INDEPENDENCE DAY: Education 53 years on
As Malawi is celebrating 53 years of self-rule today, high pupil-teacher ratio and prolonged closure of public universities is posing a threat to the country’s education standards.
Although some sectors believe that the country has made some strides in delivery of education, most feel there is still more that needs to be done.
According to the World Bank Working Paper Number 182, currently, only 35 children out of every 100 complete primary school education. Evaluations show that Malawian children perform far below expectations.
“Malawi has the weakest performance in English reading and the second weakest in mathematics among countries whose pupils have been tested using the Southern African Consortium for Monitoring Education Quality standardised tests,” reads the report.
53 years after independence, some pupils are still receiving instruction in an open environment under trees and some secondary schools have not been spared.
Magwelo Community Secondary School (CDSS) is one of the structures along the road to Kamuzu International Airport. However, most of the school’s infrastructure is outdated. The school has neither a science laboratory nor a library.
Magwelo is a reflection of how education standards in the country have refused to improve over the years since Malawi attained self-government.
The school’s headmaster, Ernest Mateketa, said it is hard for learners to do well at a facility that does not have proper education infrastructure and facilities.
“It is very difficult for students to pass when a school has few learning materials. Education standards can only be boosted if learners have access to required learning materials like science laboratories and libraries,” he said.
Commenting on the performance of tertiary institutions in the country, Zione Kalumikiza, a lecturer at the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar), said even public universities lack resources, a development which lowers the quality of education in the country.
“You find that the teaching space is minimal as opposed to the number of students. Likewise, there is a high number of student-teacher ratio which makes it hard for some learners to get to the lecturer,’’ she said.
Senior Traditional Authority Kachindamoto of Dedza, who is championing the Go-back to School initiative, said the only way to boost the quality of education is by providing adequate learning materials.
She said most pupils in rural areas do not have access to learning materials like books and proper structures, a development that makes many girl students to drop out of school.
“Learners are attracted to go to a school that has proper structures, including toilets. Most girls drop out of school because the school has no facilities that can accommodate them at certain times of the month. This is one thing the government has to work on,” she said.
On his part, education rights activist Benedicto Kondowe said 53 years on, comparatively, there is a significant improvement in access to education and an improvement in the number of primary, secondary and tertiary education facilities.
However, Kondowe said the major problem has been on quality which, he said, has been compromised over the years.
According to Kondowe, Malawi is producing graduates that are incompetent because the education input is of low quality.
“What we see now is that we have graduates who cannot even communicate fluently, we have graduates who cannot engage you for ten minutes and that is the kind of education system that we have. I would say our education system has gone through three phases, the first phase was an education system which was vibrant regionally and internationally recognised.
“After that, we had an education system which has dwindled and declined, the standards were compromised but fairly better. As we stand now, we have an education system which is potentially on the verge of collapsing and my own description would be an education system which is surviving on oxygen,” he said.