JUNE 13, 2017
LILONGWE, Malawi—On May 3, 2017, Aaron Mankhamba, 18, and Hastings Mtambalika, 15, two children of Jehovah’s Witnesses, were allowed to return to school after being expelled from the Khombe Primary School because of their refusal to sing the national anthem during a school assembly. The students had been barred from attending classes since February 13, 2017. They were reinstated after the boys’ parents and representatives from the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses appealed to school officials.
During their discussions, the branch representatives were aided by two letters from the Malawi government that they were able to show the school officials. One letter from 1997, actually addressed to Jehovah’s Witnesses in Malawi, gave formal recognition for Jehovah’s Witnesses to be exempt from singing the national anthem. The other letter, from 2017, encouraged educators to respect students’ freedom of religion.
Hastings explains that the reinstatement came at a critical moment in the school year, since national exams were approaching: “We were so worried that we wouldn’t be able to sit for the national examinations. The opportunity to participate in these exams comes only once a year.” Failure to pass the national exams may have meant the students would have to repeat the grade.
Augustine Semo, a spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Malawi, states: “The students are happy that their conscientious stand has been respected, and we thank the school administration for choosing to uphold freedom of religion and welcome these students back to class.”