School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education) is 11 years *
Child labour (children ages 5-14) is 26%
Like many developing countries, Malawi has had a poor record of keeping children in school and has one of the world’s highest rates of underage marriage – a curse that entrenches cycles of poverty, inequality and ill health.
February 2015 saw the raising of the age when a girl can be married with parental consent from 15 to 18 to encourage girls to remain at school.
What’s life like for the children we support?
Primary school in Malawi
Shine supports a number of children attending Nsondole Primary school. Most are from child-headed families or families with caregiving responsibilities which weigh heavily on them.
Students must gain a Primary School Leaving Certificate based on their Standard 8 final exam results in order to progress to secondary school. However, this is a great task that sadly, many are not able to complete. Most primary schools in Malawi are very basic, lacking the most fundamental resources, including textbooks basic teaching materials and electricity. The knock on effect of these conditions results in a lower standard of education as it is difficult to attract well- qualified teachers to such areas.
Though primary school education has been free since 1994, students are required to purchase their own pens and notebooks which many families can’t afford. Most parents struggle to provide school uniforms and shoes. Therefore it is not uncommon for children to be “in and out of school” due to their family’s situation – sickness, responsibilities, teenage pregnancy and early marriage are amongst some of the most common reasons. Primary school is made up of eight years; Standard 1 through to Standard 8. Students learn English, Chichewa, maths, science, and social studies. It is very common for students of varying ages to attend primary school, as many students have to repeat some primary years due to poor performance. According to UNESCO, 20% of children often repeat one or more school years, several times. In addition rates for drop-outs are extremely high, as only 58% of children will complete a full course of primary school
Secondary school in Malawi
In Malawi, students attending government or private secondary schools must pay school fees. Secondary school fees range from about £35 per year at a local community secondary school to about £75 per year or even higher at boarding schools. Families in Malawi struggle to raise enough money to send their children to secondary school.
Shine provides a Yearly Bursary Scheme which enables students to access secondary school education. This is something very special, as millions of children in Malawi never get the chance to experience secondary school let alone get to the end of their schooling. Only the smallest fractions ever go on to forms of higher education.
Teenage Mothers and education
50% of female drop-outs in our project area are due to early marriage or pregnancy, however, amongst the larger population, drop-out rates are due largely to the cost of tuition fees, sickness and family responsibilities.
Secondary school runs from Form 1 to Form 4. English and Mathematics are necessary requirements for students in order to proceed in both their JCE and MSCE examinations. Students have to pass their Junior Certificate of Education (JCE) in Form 2 in order to progress to Form 3. Likewise, they cannot graduate from secondary school without passing the Malawi Secondary Certificate of Education (MSCE) in Form 4. A Form 4 certificate is considered an adequate credential for most jobs. Students study English, Mathematics, Agriculture, Physics, Biology, Geography, History, Bible Knowledge, Social Studies, and Chichewa.
• With the percentage of actual secondary school-aged children attending secondary school being as low as 13%, the ages of secondary school leavers also vary drastically.
• Very few students in Malawi will proceed from secondary school on to university.
• A lack of secondary schools means that students have to walk great distances just to attend school each day, significantly cutting into study time.
• Most schools struggle to teach many secondary school subjects such as physics and biology as laboratories for students to study and take a practical exam are badly resourced or nonexistent
• MSCE pass rates are still extremely poor.
Secondary Schools in Zomba District
There are three types of secondary schools in the District: government, grant‐aided and private secondary schools. Missionaries run grant‐aided secondary schools with some support from the government. There are 23 government secondary schools in the District – one grant‐aided and five private schools. Kuntumanje has just 2 Secondary schools. The overall enrolment rates are very low in Zomba District at 6%. TA Kuntumanje has the lowest rate at 4%. There are no secondary schools in TA Mkumbira, students must attend secondary schools within other TAs.
Teaching staff and number of students per teacher.
The largest challenge the District faces in regard to teachers seems to be the large percentage of unqualified teachers. On average, only 34% of the secondary school teachers are qualified, and this undoubtedly contributes to a lower standard of education. Overall there is a good ratio of students per teachers. TA Kuntumanje is the only exception with 60 students per teacher.
Source: District Education Office Zomba, 2005
University Education in Malawi
Access to higher education is based on passing the Malawi Secondary Certificate of Education (MSCE). A student must earn at least five credits, including English. This exam may be taken after completing eight years of primary and four years of secondary education. Excellent scores in these exams are required for any student wishing to be accepted by the university.