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Improving Access to Quality Education

Challenge: Lack of access to quality secondary education

With only 18% of primary school leavers in the Chilumba area being selected for secondary school (2016), an overwhelming number of stakeholders in the community identified the need for higher quality schools with more resources. Education needs in the area are twofold, as both access to and the quality of secondary education needs improvement.

Findings: Schroeder, J (2016) Securing Quality Secondary Education: Issues of Accessibility and Equity in Northern Malawi

Researchers conducted a survey and analysis to assess the status of secondary education in Malawi and the key variables which influence successes and failures of secondary schools in northern Malawi. Data on school enrollment, exam pass rates, school drop outs and secondary school selection rates were collected during interviews and meetings with senior teachers at secondary schools in the Karonga district and northern division of Mzuzu. Interviews provided an insight into institutional practices while campus tours enabled a qualitative analysis of infrastructure and educational environment to be conducted. Although 64.8% of primary school students in the Chilumba area passed examinations, only 25% of those students were selected to go to government secondary schools. Of those, 94% were selected to go to a Community Day Secondary School (CDSS). However, boarding schools were considered to create a more conducive learning environment with better education growth and character development than open-setting secondary schools. CDSS headmasters agreed that they would prefer investment in on-campus boarding, infrastructure, more textbooks, and well qualified teachers. For building a new school in the area, the study recommends that this should be a boarding school with the capacity to offer student services including counseling, study support and medical care. A set daily schedule with study time and extracurricular activities should also be implemented, with lessons in line with the Ministry of Education’s curriculum. Male and female students should be allowed to interact with each other outside of the classroom when they attend single-sex schools.

Findings: Fackel-Darrow, C (2017) Integrated Curricular Learning in Developing Countries: What are the Techniques for the Application of Enrichment Topics Added to a General Curriculum to Develop a Well-Rounded Adult?

Student interviews, school observations and textbook and syllabi analysis for key topics and teaching strategies were undertaken to develop a weekly, after school and weekend schedule and activities, and an informal curriculum plan and lessons for form 1 students starting at the school in September 2017. The goal of this informal curriculum developed at Wasambo High School is to provide students with enrichment activities that promote development in a wholesome way and to facilitate the building of social, health, and economic assets in a safe and fun learning environment. Topics involve the more basic “life skills” curriculum most Malawian students take in secondary school, but are expanded with active and extended learning activities, as well as lessons in business studies and computer studies derived from the traditional Malawian syllabi and other resources.

Research methodology included student interviews and school observations, and analyzing textbooks and syllabi for key topics and teaching strategies. The culmination of this project was developing a weekly, after school, and weekend schedule and activities, and an informal curriculum plan and lessons for the form 1 students beginning September, 2017.

Solution: Establishment of Wasambo Boys Boarding High School

In September 2017, D2D opened Wasambo Boys High School to meet the demand for education space, with the ability to host 320 boarding students at full capacity. Available scholarships allow high achievers from the local area to continue with education regardless of financial circumstances, furthering opportunities for those less able to access secondary education. In addition, the school aims to raise education standards by infusing a model of student-centered learning into the syllabus. A mixed expatriate and Malawian staff brings a contemporary pedagogy of international standards to the table.

Please visit wasambo.org for more information and recent updates on Wasambo Boys High School

Challenge: Lack of access to technical education in Chilumba

Several technical schools exist within Malawi, however, none exist within the Chilumba catchment area. This study explores the need for technical education in the area and the benefits it would bring.

Findings: Cadman, M (2018) Exploring formal technical education in the Chilumba catchment area and its benefits to the youth: an in-depth analysis of market and opportunity

During a nine-week period, research was conducted in Sangilo, Khwawa, Uliwa, and Hara villages in the Chilumba catchment area. There are three technical schools closest to these villages: Miracle, Ngara, and Phwezi Technical Schools. The purpose was to conduct at an in-depth analysis of market and opportunity for a technical college in the Chilumba catchment area. 

The study consisted of qualitative method and participatory analysis. The qualitative method was made up of interviews amongst different groups of community members within the area. The participatory analysis was a card exercise where each interviewee was asked to rank twenty-five different programs from the most beneficial to the least beneficial for their community. The participants were then asked to explain why they chose the top three and bottom three programs.

Through the interviews, the research was able to analyze which programs should be offered, how much community members can afford in fees, any negatives associated with technical education, and how the ideal structure of technical school would be constructed. Interviewees see technical education as an alternate route to higher education for their community and a way to develop their community economically. Currently, there are no technical schools within walking distance of these villages. Limited transportation makes it extremely difficult for students to access technical schools outside the catchment area. Having a technical school within walking distance is important to the community because it would allow students to operate from home and not have to pay for full boarding. Community members expressed concern that fees would be unaffordable. 

Opening a technical school in the TA Wasambo area would help move towards less unemployment within the area from the beginning since community members would need to be hired to build the school. Community members also explained how the skills students learn at technical school can be used to be self-employed. Once becoming self-employed, they can share these skills amongst their friends who did not have the chance to continue on with higher education. All fifty youth that were interviewed stated that they would be willing to attend technical school if one were built in the area.

Developing Nursery Education

Challenge: Lack of quality nursery education in the area

Despite recognition in Malawi that nursery education is beneficial to childhood development, this aspect of education in the country is given little to no support.  Nursery school curriculums exist, but are underutilized. Nursery schools teachers have usually not received training, and lack monetary support.

