Igniting zeal for science subjects
By Patricia Kapulula:
Great Kondowe is a Form 3 learner at Thunduti Community Day Secondary School (CDSS) in Karonga.
Since he was selected to start Form 1 at the school in 2020, he has never been to a science laboratory. The school does not have one.
Situations like this and lack of learning and teaching materials have led to a number of students failing in science subjects.
However, Great looks forward to using a new laboratory at the school courtesy of Equity with Quality and Learning at Secondary (Equals) Project under whose auspices the facility is being constructed.
Thunduti CDSS is one of the beneficiary schools getting full scope of the project through provision of a science laboratory, library, classroom block and toilets for teachers and students.
The Ministry of Education is implementing the project in 13 selected districts through a credit facility of $90 million (approximately K92.5 billion), to address challenges in the teaching and learning of science subjects.
Signed in August, 2019, the six-year project also seeks increase access to secondary education in Malawi.
In some beneficiary schools, where the project started supplying science books, gains are already being registered through improved performance in sciences, according to Ministry of Education Principal Secretary Chikondano Mussa.
“The MSCE [Malawi School Certificate of Education] pass rate for physics which was around 66.81 in 2020, had gone up to 73.37 per cent in 2022.
“In chemistry, the pass rate was at 47.84 percent in 2020, but it went up to 74.60 percent in 2022 while that for biology moved from 61.18 percent in 2020 to 63.79 in 2022,”Mussa explains.
For Mussa, this feat in performance is, to a large extent, a result of the project’s interventions which include the provision of science textbooks to learners.
“We have been able to bring student textbook ratio to 1:1 in mathematics, physics, biology and chemistry, which translates into quality improvement,” she adds.
The Equals project also introduced a new intervention of continuous assessment to evaluate the learners, in addition to the traditional mode of terminal examinations used in most secondary schools.
“This will help students to keep pace so that by the end of the day, they are at the same pace with everyone else in their class,” Mussa says.
Like Great of Thunduti CDSS in Karonga, Josephine Nasho, a Form 2 learner at Katamba CDSS in Zomba, also hopes to do well in science subjects.
Her school is also benefiting from the project through a twin science laboratory and a classroom block which are under construction.
She says once construction of the science laboratory is done, it will house proper learning and teaching materials which will be at their disposal to ably conduct experiments.
“Apart from enabling us to conduct experiments, the science laboratories will help us to apply that knowledge during examinations,” Josephine says.
Joseph Kasawala, a Form 4 learner at Namadidi CDSS in Zomba and his colleagues, whose school also has a classroom block, science laboratory and toilets which are under construction, were not doing well in science subjects due to lack of science equipment.
Namadidi CDSS Head teacher, Kenneth Chinangwa, views the presence of a science laboratory at any school as a tool for effective teaching and learning in schools.
He says science subjects require hands-on experience which the school cannot offer without the required facilities and materials.
“Students need to be practising and experimenting. Sciences need hands-on learning, but we did not have enough materials to do that.
“Now, learners will be able to do experiments on their own once constructing the laboratory is done,” Chinangwa says.
Some students learn better with experiments, not orally, says Head teacher for Thunduti CDSS in Karonga, Ceaser Chirwa.
“Once the infrastructure is ready, we anticipate better performance of our learners because the use of the library and laboratory means that our students will have enough time to study and materials to use during experiments,” Chirwa says.
Besides supplying science books and constructing laboratories and libraries in beneficiary schools, the Equals project has also re-oriented teachers in the teaching of science subjects.
The project became effective in October 2019 and will phase out on December 31, 2025.
Its aim is to improve the quality of delivery in mathematics and other science subjects in CDSSs.
It also aims to improve the primary-to-secondary transition rate in remote schools from 13 selected districts and improve learning achievement in standardised assessment in science and mathematics.—Mana