Malawi has been ranked as one of the lowest-performing nations for literacy in sub-Saharan Africa: it’s one of the least developed countries in the world.
In this country, primary school was made free in 1994. This policy boosted school enrollment: however, with such an influx in students, the educational quality has decreased as the system is not able to meet the costs.
This means weak infrastructures (shortage of classrooms, for instance), lack of teaching materials, lack of teachers, poor hygiene and low teaching quality, causing a high rate of drop-out. Only 35% of children in Malawi complete primary school.
As classrooms are overcrowded, students do not receive the right amount of attention or the resources to learn, so many lose hope in the educational system.
Malawi faces one of the world’s worst teacher shortages. In the first grade, the teacher to student ratio is 1:130. The system is not able to meet the financial costs to hire new teachers, in particular in rurale areas, where housing should be provided too. Not only we see a lack of teachers, but a lack of motivation for the ones who are actually in the system – who are often under-qualified – as they suffer from poor working conditions, weak social amenities and lack of health coverage.
The high school dropout rate is also worsened by other social and economic factors: poverty; for young girls, early marriage and pregnancy; illnesses (especially HIV/AIDS).
Education is on of the driving force to alleviating poverty in Malawi and it can help the country move toward development.
Here are three schools in the northern district of Kasungu: we surely see overcrowded classrooms and poor infrastructures, but we also see the efforts teachers and NGOs are doing to improve the situation in these remote rural communities. We see electric power and computers. We see students, their eyes wondering outside of the classrooms, for curiosity or in search of their dreams.
Malawi, november 2013