Findings: Rodriguez, C (2016) The Impacts and Benefits of Nursery School Education in the Chilumba Catchment Region of Malawi

Educational scores from 992 primary school students in standards 1-3 were collected from Hara and Sangilo primary schools in the Chilumba area of Karonga District and analyzed through SPSS software. In conjunction, face-to-face fixed-response interviews were conducted with eight nursery school teachers and one local chief, focusing on the benefits and drawbacks of nursery school education, as well as nursery school observations and 100 student evaluations. Student evaluations established a baseline of knowledge held by pupils within nursery school as well as a comparison between those in and out of nursery school, and between boys and girls. Meanwhile, observations created a picture of teaching methods and learning environment. Mean scores from standard 1 classes indicated that scores from pupils who had attended D2D nurseries were lower than their counterparts who had attended other nurseries or no nurseries at all. Conversely, standard 3 pupils from D2D supported nurseries achieved the highest mean scores. Results may be attributable to differing teaching styles between nursery and primary schools, where D2D pupils had taken longer to adapt to primary school but in the long term did better. Pupils having attended the more highly resourced nursery were also on the whole higher achievers. Overall the research suggests that nursery school education had a positive impact on primary education. Due to certain limitations the study recommends that better organized school records should be kept with spot-checks and penalties on schools with incomplete records, which would improve monitoring. Nursery schools supported by D2D could be improved through teacher training and the creation of a structured curriculum to help prepare pupils for primary school.

Solution: Development of a nursery school curriculum

Addressing the need for more access to nursery education, D2D established 4 nursery schools in the local area. Establishment included building of the school structures, training of the teachers, provision of materials, and development of a nursery school curriculum, which is now being implemented at all of D2D’s partnering nursery schools.

The three-term curriculum targets Malawian children, ages 3 to 4. Lessons focus on physical well-being as well as motor, cognitive, language, literacy, social, and emotional development. Focus was placed on including culturally relevant and appropriate strategies, topics, and best learning practices. In order to do so, standards from the U.S. Department of Education, Ohio State, and Malawi were referenced.   

Improving Education Through Community Participation

Challenge: Failing Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs), and the negative impact on education

The decentralized governmental system in Malawi provides opportunities for the public to actively engage in making changes to their community. This gives Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) the potential to have a significant impact on schools and education. But while parents can influence the success of a child’s education, they can by the same measure influence its failure. The challenge faced is understanding how PTAs operate in the Karonga south region to ensure their success so education may flourish with its community inputs.

Findings: Stadler, R.M (2015) PTAs and the Development of Primary and Secondary Schools in Malawi

The study examines the impact that parent teacher associations (PTAs) have on the infrastructural and material development of primary and secondary schools in the Karonga South Region of Malawi and the northern city of Mzuzu. Semi-structured interviews were conducted over eight weeks with three PEAs (Primary Education Advisers) and a district council member to understand PTA structures and funding. Seventeen head teachers, 16 heads of PTAs and 29 parents of schoolchildren were also interviewed in this timeframe to establish successes and failures of PTAs. Interviewees were also asked to identify school issues following which quantitative analysis revealed that girls’ education, feeding programs, child labor, access, funding and training for PTAs were the most prevalent. The study concludes that funding and training is key to the success of PTAs and therefore recommends that this consideration should be made by government and NGOs attempting to develop schools and education, on the basis that parents, teachers and the wider community directly influence the educational outcome of school-aged children. The delivery of sustainable feeding programs, support groups, extracurricular activities and hostels, particularly for girls, are also recommended as ways to improve school retention.

Solution: Organizational Participation in PTA

While D2D does not currently run a specific PTA orientated program, a D2D representative attends all PTA meetings at Khwawa and Thunduti Community Day Secondary Schools to offer support and engage them in discussions concerning youth development, education, and girl’s empowerment.

Challenge: Lack of male understanding of and participation in female empowerment

While there is significant emphasis on girls’ empowerment, boys’ role in the process is often not taken into account. A better understanding of gender roles and male understanding of female empowerment is needed to include males in female empowerment.

Findings: Mazza, E (2018) The Role of Men And Boys in the Empowerment of Women And Girls

Current attitudes of the surrounding community on women’s empowerment were evaluated to be used in constructing a curriculum on female empowerment for the surrounding high schools. The quantitative methodology consisted of surveys given to high school aged males in the area. The surveys conducted provided insight into the beliefs of male students in private versus public schools within the area of focus. The qualitative methodology included individual interviews with both adult males and youth males. Other interviews included focus groups of both adult females and youth females for comparison against the male interviewees.

Overall, Malawians generally claimed to support the empowerment of women. Many of the responses from male respondents showed amounts of social desirability bias. Adult males believe in the education of girls, and also feel they share the general household responsibilities such as cooking, cleaning and raising the children. They believe in teaching their sons not to cry in times of distress and a majority of youth males do not believe it is right for a boy to cry. Youth males expressed positive sentiments toward assisting in the household chores, however under varied circumstances. With regard to the female interviews, it was noted that there were some discrepancies between what male interviewees said and what female interviewees said. While adult female interviewees showed similar responses and believe they share many of the household chores with their husbands, many youth females did not feel they and their male siblings had equal responsibilities around the house. Recommendations include further research on sexual harassment and consent, a detailed emphasis on self-awareness in the home, and the development of a Girls Club equivalent for boys.