Malawi has been ranked as one of the lowest-performing nations for literacy in sub-Saharan Africa. Malawi is one of the least developed countries in the world and education is proven as one of the critical pathways to improving living conditions in the country. Here are 10 facts regarding education in Malawi:
- Primary school in Malawi was made free in 1994. This policy boosted primary school enrollment from 1.6 million children to three million children. However, with such an influx in students, the educational quality has decreased due to weak infrastructure, poor hygiene and low teaching quality.
- Only 35 percent of children in Malawi complete primary school. Such a low ratio can be attributed to multiple factors.
More than half of the country’s population lives below the poverty line. Many children enroll and drop out of school frequently due to employment responsibilities at home or illnesses. Especially for many young girls, dropping out is common due to young marriage, pregnancy, and contracting HIV/AIDS.
- In first grade, the teacher to student ratio is 1:130. While this ratio decreases as the grade level increases, Malawi faces one of the world’s worst teacher shortages.
This fact is mostly due to the expense associated with hiring new teachers. To be able to attract qualified teachers, rural communities must provide housing, which is a significant cost. Many of the quality issues faced in Malawian schools are due to a lack of motivation by the teachers. They face poor working conditions, weak social amenities and lack health coverage.
The overcrowding of classrooms is found to be another catalyst of high drop-out rates in Malawian schools. With students not receiving one-on-one feedback and lacking the resources to learn, many lose hope in the educational system.
Therefore, in order to improve the quality of education in Malawi and reduce drop-out rates, the government must focus on improving teacher salaries and improve facilities around the nation. This policy change will incentivize staying in school and providing quality curricula.
- Eighty-three percent of first-grade students are unable to read a single syllable, and 92 percent of these students fail to read a single word. Malawi is ranked the weakest for its performance in English reading and second weakest for mathematics against other southern African countries.
Such statistics are the result of children being denied the chance to learn under normal conditions. With the massive influx of students in recent years, education in Malawi has incurred a national shortage of classrooms, qualified teachers and basic teaching materials such as textbooks.
- Besides primary schooling, the government does not fully fund any other educational levels. For instance, the government encourages communities to introduce preschools into their societies but does not support these facilities financially. Therefore, most preschools are run on a voluntary basis and remain unregistered. Forty-four percent of preschoolers face undernourishment in Malawi and the majority of teachers work for free as they lack the necessary resources to teach the young children.
Without proper preschool opportunities, children in Malawi are missing the opportunities that create a strong foundation for their future studies. The Global Partnership for Education declares that investing resources in the youngest children is one of the most cost-effective commitments a country can make. A study in 2011 found that, by having 50 percent of the world’s children enrolled in preschool, the global benefit is greater than $33 billion.
- With around 4.6 million students enrolled in schools throughout Malawi, only eight percent of them complete secondary school. A major contributor to this low completion is the lack of proper transportation links to the secondary facilities.
- Only 14.9 percent of adult females obtain at least a secondary education, compared to 24.2 percent of males. To try and reduce the gender gap in education in Malawi, Rihanna’s organization, the Clara Lionel Foundation, partnered with Ofo to create the 1 Km Action campaign. This program will provide scholarships to help girls across Malawi attend secondary school. For the children who qualify, the campaign will provide the students with bikes to ensure they can get to school.
- USAID also provides support to the education sector in Malawi by collaborating with the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology. The United States’ efforts focus on increasing educational opportunities for females as well as boosting the capacity and quality of education in the country. USAID provides nine programs in Malawi to improve the educational standards of the country.
- Donors provide 40 percent of public education expenditure. However, in recent years donors have found that much of the money is not funneled into education but is rather stolen by the government sector. This theft has suspended much funding to the country.
- Over the past five years, the Malawian government has committed to allocate 18 percent of the national budget toward the education sector. With this commitment, Malawi will have one of the highest education expenditures in Africa. However, when comparing the educational quality with other countries, it can be noted that Malawi does not allocate its funds efficiently.
Experts believe that education is the driving force to alleviating poverty in Malawi and that it can help the country move toward development. With greater government involvement and international organizations supporting the nation, education in Malawi has the potential to improve in coming years.
– Tess Hinteregger