Independent Schools Association of Malawi (Isama) has complained about alleged ill-treatment by government, claiming its members live in fear that the Ministry of Education will close their schools due to frequent warnings without valid reasons.
Isama, a grouping of some private schools in the country, also says it feels betrayed as government did not assist the schools during the Covid-19 induced prolonged school closures despite asking Capital Hill for a bail-out package.
Outgoing Isama president Joseph Patel lodged the complaints in Lilongwe on Friday during the association’s annual general meeting which pooled its members across the country.
He said: “Most of the time, private schools are treated badly. For example, during prolonged school closures due to Covid-19 pandemic, our schools were not assisted in any way even though we had asked for bail out.
“Private schools have been warned of school closures without proper reasons. We always live in fear because the Ministry of Education most of the times sides with a few disgruntled parents who always report ills about private schools.”
Patel also claimed that government has been printing books only for public schools, leaving out private schools which follow the local curriculum, adding that the selection of Standard 8 pupils is also biased towards public schools.
He explained: “In other countries, governments help private schools in terms of learning materials, infrastructure and human resources. Let me beg government to consider helping private schools. We are just complementing government’s efforts in providing quality education in Malawi.”
On one hand, he thanked government for re-introducing Junior Certificate of Education examinations, observing that secondary school students have now started working hard following the move.
Reacting to the concerns, Deputy Minister of Education Madalitso Kambauwa Wirima, who presided over the meeting, suggested the need to formulate a strategy on how the ministry can better support private schools.
She said: “I have note the challenges that you have cited. Government recognises you as a key stakeholder. Without private schools, delivery of quality education would be a challenge.”
Kambauwa added that the ministry introduced standards which inspectors use when inspecting both public and independent schools, and encouraged Isama to get a copy.
Patel, who has served a two-year term as Isama president, has been succeeded by Wycliffe Chimwendo.