The Teacher in Malawi: An Outcast
In our special report this week as Winston Mwale chronicles effects of teacher house shortage on the delivery of quality education in the country’s primary schools.
There are close to forty six thousand primary school teachers in Malawi, but about forty thousand are not accommodated within their schools.
This is due to an acute shortage of teacher houses, which has resulted in most of them living far away from their schools.Does the current situation impact on the delivery of quality education?
Cycling is good for the health of humans. But it has to be cycling that one decides to undertake periodically and willfully and it should entail availability of other options as well.
But for Mr. Foster Kadammanja, riding a push bike is the punishment he got for becoming a teacher. He is forced to cycle a dozen kilometers to and from Kavumbwa School every day.
Mr. Kadammanja does not have much of a choice such that almost every other day, he gets to Kavumbwa Junior Primary School while heavily sweating, panting and dog tired.
During the rainy season, the scenario is pathetic as he gets to school heavily soaked and dripping.He has to wait elsewhere until his clothes dry up to walk into a classroom to teach.
“I travel about the distance of 3.5 kilometers everyday to school. On my way to school I face a lot of obstacles, for example, break down of the bicycle I use which means I will get to school late,” says Mr. Kadammanja.
This father of four is just one example of thousands of teachers in Malawi who have to go an extra mile, not by design, to ensure that as many citizens as possible can, at least, read and write.
As the world commemorated the International Day of Literacy on Wednesday September 8 this year, the teacher in Malawi continued to play second fiddle in almost every sphere of life.
The Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MDGS) well acknowledges that education is crucial for Malawi to achieve the much desired sustainable socio-economic development.
Ironically, the teacher, who should be central to achieving this, feels left out in the cold.
Teachers in Malawi already get miserable salaries that can hardly see them through the month yet they also have to commute to their work stations every other day on that salary.
One option to ease the suffering of teachers in Malawi was the idea to construct habitable houses in all rural primary schools.
However, something appears to have gone amiss as once again, teachers are complaining that schools have inadequate room to accommodate them.
The National Education Sector Plan (NESP) recognized that inadequate and inferior physical infrastructure, including teachers’ houses, is one of the challenges facing primary education.Does the shortage of teacher houses affect delivery of quality education?
“I can say in Mchinji there are a lot of problems concerning teachers' houses. I think government should maintain or build other houses that can accommodate teachers so that they can improve our education in Malawi,” says Mr. Kadammanja.
Only one of the four teachers at this school lives on campus. The head teacher and two others live elsewhere and only meet on campus every day.
This too has a lot of repercussions.The lone teacher school of campus was built by the local community itself.It is amazing, therefore, that with all this heaped on the shoulders of a teacher in Malawi, they still work hard and ensure that children get the best in any given learning environment.
Of the twenty one teachers at a certain primary school in Madisi in Dowa, the school has nine teacher houses only. The rest of the teachers either live in rented houses or their own.
A teacher-confidante said reporting late for duties and departing early from school was common at the school.
He says this greatly reduces teacher-pupil contact time.Another teacher, who travels almost five kilometers to his school, mentions the rainy season as the most challenging period for teachers who are staying away from his school.
Because of this, he says, there are no remedial lessons, and in the end coverage of the syllabus is negatively affected.It appears that the problem started way back in1994.
In that year, the Malawi government introduced the Free Primary School Education, with the aim of giving access to education to as many children as possible.
That this move was good, no one can dispute.
But whether the government coped with the increase in enrolment is subject to debate.As a result of this FPE policy, enrolment in the country’s primary schools jumped from two million pupils to a staggering three million.In a desperate attempt to meet the demand for more teachers, the Malawi government has been recruiting close to three thousand teachers every year.
And according to the 2008 Education Management Information System report, there were close to forty six thousand, three hundred primary school teachers in the country in 2008.
And forty thousand of these were not accommodated in school houses.
Most teachers who stay in school houses complain that the houses are often in bad shape, leaky and do not give them peace of mind, especially during the rainy season.According to the teachers, these houses, in most cases, are in pathetic state due to lack of maintenance.
Some of the houses have gone for years without being maintained.
But what is the Malawi government doing to mitigate the problem of shortage of teachers’ houses?In order to overcome these challenges, the Malawi government with the support of its development partners, came up with a National Education Sector Plan – NESP.
Through this plan, government plans to construct one thousand teachers’ houses every year until the end of NESP period in 2018.
Miss Lindiwe Chide is the Ministry of Education Spokesperson and she says government is committed to build teachers house through Local Development Fund and other means.
“For the primary school teachers, we have introduced a program where government is constructing houses especially in rural areas. This financial year government will construct about 1000 such houses in different districts,” says Miss Chide.
“We will actually meet the target and through the Local Develop Fund (LDF), each district has to ensure that the houses are constructed. We will definitely meet the target,” she says.
Link for Education Governance (LEG) is a local NGO that, among other things, tries to promote quality education in the country.
LEG Advocacy and Policy Director Mr. Andrew Ussi, says the current shortage of teacher’s houses greatly compromises the quality of lesson delivery by the affected teachers.
“The shortage of teachers’ houses particularly in primary schools or secondary schools affects quality of education in various ways.
“If a teacher does not have a house and is commuting say for five to ten kilometers on a daily basis will be arriving at the school tired and cannot effectively deliver in class,” says Mr. Usi.
Mr. Ussi, says that it is absolutely impossible for these teachers to concentrate on their work as they spend most of their time thinking about their financial problems.
While teachers who are not accommodated in school houses in rural areas have to walk or cycle long distances, their colleagues in urban areas say they face a double blow—high commuting fares and house rentals!
Teachers in towns and cities have to part ways with nearly three hundred kwacha every day just for transport to and from school.
This translates to close to six thousand kwacha per month---all of this from their meager salaries.
On average, a primary school teacher gets twenty thousand kwacha per month.In addition to the commuting fares, most teachers in towns and the country’s cities have to pay average rentals of ten thousand kwacha per month.
Teachers who spoke to this reporter said that this puts them in a fix, saying they cannot manage to live a decent life as a large chunk of their money goes towards payment of rentals.According to the Center for Social Concern Cost of Living Report for December 2009, cost of living in urban areas is as high as fifty one thousand kwacha per month.
This, by implication, this means that rentals in urban areas are high.All said, shortage of teachers’ houses result in some teachers who live away from their school reporting late for duties, thereby reducing the teacher-pupil ratio.
And because the concerned teachers live far away, there are no extra or remedial lessons---living far away, the teachers come late and leave early.
As the government continues to grapple with the gigantic problem of shortage of teachers’ houses in the country’s primary schools, the fact still remains that the problem has a negative impact on the delivery of quality lessons.
Meanwhile, Mr. Foster Kadammanja and other thousands of primary school teachers who are not staying within their school premises will have to continue walking, cycling, or commuting to their respective schools--and the pupils have no choice but face the brunt of all this.zodiak online