.”
But a source privy to the issue indicated that a senior Ministry of Education official called the Office of the VP earlier yesterday stating that Chilima should not attend as Malawi was yet to validate the report being launched.
A letter from the Ministry of Education dated June 9 2022 signed by PS for Education Chikondano Mussa showed that the
ministry invited stakeholders to a Plan International Validation Meeting for the Education Budget Analysis Survey Report on June 13 2022 in Lilongwe.
Commenting on the arrangement of validating international reports, an associate professor of education at Unicaf University Dr Steve Sharra, in a separate interview, said for regional or international bodies such as those in the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc), the government is the originator of the agenda, and is in-charge throughout.
He said: “Plan International is a non-governmental organisation which means the NGO has its priorities and agendas, some of which are aligned to government agendas.
“I hope the ministry will clarify what happened to avoid wild speculation, given the high political involvement Plan International targeted for the launch.”
Sharra described the report as broad, saying it makes good recommendations on how to improve education budgeting and financing.
Meanwhile, political analyst Ernest Thindwa observed that it was going to be a challenge for Chilima to attend following the President’s withholding of his delegated duties.
Speaking during the launch, executive director of a think-tank Africa Centre for People Institutions and Society (Acepis) Kenneth Okwaroh indicated that Malawi is among few countries that met 20 percent of Global Partnership Commitments for Education, adding that all 10 countries did not meet the six percent benchmark in terms of gross domestic product (GDP).
The report provides analysis on the extent to which the education sector budgets and policy frameworks are adequate, gender and disability-inclusive and responsive to climate change education.
It also provides policy r e commenda t ions tha t stakeholders in the education sector can pursue to attain the global commitments–GPE and SDGs.
The study was commissioned by Plan International and assessed education sector budgets for 10 countries in the Meesa region, namely Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Sudan, Tanzania, Egypt, Somalia and Rwanda.