By Solister Mogha
There was heated debate amongst Members of Parliament (MPs) in Blantyre District Friday during a full council meeting on where to construct seven community day secondary schools.
Government with assistance from the American Government intends to construct 200 new community day secondary schools and President Arthur Peter Mutharika directed that each district be given seven schools.
However, according to government regulations, a number of factors such as distance within the nearest secondary school, population and number of primary schools in the area and availability of land are the criteria for identifying where to construct a school.
Blantyre district council secretariat through the office of the District Education Manager (DEM) using the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology had selected areas deemed important to benefit from the programme.
But what raised temper of some MPs was why some constituencies were allocated two or three schools while others had none.
Parliamentarian for Blantyre City West Steven Mikaya said it was unfair for the council to allocate more than one schools to a singular MP when the programme was meant to benefit all constituencies.
“We need to re-work on this; otherwise, we will not accept that one MP should have more schools when some of us have none,” he said.
Legislator for Blantyre Rural East Fidson Chisesele and MP for Blantyre South West Keneddy Kachingwe concurred with Mikaya.
They said the council should abandon the proposed list and come up with a new and well-balanced list of areas earmarked for the new schools.
“This is national cake and let everyone benefit from it. We need to share projects because we all represent people of the same district.
“Suffice to say that even the President says the schools be shared amongst constituencies,” Chisesele said.
This suggestion did not go down well with Parliamentarian for Blantyre North Francis Phiso who said the schools were not meant for MPs to show that they were doing development in their respective areas.
“Let us run away from politics here; yes, we all need these schools but we should have been considerate enough especially by looking at the schools we have in our constituencies [against] other areas that need such a service.
“I have been allocated two secondary schools but if it pleases members to take away the schools that I have been allocated to another constituency, so much the better because we all belong to Blantyre. Let us not score political points in this,” Phiso said.
District Commissioner Benent Nkasala and District Education Manager Paul Chiphanda’s explanation of government guidelines did not please the aggrieved MPs.
The house later agreed to vote on the criteria to be used in selecting areas to benefit from the programme.
They voted that every constituency should benefit and against another proposal that allocation should be per each Traditional Authority (TA).
This decision, however, displeased some MPs, councillors as well as some TAs.
“Let those that want to have as many schools and developments in the areas have because that is what they want and that pleases them,” Senior Chief Kunthembwe said.
MP for Blantyre West Kaneka who has the biggest constituency among all the MPs looked uncomfortable having been snatched off three schools that were earlier proposed for his area.
However, there were some lighter moments or drama when Senior Chief Kuntaja, who also protested the decision of one school per constituency due to vastness of his area and unavailability of secondary school, stood to vote.
When the deputy chair of Blantyre council Musa Chikwawa reminded the chief that he was not a legitimate member to vote, Senior Chief Kuntaja refused saying being a leader, he was supposed to fight for his people.
“No, I will vote because this is a very important issue. For many years, I have been a victim when it comes to allocation of schools.
“I don’t have enough secondary schools in my area I need one,” said the chief sending people into laughter.
His vote was, however, ignored on the basis that he is not allowed to vote in council meetings other than commenting on issues.
Meanwhile, the MPs have agreed to propose areas where these schools would be constructed. Blantyre rural has eight constituencies.-MANA