The National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) on Friday released the first-ever harmonised results for all public institutions using the controversial equitable access to education policy.
But education activist Benedicto Kondowe on Saturday condemned the selection criteria as a divisive and ‘dangerous’ system for the country and one which unfairly denies deserving students their right to education.
A total of 3 684 students have been selected into various programmes from 17, 346 applicants, representing an admission rate of 21.7 percent.
University of Malawi (Unima) has enrolled 1 914 students, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) 896 students, Mzuzu University (Mzuni) 572 students and Malawi University of Science and Technology (Must) admitting 302 students.
Harmonisation of selection of university students’ process started in June after government for years relied on individual universities to conduct the exercise.
Out of the 10 least represented districts on the selection list, five are from the Northern, which has six districts.
From the North, a total of 557 students have been selected with Mzimba (211), Karonga (97) Nkhata Bay (85), Rumphi (79), Chitipa (75) and Likoma (10).
The top 10 most represented districts comprise Lilongwe (402), Blantyre (225), Mzimba (211), Mangochi (197), Zomba (173), Kasungu (164), Dedza (163), Thyolo (175), Dowa (152) and Mulanje (145).
Announcing the results on Friday at a press briefing in Lilongwe, NCHE chief executive officer Matildah Chithila-Munthali said the selection was based on both the equitable education policy and merit.
“Under this policy, the top 10 candidates from each district are offered places first and the rest are selected based on both merit and the size of the population of the district of origin.
“The results of the selection were considered by respective councils of the public universities,” said Munthali.
She said the public institutions were responsible for data entry, verification and actual selection of candidates.
Kondowe, executive director for the Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec) also said apart from sowing seeds of disunity in the country, the system was against international norms and violates the right to education of many deserving Malawians.
“Over and above, we feel cheated by the DPP administration, the President (Peter Mutharika) is on record during several forums saying the quota system was a temporary measure. He even stated it in his inaugural speech. Now, we have seen statements from the Minister of Education saying the quota system is here to stay, whom should we be believing in?” Kondowe wondered.
He said government should focus on addressing challenges in inadequate space instead of denying eligible students based on the districts of their origin’s size or population.
“Because of the politics that is associated with the quota system, the policy has potential to create disunity. High education is a level of education that calls for competence, access should be based on merit,” added Kondowe.
Former president Bingu wa Mutharika established the quota system of education, before the system was renamed to equitable access to education, to equate university opportunities evenly to students from all districts.
But opponents say the move is aimed at marginalising deserving students and values other factors at the expense of merit. n