The Uncertainties of Covid-19 to Malawi Education

Malawi- Sharon Chirwa from the Malawi’s Northern district of Karonga would have graduated in 2023. Her hopes and mindset was glued to such a day when she would finally bid farewell to her books and sleepless nights. 

However, today , her calculation towards her graduation day, seems going beyond the year 2023. 

Her dream towards earning a degree in Computer engineering at Livingstonia university is delayed by two to three semesters.

“I was supposed to graduate in 2023. But as things are my dreams are folded towards unknown future. 

“The school mood has vanished and it shall be very difficult to maintain the same level I was. When this coronavirus comes to an end, our lives will not be the same again. Some would be married because they will lose hope for education,” said Chirwa

Chirwa said it will be expensive to start all over again, looking at how much parents are to invest in the food, books and lodging among other daily upkeep. 

This means all the money paid in the semester she was in, has gone down in the drain.

But Sharon is not alone in this quandary. Other students from different Universities are experiencing the same pain in the uncertainty of the future for their education. 

The coming of Coronavirus has compromised everything on the globe, and education is one part which has greatly been impacted by the COVID-19. 

Globally schools were closed to ensure the spread of the covid-19 pandemic is lessened. 

Similarly, in Malawi, numerous learners in primary, secondary schools and Universities were sent home for safety until the coronavirus is contained. 

But six months down the line, things have gone worse. A number of pupils in primary and secondary schools as well as university, are seen loitering in towns and locational streets. 

The hope of returning to school anytime soon, is a far fetched dream. 

A student from Chancellor College in Malawi, Faith Nkhata said things are complicated in as far as school is concerned. 

” To say the fact, I for one, the mood for school has completely gone off. We wish government should find other means to help us,” said Nkhata

Another student from Mzuzu University, Chilungamo Martin Misi said government did well to close schools to protect the learners from further spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Misi said however, as things are government need to find alternative measures of opening schools. 

In Malawi education, the standard Eight learners and those in Form 4 in Secondary Schools, were supposed to sit for Primary School Leaving Certificate (PSLC) as well as Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations in the month of May and June respectively.

But reaching today, it is still not known as to what will happen next.

The fear of the learners adopting irresponsible behaviour, early pregnancies and alcohol and substance abuse cannot be put off. 

The Malawian parents have the same worry just as their children. 

One concerned parent, Andrew Banda, whose son was to sit for Form Four examinations in June said It is quite painful and frustrating. 

Banda said even though as parents they encourage the children to read in readiness of their exams but it seems the morale has gone down with the closure of schools due to Coronavirus. 

“My worry as a parent is that many students will likely not make it to University because of this development. I would love if the Malawi Ministry of Education can come up with some measures so that all classes that have got final exams should resume,” Banda suggested 

He said the ministry can restrict number of students in class and come up with several class-learning shifts, buy washing buckets and masks for every student on daily basis or disinfect all the classes before use. 

Banda said should the period of school closure take so long, many girls will likely indulge themselves in immoral behaviors that may result to early marriages and unwanted pregnancies.

Another parent, Sydney Simwaka said the uncertainties of Malawi education due to COVID-19 bleeds fear,loss of direction amongst both parents and students.

Simwaka said government should make a concrete decision and at a supersonic speed by devising ways to control this pandemic in schools and let schools open.

“Control measures must apply to all. It’s hypocritical of government to pay a blind eye to Politicians who are freely conducting mass rallies, whistle Stop tours without following precautionary measures and yet deny students the right to education.

“This will lead to increased drop out rate due to early pregnancies, and adding to that, schools will not be able to catch up with Syllabus resulting in poor performance of the learners during examinations,” said Simwaka

Civil Society Organisations on Education, have spoken on the consideration for Malawi government to open schools for fear that a number of learners might go astray.

Meanwhile government of Malawi through the ministry of education has instituted a taskforce committee to look at the possibilities of reopening the schools.

To ensure learners are abriest with school syllabus materials even in homes, the ministry of education launched online lessons to ensure the students are able to follow. 

But the idea recieved mixed reactions from parents and some learners, as internet services are expensive in the country and that a bigger population of the students are in rural communities where they might not be conversant with internet services. 

Commenting on the online program, a concerned parent, Musa Chimbiya said the covid-19  impact is very devastating, saying even though government has introduced online classes, video as well as radio classes, in the village children have no time for such programs and in many areas there are no such gudgets.

Malawi schools were closed on March 23, following rising cases of coronavirus. 

The confirmed cases have so far risen to 65 with three deaths. 

 

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