Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries, with 50.7 percent of the population living below the poverty line and 25 percent living in extreme poverty. Poor educational outcomes leave communities in a cycle of scarcity, and they find it hard to break free.

    Significant barriers

    Only 66 per cent of the population are literate, and only half of all students finish primary school. A lack of school infrastructure is a significant barrier to improving learning outcomes. UNICEF estimates Malawi needs an additional 36,000 primary school classrooms. This figure is equivalent to 2.16 million children every day that won't learn in a schoolroom.

    Change is possible

    We need to overcome three barriers if positive change is to occur within Malawi’s education system.

  1. The 2020 Malawi central government budget allocated no money to primary school classroom construction. Without third-party intervention, it’s unlikely Malawi will meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 4.1–ensuring that all girls and boys complete free, fair and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and useful learning outcomes by 2030.
  2. Overcrowded classrooms are the norm in Malawi because of a lack of buildings. The government target for student-teacher ratios is 60:1. There is sufficient funding available in Malawi to make significant in-roads into this lack of learning spaces. However, there are no organisations capable of operating at an adequate level to use this financing.
  3. While creating classrooms is essential, a learning space is only the beginning of good learning outcomes. Schools need to attract and keep outstanding teachers. For effective learning, administrators need to keep classroom numbers manageable. Girls’ education needs to be a focus, not an afterthought. To facilitate long-term investment in education by low-income families, schools need to understand and work within those families' conflicting short-term priorities and issues.

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Chief Chikolongo (Village Headman Mlambe School)

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