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Malawi Muslims, Anglican Church fights over ownership of school in Nkhotakota

Muslims and Christians from Anglican Church are failing to reach an agreement on the ownership of Sani Primary School located in Chamba Village, Traditional Authority Malengachanzi in the Lake shore district of Nkhotakota.

While the Muslims say that the school belongs to the community, Anglican Diocese of Lake Malawi and Ministry of Education, Science and Technology are insisting that it was registered under St Marys Sani Anglican Parish.

Deputy Head teacher at the school, Davies Mwale said the disagreements arose during 2012/ 2013 academic year when the District Education Manager (DEM) advised the community to elect a School Management Committee (SMC) which could be chaired by a member from the Anglican Church saying it was a recommendation by the Ministry.

Mwale said the DEM explained that among other duties the SMC would be responsible for managing School Improvement Grant (SIG), a fund which government introduced in primary schools to be used for implementing small projects.

“Upon hearing that there was some grant for the school, the Muslims emphasized they wanted the institution to be treated as any government entity that belongs to a community. The school was then closed for a week due to the disagreements.

“In 2016, elections were called for and all the SMC elected members were Muslims, except one. This frustrated the Christians and they stopped participating actively in the running of the school as they used to do,” said Mwale.

Sheikh Bwanali Ambali who is one of the senior members of the Islamic community in that area said the church does not own the school since the land was initially surrendered by community members after they realised the need for a learning centre.

“They are claiming ownership of the school because they have a church close to it. Let them produce lease documents if they really own that land let alone the institution,” he challenged.

Group Village Head (GVH) Chamba III told Malawi News Agency (Mana) during interview that it was the office of the District Commissioner (DC) that gave powers to the local leaders to take ownership of the school.

He said the church has remained quiet on the issue for so long such that they have erected a pillar at the school as an indication that the school now belongs to the government.

Nkhotakota Acting District Commissioner who is also DEM, Greystone Alindiamao, said his office is waiting for the Muslim community to declare their position in writing so that the issue should be forwarded to the Ministry.

“Sani School was registered as a church entity; therefore, we are waiting for the concerned parties to write us so that my office forwards the issue to the ministry. They have never written the ministry since the issue ignited in 2013,” he said.

Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Lake Malawi, Francis Kaulanda, said the church is waiting patiently to see the reaction of government on the change of ownership. He challenged that there was no way change of ownership could happen without their involvement.

“The church brought that school there in 1902 and it was registered under the church. The laws of Malawi clearly stipulate that if an individual or group of people stay at a place for seven years or more they own that land. Why should someone claim from us land and structures we have had for over 100 years?

“The pillar they have elected at the school cannot scare us because even if someone wears a skin of a hyena they do not become a hyena. The school will remain a church entity unless we surrender it to government,” said the bishop.

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