Primary education completion headache

Steve Sharra

At a time the country is aiming for a primary education completion rate of 60 percent by 2025, the Education Sector Performance Report for 2022, which has been released this month, shows that the completion rate has reduced from 50 percent last to around 46 percent.

The report also shows that the gross enrolment of primary education in 2021-22 has dropped. This means the trend has persisted for the second successive year.

The report says the 60 percent completion target is unlikely to be met.


“The primary completion rate refers to the percentage of students who have completed the entire primary school cycle. It is not a measure of on-time progress but rather a reflection of how many children have completed the cycle. The primary completion rate has been decreasing over the past couple of years, diverging more from the Nesip [National Education Sector Investment Plan] target each passing year.

“The low primary completion rate is a predictor of various factors that can affect the success of a child’s education, such as a high level of dropout, a late entry and repetition rate that is high. It is very unlikely that the country’s goal of having 60 percent of learners complete primary school will be achieved,” the report reads.

Civil Society Education Coalition Executive Director Benedicto Kondowe was not surprised with the findings.


He said a lot needs to be done to prepare learners for academic success.

“We need to have enough teaching and learning materials in our schools. We need to have adequate classrooms and well qualified teachers. We have been talking of bringing the teacher-learner ratio to 1:60 for years now but that is not the case. That is why following up on learners is a challenge that leads to repetition and absenteeism,” he said.

Another education expert, Steve Sharra, said the problem starts at policy, school and then household level.

He concurs with Kondowe that schools have to be well resourced, have qualified teachers and enough learning materials to be safe and exciting to learners.

“This even applies to issues related to poverty levels at home. When there is no food at home, learners do not go to school. They would rather be in the streets, helping their parents sell fritters for food, and that is why the 2018 Population and Housing Census says that 70 percent of Malawians from the age of 10 upwards do not have any academic qualification,” he said.

However, speaking at a joint sector review meeting last week, Director of Basic Education in the Ministry of Education Grace Milner said the ministry is undertaking a number of measures to attract and retain learners in primary school.

She cited the construction of safe and conducive classrooms and efforts being made to increase the number of qualified teachers as some of the factors that may lead to positive outcomes.

“To improve equitable access to primary education, we have developed comprehensive and realistic safer school construction guidelines and institutionalised cost-effective community-led construction of school infrastructure as a way of fast-tracking the provision of school infrastructure. We have, this far, constructed 980 additional classrooms against the annual target of 1,000.

“We have achieved an average learner classroom ratio of 98 against the target of 98:1 by 2025. We have constructed 534 teachers houses and drilled 563 boreholes,” she said.

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