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USAID invests in and promotes girls’ education in Malawi where drop-out rates for girls is very high due to societal issues such as early pregnancies.
USAID invests in and promotes girls’ education in Malawi where drop-out rates for girls is very high due to societal issues such as early pregnancies.
Photo: Health Policy Plus


The major educational reform in Malawi in recent decades was the introduction of free primary education in 1994. The resulting explosion in student enrollment put severe strain on the entire education system, resulting in an inadequate supply of infrastructure, teachers, and teaching and learning materials. Extremely large class sizes translated to extremely poor student performance, particularly in terms of literacy.

The Mission’s Professional Teacher Development Support (MPTDS) program conducted an Early Grade Reading Assessment in November 2010 that revealed 76 percent of Standard 2 learners could not recognize a single letter, 97 percent of Standard 2 students and 69 percent of Standard 4 students were unable to answer a single comprehension question correctly, and the average reading speed in Standard 2 was just one word per minute and only 11 words per minute in Standard 4.


In response to the reading challenge, USAID has partnered with the Government of Malawi to improve the reading skills of students in the first four years of primary school through the Malawi National Reading Program (NRP). The NRP is revising the curriculum and instructional approach to be founded upon evidence-based practices for teaching reading in Chichewa as well as English. The program also includes revising student textbooks and teacher guides, distributing textbooks to students, training teachers, assessing students, updating national policy, and engaging communities and families to support reading.


National education data for Malawi show that 62 percent of girls who enroll in Standard 1 continue to Standard 5 and only 29 percent remain enrolled from Standard 1 to Standard 8. In 2016, less than 40 percent of those who enrolled in Standard 8 in the previous academic year transitioned to Form 1, the first year of secondary school. Even fewer girls access higher education. In 2016, for every female enrolled, 1.7 males were enrolled in higher education. The top three reasons why girls drop out of school are marriage, pregnancy, and family responsibilities. Given these dynamics, USAID, along with teachers, mothers' groups, universities and colleges, and community leaders, works with adolescent girls (and youth in general), in upper primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions to help them stay in school, succeed academically, and develop the confidence and resilience to lead more productive and healthy lives.


SEED will increase girls’ access to secondary schools through school construction in urban and rural areas nationwide, bringing secondary schools closer to where the most vulnerable girls live. Priority will be given to areas with high HIV burden as well as long distances to secondary schools. Activities include the addition of classrooms in existing urban schools (phase 1) and the development of new secondary schools in rural and urban areas, including adequate latrines, access to clean water, appropriate school furniture, and the provision of teaching and learning materials (phase 2). Anticipated results include an increase in girls’ (and boys’) enrollment in secondary schools, a decrease in early marriage, and a reduction in new HIV infections among girls 11-19 years old.

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