By Bernard Thungwa
The Malawi Government is trying all it can to provide quality education to its citizenry. This is evidenced in the construction of many secondary schools of different categories. Gone are the days when one would repeat standard eight for a number of times without being selected to a secondary school like was the case before.
When Balaka and Machinga were one district, it only had Balaka Secondary School. The school could not absorb all the capable candidates in the district. When the district was split into Balaka and Machinga, Balaka Secondary School seemed to belong to Balaka district. Machinga district had no boarding secondary school.
It is for this reason that government constructed a new boarding secondary school in Machinga. The magnificent school is located within Liwonde township and opened its doors on January 13, 2020 a week after the official opening of second term of the 2019/2020 academic year. It is probably the biggest boarding secondary school in the country.
Its first cohort of students was selected in the 2018/2019 academic year. But due to its unfinished state then, the learners were redistributed to various surrounding secondary schools like Mbenjere, St. Mary’s CDSS, Liwonde and others. All the students that were seeking academic refuge in these other schools have now come back to their original secondary school. This also entails that Liwonde Township is boasting of having three big secondary schools: Liwonde, Liwonde CDSS and Machinga.
The uniform of Machinga Secondary School is green. But due to the coming in of ‘refugee’ learners from different schools, the school has more than four types of uniform colours. You can easily get confused as to identify the real uniform of the school. The combination, however, is a nice scenery around the campus. Two classes are operational; Form One and Two. This means that by the 2021/2022 academic year, the school will be fully operational with all classes full.
The school has a bed space of 672. Half of the bed space (336) is for boys and the other half for girls. There will be 12 hostels in total, six (already completed) for girls and the other six (unfinished) for boys.
Currently the boys are using some of the girls’ hostels up until their hostels will have been completed. The boys’ hostels are a little bit far from completion, but it is hoped that by September, this year they will be ready. There is a classroom space of 480; some more classrooms will be constructed soon to accommodate the 672 anticipated students.
Being a full boarding secondary school, there are obviously some challenges that the new school is facing. The school lacks a school vehicle and other kitchen related structures. But the most encouraging story is that the school has enough furniture for both learners and teachers. The few teachers that are there are dedicated. An institution of excellence is emerging at Machinga Secondary School.
The fees is around MK52,000. Many students are struggling to pay that which makes the operation of the school difficult. Mathematically, this means the students are paying almost MK600 per day to carter for breakfast, lunch and supper. What about utility bills? With the rising costs of food items, it is by God’s grace that authorities are managing to run boarding schools.
It is the responsibility of all stakeholders to take good care of such developments, in this case students. They should not vandalise their school. Destroying school property is very retrogressive. Concerned authorities should also prioritise maintenance of the structures.