Saturday, October 10, 2009
By Nyasa Times
Published: October 9, 2009
The government adopted a controversial quota system to use in selecting students to public universities and other tertiary institutions according to a letter in the Ministry of Education despite the matter being contested in court .
The letter by Secretary for Education, Science and Technology Mr. Bernard Sande addressed to Teveta executive director, Alide dated 03-09-09 Reference number 7/1/4 advised the organisation to implement quota system when selecting students for 2009/10 academic year.
“I am writing to inform you that government has adopted a new policy of admitting students to public universities and other tertiary institutions so that the inequitable distribution of opportunities to tertiary education and training can be addressed,” reads the letter in Nyasa Times possession.
It said students on full government scholarships will be admitted by: “A guaranteed number of 10 places for qualified and deserving students will be reserved for each district.”
“Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzimba and Zomba districts will be classified into two zones, namely urban and rural districts, with each zone or category being guaranteed 10 places.”
The latter further described the selection that: “The balance of the available places will be distributed on merit basis according to population ratios of district of origin.”
“For the district that would not be able to contribute a total of the guaranteed required minimum of 10 qualified candidates, the remaining places would be put into the general pool and awards for such spaces would be re-distributed to other districts, based on the equity system, according to population ratios of the district concerned,” reads the letter by Secretary of Education.
The Principal Secretary said in the letter that non-residential students (students not on government scholarships) will be admitted purely on merit and ability to pay “as is currently the case.”
“You are, therefore, advised to implement the new system with effect from the 2009/10 academic year,” directed the PS for education.
The district quota system was first introduced by the late dictator Ngwazi Kamuzu Banda’s Malawi Congress Party in 1988 after realising that the northern region of the country was benefiting from university places the most, followed by the central region and then the south.
But it was abandoned following a 1993 court ruling that it was discriminatory and in violation of the fundamental right of Malawian citizens to equitable development because in districts where students performed well, bright youngsters failed to secure a university place while in other districts where students did not do as well, the university still accepted 10 students.
The current administration led by Bingu wa Mutharika has brought back the system to ensure “equitable system of admitting students” based on concerns that students from northern Malawi are securing a disproportionate number of university places.
The Synod of Livingstonia is opposing the system. General-secretary Rev Levi Nyondo said government is promoting “regionalism”.
Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has also branded the quota system as discriminatory.