Recently, the Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec), launched the Citizens’ Education Agenda 2024, which requires the next administration to prioritise education as a catalyst for economic growth and human development.
The coalition states that educated citizens are a catalyst for development.
According to Csec executive director Benedicto Khondowe, the network of 82 organisations working in the education sector sought the aspirations of all concerned stakeholders through a “nationwide consultative process”. In this way, the agenda carries the citizens’ ambitions for education.
Given the challenges the country is facing, investing in education of its citizens is a longer-term development policy direction because education affects all development sectors.
Csec rightly notes that the country will not achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) unless the education sector receives the much-needed investment.
All 17 SDGs depend on ensuring every citizen has quality education. For instance, ending poverty, hunger and malnutrition; ensuring health lives and sustainable water and sanitation for all; eliminating gender inequalities as well as access to clean and affordable energy for all require some levels of education.
Without special attention to the education sector, as it is demanded by the Citizens’ Education Agenda 2024 document, Malawians will remain stuck in all forms of poverty.
“Education is one way the country can break trans-generational poverty,” asserted one participant at the launch of the Csec education manifesto.
In practice, Malawi needs inclusive, quality, equitable and relevant education.
Khondowe assured the gathering at Golden Peacock Hotel that the coalition “envisions a society where all people enjoy the right to education, at the same time promoting equity, relevance, accessibility.”
The agenda proposes improved access to education at all levels. Equitable access ensures that no one is left behind. Education opens life-long opportunities for enhancing one’s well-being and that of others. Thus, education is both a private good and a public good.
What is Csec proposing in the new agenda?
The network believes that early childhood development (ECD) forms the bedrock for the child’s success in education. Unfortunately, ECD continues to face infrastructural and management challenges. Csec calls for the re-enforcement of ECD standards in the country.
Primary education faces infrastructural problems, lack of and limited teaching materials and non-conducive learning environments, with some students learning under the trees, lack of hygiene and sanitary facilities, poor retention, non-compliance of standards. High teacher-pupil ratio seems to be normalised, when it is an education anomaly.
The activists laments that while many pupils pass the primary school examinations, there is low intake into secondary schools.
Numbers of secondary schools remain low as the demand keeps rising. Rural Malawians are disproportionately affected. The citizens’ education agenda demands every constituency should have a secondary school.
Lack of special needs teachers and unfriendly infrastructures for students living with disability cut across the entire education system in Malawi.
The higher education, technical, entrepreneurial and vocation education sectors are not spared of the challenges in terms of access, quality and relevance.
The education manifesto cautions that post-secondary education lacks standardisation and relevance to the contextual needs. The curriculum needs to be decolonised to be contextually relevant. It also calls for a solution to shortage of spaces compared to students who qualify for higher education needs proper policy direction.
But students also need an enabling environment to be innovative and creative while striving to solve the development challenges the country faces.
In the new agenda for May 21 Tripartite Elections and beyond, Csec asks political parties to sign a commitment to making the Citizens’ Education Agenda 2024 work and Malawians to vote for candidates who are devoted to the education agenda. n