The education sector in Malawi faces a number of challenges. Among them; lack of qualified teachers, inadequate classrooms, a shortage of teaching and learning materials and poor sanitation facilities. UNICEF reports the average pupil to teacher ratio as 1:92. Much of the population lives rurally and schools can be remote, making the daily journey to and from school a challenge in itself.
Although primary school is free in Malawi, only 40-65% of children manage to complete the eight years. Secondary education is not free and requires students to pass competitive exams to win a place. Only about 20% of children pass and many drop out, often because they can’t afford the fees or due to economic pressures to provide for the family. Across the country and at all levels, girls are at higher risk of dropping out than boys. Long distances, early marriage, and pregnancies are among the most common reasons given. Only 23 % of schools possess adequate sanitary facilities, a huge disincentive for adolescent girls.
Beyond academic education, vocational training is hard to access and many children who have left school unskilled and with few qualifications find themselves with no means to support themselves.
Many schools lack a sufficient number of permanent classrooms and are forced to teach children under trees or in mud huts which are vulnerable to damage during the rainy season. As well as causing extended periods of disrupted teaching, lack of classrooms and desks is a major reason girls of adolescent age miss school. To date, NWT has funded 20 brick-built classrooms in five rural primary schools as well as six brick-built facilities at a particularly remote secondary school. In all of these projects, the local community contributed by making the bricks themselves and providing labour.
Usisya Primary School, Nkhata Bay District
In 2008 we funded the construction of two classrooms at a primary school in Usisya, a remote district in the North of Malawi. This project was completed in partnership with Temwa, a UK based charity with whom we also run the NWT School Bursary Scheme.
Wozi Primary School, Nkhota-kota District
In 2009 NWT funded two classrooms at the village primary school which we were then able to furnish with 60 new double desks. Children are now able to stay in the village for one more year of their primary education instead of having to walk 15 kilometres down a main road to the next school
Kainsa Primary School, Mchinji District
We built six classrooms at Kainsa Primary between 2014 and 2018. After funding the construction of the first four, we agreed to complete a further block of two classrooms which the local community had started but were unable to complete from their own resources. With the completion of these classrooms, Kainsa will be a Full Primary for the first time which pupils can attend for the full eight years of primary education. This is of special benefit to the girl pupils as they will not have to face a six-kilometre walk in both directions to the nearest Full Primary. In order to further encourage girl pupils to stay in school, we supplied desks for the top classes.
Kasakanya Primary School, Mchinji District
Kasakanya village is situated in a particularly deprived region of Malawi. In 2015-2016 we funded two brick-built classrooms and in 2017 we were able to fund a further two. Kasakanya had always been designated a Full Primary school but before our involvement there were only four permanent classrooms which meant that many pupils effectively had part-time schooling.
We are delighted that 2017-2018 was the first school year in which all classes could be accommodated within brick-built classrooms. Again, to encourage the retention of the older girl pupils, we provided desks for the top classes.
Kochilara Primary School, Mchinji Disctrict
When Kochilira village school were first in touch with us, they were only able to provide schooling to pupils in the first two years of primary school in temporary shelters. Between 2014 – 2018, NWT provided funding for the construction of six brick-built classrooms, enabling them to become a Full Primary school from September 2018. This prevents children from the village and surrounding area from being faced with the choice of dropping out of primary school, or walking approximately 7 miles to the next nearest school.
Kochilira Community Day Secondary School, Mchinji District
This Community Day Secondary School is located in a very remote part of Malawi. Students travel long distances to attend which can be dangerous and off-putting to female students. In 2014 we were able to finance the construction of a hostel for female students, a facility which makes a significant contribution to the retention of girls at the school. We are delighted to report that by 2018, female students outnumbered male students in the final two years, a reversal of the national trend. Senior staff attribute this to the safer atmosphere our buildings have created for young women. Students’ results in national exams continue to improve.
As well as the girls’ hostel, we have funded several other building projects at this school in a relationship that began in 2010. This has included the construction of a science lab, a computer lab, two further classrooms, and a teacher’s house which aids good-quality staff recruitment and retention. Last year we linked the school with a charity promoting female hygiene and sanitary protection, further enabling young women to remain in the classroom.
NWT Bursary Scheme, Usisya, Nkhata Bay North
We fund a school bursary scheme in partnership with UK-based charity, Temwa. Our bursary, running since 2008, currently supports up to 24 students who have been identified by Temwa staff as coming from particularly disadvantaged households, and who have shown a strong capacity for academic learning despite their circumstances. NWT pays the students’ school fees as well as basic necessities such as school uniform and writing materials. The students have often lost one parent, are from particularly low-income households, or have a disability within the family.
Nkhata Bay is a very remote area on the edge of Lake Malawi, comprising 145 villages which are home to around 45,000 people. Overall, the region is extremely isolated and receives little government help.
Tikondane Centre for Street Children, Lilongwe
Since 2007 we have been working with Tikondane, based in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe. Tikondane is a transit shelter, which provides shelter, meals, counselling, and support to children who have been living on the streets. Tikondane’s social workers try to reunite the children with their extended families or their home village. For the children who cannot be safely returned to their family or village, NWT funds places at state boarding schools (both primary and secondary), so they have a safe place to be as well as the chance of an education. We currently support up to 44 students in school or tertiary education. Despite the emotional trauma these children have suffered, over 90% of the children we have supported progress to the next year or successfully complete their school leaving certificate, which is higher than the national average, and so far two have won places at University.
We are committed to providing this support through both Temwa and Tikondane until at least 2021.
School Teacher Training
We have provided funding for a teacher-training scheme in Usisya, Northern Malawi, again in partnership with Temwa. A fixed number of trainee teachers receive Malawian government funding each year, but there are more eligible candidates than funded places available.
Our funding covered the training of two primary school teachers who were selected by the local community by Temwa. Training takes two years and we covered fees and maintenance for that duration. The students received the funding with the expectation that they will teach in schools in Usisya for five years after qualification.
Vocational Skills Training
In 2013 we started working with Centre for Youth Development and Social Empowerment (“CYDSE”) to train unemployed young men and women in carpentry skills to City and Guilds level. CYDSE had previously trained 42 carpenters, all of whom had found paid employment as carpenters or in training others as part of the programme. Our first cohort of 24 carpenters, including three women, qualified in early 2014.
In 2016 we funded the construction of a Vocational Skills Training Centre to operate in conjunction with the Tidzuke Orphan Care Centre we built in 2011. This provides a training venue for unemployed school leavers in carpentry, welding, tailoring and tin-smithing. So far, we have funded two tailoring courses and two carpentry courses, each lasting six months, providing a future for previously unemployed school leavers.