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Malawi PSLCE selection sparks debate: No breather for northerners

Malawi PSLCE selection sparks debate: No breather for northerners

BLANTYRE-(MaraviPost)—It is undisputable fact thatQuota system, in all its sheds and manifestations, was evil and discriminatory and that is the more reason every presidential candidate in the run up to 2019 election promised to abolish it once given a chance to be on the country’s driving seat.

In February 2020, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regime, through the then education minister Susuwele Banda, announced the abolishment of the system. Banda said with the construction of 250 secondary schools, selection of students would include those with disability and people with albinism without quota system.

However, the 2019/2020 form one selection that was released on Monday this week has left many Malawians with more questions than answers. A quick look at the selection indicates that neither quota system nor meritocracy was used. So what’s the system has the Tonse Alliance adopted?

 Let’s have a quick look at the figures per region. In the Northern region 36 964 students passed out of 44 337 students who sat for the exams, representing 83 percent pass rate.

In the Central region 108 112 sat for the exams and 86 825 passed representing 80 percent pass rate while the Southern region has total of 101 598 successful students out of 124 568 students who sat for the exams, representing 82 percent pass rate.

From the information above, overall performance the Northern region is on first position with 83 percent seconded Southern region with 82 percent. Central region is trailing behind with 80 percent.

Surprisingly, Central region has performed better on national secondary schools selection, grabbing 50 percent of the available spaces seconded by South with 40 percent while the Northern region has a meager share of 10 percent.

Meanwhile, education experts and other human rights activists have asked the education ministry to give an explanation on the disparities.

Edukans Foundation Malawi country representative Limbani Nsapato, in an interview with the Nation, wondered why the Northern Region which got the highest passing rate of 83 percent followed by the Southern Region with 82 percent and Central Region with 80 percent, has ended up being allocated less spaces in national secondary schools.

“If it’s a question of quality versus quantity, this needs to be investigated,” said Nsapato.

He also observed that an analysis of the form one selection from 2016 to 2020 shows that this year is the first time the share for the Centre has moved from 41 percent to 50 percent while the South and North their shares have dropped from 45 percent to 40 percent and 14 percent to 10 percent respectively.

Nsapato further explained that compared to last year, it is only Central Region which has gained spaces for students selected to national schools with 147 spaces while the North and South have dropped by 85 and 95 spaces respectively.

Nevertheless, Nsapato said students in the Northern Region should pull up their socks if they are to find their way into national secondary schools, arguing that a 2018 research commissioned by the Malawi National Examinations Board (Maneb) and the Southern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Education Quality showed that students from the North scored lower grades in English, Mathematics, Chichewa and Science where they emerged the lowest in mean scores among the country’s six education divisions.

Another education expert Steve Sharra described the results as a perennial, divisive problem saying the solution remains in constructing enough secondary schools so that every student who passes the Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education (PSLCE) should proceed to secondary schools.

Malawi government during Kamuzu regime first introduced the quota system of education in the 80s. It is reported that Dr. Banda observed that many of his government critics were educated individuals, the majority of them were from the north.

Since he was power hungry he thought of suppressing people from the north by lowering their education standards. As such, Banda’s government introduced the quota system to ensure that few people from the north access tertiary education.

Attempts were also made to deny northerners access to university education by not constructing any constituent college of the University of Malawi in the region. Instead, all the five constituent colleges were constructed in the central and southern region respectively.

The system was abolished in 1993 after it was challenged in the court of law but late president Bingu wa Mutharika reintroduced it with the same argument that people from the North were monopolizing the public universities.

Taking this year’s form one selection into consideration, it appears the Central Region and Southern Region are competing for supremacy by giving more opportunities to their regions and the North is always a victim of the circumstances.

Under the leadership of Bakili Muluzi, Bingu wa Mutharika, Joyce Banda and Peter Mutharika, the Southern Region has been getting the Lion’s share of the national cake.

Now, with Lazarus Chakwera as the president, it is not surprising to hear that Central Region is a star performer. That is the politics we are used to; a region that produces a president also produces best students. It’s neither quota system nor meritocracy but favourtism at its best.

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Maneno Chimulala
Maneno Chimulala
I am a journalist, educator, and activist with passion for telling stories about social justice, sports and political issues. I graduated from Mzuzu University. I started my career at the Maravi Post online publication in 2012 as an intern while in college. Upon graduating from Mzuzu University I was offered a job as Sports Reporter because of my background as a goalkeeper and rose to the position of sub editor. I also had a short stint with Nyasatimes, Malawi Punch and Malawi Digest. Over the past seven years, I have worked intimately with rural organizations and communities in Malawi on human rights, girl child education and grassroots development projects. With an academic background in education, I also volunteer as male champion for girls’ education under Girls Empowerment Networks (GENET) in Malawi’s South West Education Division (SWED).


  1. Don’t cheat people here with your archaic comparisons. Merit means highest scores. Not proportional pass rates you have presented here. What you are talking about here will be reminiscent of quota. Don’t compare which region has the highest pass rates than the other, and you call that merit. Merit here means scores earned by the candidates. Those that got the highest scores got the day period.

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