A new three year program titled “Improving Access and Quality of Education for Girls” was launched in Dedza, Malawi, on July 2 by leaders from Norway and various U.N. agencies. The new initiative in Malawi is being funded by Norway at a cost of 7.2 billion Norwegian Krone (NK) with the explicit goals of addressing a host of key threats to girls’ education in Malawi. The initiative is being supported by UNICEF, WFP and UNFPA, and will be implemented in certain schools in the Dedza, Salima and Mangochi districts.
Malawi has consistently struggled with educating their children, especially with very young girls. According to the Government of Malawi, only 27 percent of girls complete primary education, and only half of Malawian girls aged 15-24 are literate. In comparison, Malawian perform better in most subjects, especially math and reading, and are more likely to pursue post-primary education. In lower primary school grades the gender ratio is 1:1, but this starts to skew towards boys at a very early age, sometimes as early as stage 4. This can be attributed to a variety of reasons, partly because of girls dropping out, often times before they gain basic literacy skills, and partly because they repeat certain years more often than boys do.
The program is designed to include several areas of joint focus. These areas include, but are not limited to: in-school feeding, improving quality of education, encouraging older girls who have dropped out to re-enroll, reducing gender based violence, creating safe spaces for girls in the classroom and the provision of health services at the school.
UNICEF Representative Mahimbo Mdoe said “…without delivering education, especially for girls, we’ll end up returning to communities, generation after generation, to help the children of the children we failed to help in the first place. We’ll also perpetuate cycles of inequality within society. There is no better time to invest in education than now.” Fortunately, UNICEF and the WFP have been able to enact their goals and help slow this cycle of poverty.
Despite all of the frightening statistics, WFP Representative Coco Ushiyama noted that there is hope for Malawian girls: “Girls in WFP-supported schools in Malawi have 10 percent lower dropout rates than the national average. Also, the graduation rate of girls from primary to secondary school is 7 percent higher in WFP-supported schools compared to non-supported schools.” With any luck this new investment from Norway will continue this upward trend and give even more Malawian girls the education they need.
— Andre Gobbo