The Director of Education, Youth and Sports for Ntcheu District Council, Lucia Chidalengwa has bemoaned learning interruptions due COVID-19 pandemic which she says have negatively affected enrollment especially in primary schools in the district.

Chidalengwa said before the pandemic was declared a disaster in March last year, the district primary schools had 180,525 pupils with 89, 069 boys and 91,456 girls.

“Currently, there are 78,790 boys against 83, 689 girls making the total of 162, 479 learners. The figures show reduced enrolment,” said Chidalengwa.

She, however, observed that rural schools have lower than 80 per cent of the expected enrollment.

Chidalengwa cited Chigodi and Tsangano as some of the hardest hit primary schools with shortfalls of 699 and 580 learners respectively after school breaks or interruptions due COVID-19 breaks.

“Early marriages and teenage pregnancies have played a role; however, it’s not only the girls. If you go to Tsangano, a lot of standard 8 boys got engaged in potato farming and in the end did not return to school,” explained Chidalengwa.

She added that this could be a shift of interest from education to economic activities.

The District Education Director has since disclosed that as a district, they would embark on ‘Back-to-School campaign’ (policy which allows learners who had dropped out to return to school) through Village Development Committees (VDCs).

She has also appealed for support from all partners.

On his part, the head teacher for Tsangano Primary School, Romano Chilango, admitted the sharp drop in enrollment at his school.

He said amongst other factors, the drop has come due to misinformation about COVID-19 vaccine and the shift in mindset by the youth in the district from education to economic activities.

“Community members thought the vaccine would be given to learners so they started shunning school.

“The other reason is a lot of boys were engaged in Irish Potatoes business the whole period when we were on break,” said Chilango.

He has, however, expressed optimism that enrollment will increase after sensitization campaigns.

One of the parents from the area, Maxwell Ndagwira said there is need to sensitize the people in the area on the importance of education.

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