For close to two years, government schools in the district of Kasungu located in the central region of Malawi were faced chronic shortages of teaching and learning materials despite Parliament’s approval of funds to cater for the need.
Resultantly, the delivery and acquisition of knowledge was negatively affected. The critical casualties were the learners.
In 2015 the Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC), a local NGO mobilized the Kasungu Education Network (a network of CSOs working on education) to carry out a public expenditure tracking exercise to address the situation.
A central aspect of the exercise was the utilization of access to information as a tool to gather information and facts relation to the situation. The network filed information requests and made all necessary follow-ups with the District Education Office and the Ministry of Education.
It was established that the District Education Manager (DEM) for Kasungu had awarded a contract and paid a supplier to deliver teaching and learning materials for two consecutive years even though the supplier was not delivering.
A follow-up enquiry also revealed that the supplier trading as “Small Kloud” was not trading in education materials or any stationery, rather its core business was phone and electrical supplies.
Above: Photos of Smal-kloud electrical supplies.
In a similar situation, communities around Nakaleza Primary school of T/A Makanjira in Salima District demanded for a new school block to cater for the increasing number of pupils.
“As a starting point, we had to assess ourselves as rights holders and do our part in solving the challenge. Through chiefs surrounding the area, we molded bricks in readiness for the construction of an additional school at the school,” Juma M’bwana e, CHRR’s project volunteer in the area narrated.
Having waited for two months without any action, the aggrieved communities made information requests and subsequent follow-ups to the Salima District Commissioners’ office.
The District Commissioner was astonished about the communities’ zeal to get information of the construction progress.
“According to our records, construction of the school was completed and pupils are now learning in the new classrooms”, said Charles Kalemba, the district commissioner said.
The DC promised the communities that his office would institute swift investigations to get down to the issue.
Investigations showed that the construction stalled due to mismanagement and diversion of resources. The Salima District Council official who was implicated in the scandal was immediately interdicted, and construction resumed at the school till the block was complete. Pupils in the area are now learning in a new block which has lessened congestion in classrooms.
Insert is the photo of the complete Classroom block.
However, although Africa has generally made significant progress in the realization of freedom of expression and access to information, there is still room for improvement. States are under an obligation to take practical steps, including through legislation to give effect to the right to freedom of information including the right of access to information.