The cost of education

By Bernard Thungwa


It is a known fact that educationhas a very huge cost at all levels.Though here in Malawi, we claim to have ‘free primary education’, the truth of the matter is that it is not absolutely free. There are some contributions that learners make towards the running of the schools. These contributions assist in paying for utility bills and wages for support staff. Many learners drop out of school because of fees issues. As we are getting into the 2022 academic calendar, many schools have already signaled for an increase in fees. This is attributed to the high cost of running the schools. However, fees structures vary from school to school.

Why varying fees?

Fees vary from school to school because of a number of reasons. Government schools receive some funding which is used to purchase teaching and learning materials. More than often these schools also receive donations from many stakeholders. These donations range from books to infrastructure. Day schools are relatively cheaper than boarding schools. The reason is obvious that boarding schools also consider boarding fees. The boarding fees is mainly used to purchase food items to feed the learners. The amount of boarding fees may determine the quality of meals learners get. No wonder in some schools the menu is very good as compared to some schools. We don’t expect a school which charges very little boarding fees to be providing quality food.

Some schools are engaging in developmental projects to facelift the school. Most schools may be in a dilapidated state due to old age or because of vandalism. Fenced schools are much more admirable by most learners and parents. To erect a fence there is need to assemble many resources. To maintain dilapidated structures, parents have to dig deep into their pockets and contribute a little something for the noble course, hence fees hike.

Private schools employ their own teachers and other supporting staff. Salaries for these people come from the same fees that learners pay. Quality teachers need to be paid handsomely. This may also contribute to the increase in fees in most private learning institutions. Private schools have also a huge responsibility of purchasing textbooks and science materials apart from constructing classroom blocks and all the office equipment. These are very expensive needs of a school. Without any other source of income, fees are the only target.

Performance versus fees

structure Good things are expensive, many people argue. For one to get quality education we need to financially prepare very well. Schools whose candidates perform highly have relatively higher fees. Sometimes a learner would work very hard owing to the huge sum of fees they paid. They wouldn’t want to pay again for the same course in the event of failing. People have also contributed to the dwindling of education standards in Malawi due to the introduction of free primary education. Whether this is true or not, but free things are not good.

Are fees affordable?

The fees may look exorbitant just by looking at the figures but if we look at the real value, we may find out that the fees may be cheaper and more affordable compared to the past. Nowadays people are getting huge salaries as compared to the past but they are not happier than then. Let us not expect schools to charge very little and offer quality education. That’s a non-starter. Quality education goes together with a cost. On the same, schools should charge fees reasonably considering the cost of living of many Malawians.

Food for thought:

Imagine a boarding school charges K90,000.00 per term; a term has roughly 12 weeks (84 days). This means K1,071.00 to be used per student on daily basis. This amount should be used for breakfast, lunch and supper. We are not considering other costs such as electricity and water bills. Is this boarding fee high or low?