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Exclusive on Zomba’s Natchengwa school tragedy; negligence, poor workmanship at play….as CSEC demands resources tracking

ZOMBA-(MaraviPost)-Poor workmanship and authorities negligence are some of contributing factors in the last week’s Natchengwa Primary School tragedy that claimed four pupils lives after the wall collapsed on them.

Apart from four learners death more than 30 others sustained injuries of various degrees at Sub-Traditional Authority (Sub-T/A)Ngwelero in Mayaka—53 kilometres east of Zomba City—was avoidable.

This is preliminary findings on the tragedy where the school structure was built with mud by the communities.

The community mobilized resources to add the school block aimed at accommodating over 930 pupils as nearby school is far away of 10 kilometers.

The Maravi Post visit on Sunday at the site with Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC) and Parliamentary Education Committee revealed that the fallen structure was built out of desperation.

The school has six block that two of them are temporal built by communities that brought sorrow to the deceased families and nation at large.

The two blocks which one killed the pupils were not certified by authorities despite being used for year since 2017.

“The bricks that were used were not suitable with the type of soil here and the foundation for the shelter was not fit enough to support the building.

“I noted from the beginning that we were to have an accident one day and all that was done due to cheap labour. The death of the four learners at the school could have been avoided if construction of the shelter was standardized,” observes Peter Milazi one of the community members surrounding Natchengwa Primary school.

The block, which used to be Standard 3B, was constructed by the school committee to supplement the shortage of classes at the school, which has 930 pupils.

Standard 3B and Standard 3A housed 116 pupils each.

Natchengwa’s structures were fully financially supported by Save the Children without Malawi government input only servicing teachers despite School Initiative Grants (SIG) that are yearly provided to primary school across the country.

The structure’s poor workmanship happened at the school despite ushering in of local ward councilors and Member of Parliament (MP) who are mandated to overseer community developments.

Parliamentary Committee Chair on Education, Dr Elias Chakwera wondered as to what use is SIG being advocated for.

“SIG is meant to support this type of work of having quality structures. It seems there is much more into this tragedy which can always avoided,” says Dr. Chakwera.

He therefore asked government to give supervisors adequate resources such as motorcycles, and even vehicles so that they are able to do supervision work.

CSEC Executive Director Benedicto Kondowe collaborated with Chakwera blaming government for paying a blind eye to the standards of education.

“Moving forward under circumstances, that communities are mobilizing to provide these structures, you expect government to foster standards.

“If government had played its rightful role, I don’t think it could have approved this structure for students to use it for learning,” said Kondowe.

He therefore urged government to be tracking resources allocated to the education sector as one way of averting challenges in the sector.

“For the past years resources through budget allocation to the ministry of education have a provision of adding new classroom blocks, one wonders if the money is used for the intended purpose.

“The ministry of education must intensify its resources tracking coupled with vigorous supervision and certification of structures schools built to avoid the same scenarios in future,” urges Kondowe.

Minister of Education, Science and Technology Bright Msaka, who visited some of the pupils admitted to hospital, said his ministry would institute investigations to understand the situation further.

Natchengwa primary school opened in 2008 with only standard one and two but now the school has classes from standard one to seven with 12 teachers.

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