Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons… Acts10:34 (KJV)

In Malawi, the time for pursuing the quota education system has passed; this is largely due to intermarriages and the fact that it is based on tribalistic and racist principles. Such principles cannot work during the implementation stages because of the first reason, wide-spread intermarriages.

However, not everyone would agree with this position. There are some people who hold that the quota system of education would help ease out the inequalities in selection to secondary and tertiary schools, along with job placements and promotions. These inequalities are along regional and tribal lines, that is between the Northerners and Southerners: namely the whole spectrum of tribes in the country such as Tumbukas, Tongas, Nkhondes, Yaos, Chewas, Lomwes, Ngonis, Senas.

There was a time in Malawi when the quota system in education worked. For example, when former President Dr. H. Kamuzu Banda established the Kamuzu Academy in Kasungu. The grammar school that is tailored along the likes of Eton Gramma School in the UK, received Malawi Government subvention for each student from its opening in 1981 to the mid-1990s after Malawi became a democracy, and Dr. Banda was no longer State President.

During his time as President, the policy was that two students high-grade scoring (male and female) would be selected from each district. This was an attempt to spread access to quality education throughout the country; students that otherwise would not have had access to quality education (even when they qualified), received the opportunity to enter the corridors of the top and sole grammar school learning in Malawi. Students from Chitipa to Nsanje competed with their district peers and were selected to the KA

Sandwiched in the policy was the counter strategy to perceived pro-Northerners in the Malawi education system to secondary and UNIMA colleges.

Nevertheless, the time for a working quota system in Malawi’s education sector has long passed. One of the reasons for this, is intermarriages; both politically and socially, the quota system would not pass or be implementable. In the former days of, let’s say our grandparents, there were very few intermarriages among the tribes, and in many regions, there were no intermarriages at all. This was due to lack of public transport and lack of communications like telephones and the internet. People seldom married outside their villages and almost never outside their tribes. There was that much tribalism.

In today’s modern Malawi, when one considers any one of our current political leaders (with all due respect), one will perceive the widespread nature of intermarriages in the country. For example, Thyolo-born President Mutharika is married to Balaka-born First Lady; the Vice President and UTM) candidate Chilima’s spouse is from Mzimba; MCP President Chakwera’s wife comes from the North (Nkhata-Bay), as does PP President Banda’s husband.

The web of intermarriages in the other levels of society, surpasses levels that can be tracked down or known by any government department for any purpose, let alone school selection purposes. This means that it would be difficult to achieve the ratios to be implemented in a quota system set up. There are so many mixed tribal children out there.

The second reason that the time for adopting the education quota system is past, would be tribalistic and difficult to implement; and that largely rests on the extent of the modernized systems of communications and transportation. Both these allow for fluidity of communities that results in mingling of diverse tribes and races. Such a diversity means, for example, that one would have to ask about the fidelity of a student’s lineage and how much Chewa blood of Tumbuka blood he or she has, if they should be considered in the batch for Mzimba.

That is tribalistic. This is unconstitutional. This is politically and sociaqallyunimplementable.

When I consider my Ngoni family, there have been in the last 20 years intermarriages and dinning table discussions that used to be spiced with tribal bashing topics, have been altered; this is because the inter-tribal marriages have brought in tribal diversity. There are Tonga, Tumbuka, Yao, Chewa, Lomwe and even a few other races from across the seas.

The quota system in education would harm certain embers of my clan, because of their parentage. How can I, if I were a policy maker, opt for a system that is used selection to schools with limits based on districts. It is essentially difficult to implement in any meaningful manner as devised by the crafters of the system.

The discriminatory nature of the quota system is unconstitutional whereby one section states “promote national goals such as unity and the elimination of political, religious, racial and ethnic intolerance.” In terms of equality, the Constitution states that

“Discrimination of persons in any form is prohibited and all persons are, under any law, guaranteed equal and effective protection against discrimination on grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, nationality, ethnic or social origin, disability, property, birth or other status.” [Malawi Constitution, 20–(1), 1994].

The solution to the faulty education system in Malawi is not through the quota system, because the time for this system, is long past. The stakeholders in this sector must engage in an aggressive strategy of constructing more schools to increase access to education for the growing youthful population. These schools must also offer special education to cater for learners with special (physical and emotional) needs.