By Enock Naphazi, MEC Stringer
What meant to be a modern school block that was allocated MK12 Million under Local Development Funds (LDF) has completely collapsed before they start using it at Mpimbi Junior Primary School in Neno.
The school block was planned to be completed by December last year and was meant to upgrade the school from standard 5 to standard 8 but following the collapse of the structure the school remain standard 1 to 4.
Learners to access standard 5 to 8 they need to walk almost 10 kilometers to and from next school which is Chawe Primary School.
The head teacher of the school Ronex Fanuel Kundembo who was also a member in the school management committee said the contractor was using sub-standard materials and the building started developing dangerous cracks before it was finished and some walls of the block started falling down in June before heavy wind blew off the roof in August, that led to complete falling down of the school block.
Kundembo said despite that the committee was given mandate to choose the contractor from the community the school management committee was not involved in the procurement of building materials.
“There was very little cement used, Poor concrete quality, poor reinforcement detailing and more irregularities in roofing but the contractor choose not to take our suggestions. He always shouted at us
saying we don’t know how things work,” said Kundembo.
He said it could have been a tragedy if the incident happened during the learning period because the roof was found in the morning scattered all over the school premises.
Councilor of the area Montfort Bwanali admitted that there were a lot of loopholes during the construction of the block that led to the falling down of the structure.
He said since commencement of the project there was a poor coordination between council, school management committee and other players.
“Let me admit that we have failed this development, there was low supervision of the project and hired incompetent contractor. I am very concerned because we don’t know where we can get other funds for the needed school block, as duty bearers we have failed this development,” admitted Bwanali.
Effort to talk to the Director of Development and Planning for Neno District Henry Chitema on the matter proved futile as he is out of office for over a week now and his mobile number could not be reached, while member of parliament for the area Emmanuel Lonzo is among the delegation that has accompanied Mutharika to United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Group Village Head Kaingilira of the area said the falling down of the block mean children in her area will continue traveling long distance to access standard 5 to 8 in other schools.
“It’s unbelievable, the 12 Million kwacha has been spent for nothing on the project,” complained Group village head kaingilira.
Meanwhile Action Aid Malawi which is carrying out back to school campaign in partnership with Neno Women Forum said the school has registered high school dropout rate.
Action Aid Programs officer for Neno District Francis Chapasuka said out of 144 learners that were on Action Aid sponsorship program from 2017/2018 school calendar they have only remained with 47 learners due to drop out.
Chapasuka said the only solution to curb the high drop out rate at theschool is having school upgraded to standard 8 because most learners cannot afford to walk 10 kilometers distance to access standard 5 to 8.
Commenting on the fallen structure, Chapasuka said the structure did not meet minimum standard of construction.
“The structure was a death trap to learners. The Communities were not supposed to accept this kind of poor standard development. It’s a mistake waiting for officers to come and supervise a development
project in your area. Community lacked the will on the progress of this project,” said Chapasuka.
He also urged the authorities to strength and empower Area development committees and Village development Committee to curb the provision of sub-standard project.
Meanwhile the village has constructed a grass-thatched shelter waiting approval from District Education Office to be used as standard five and six classrooms.