Lilongwe, Malawi … “One of the things that has been so impressive about Malawi has been the children. In spite of deep poverty and the lack of even basic life-resources, the children seem obvious to the struggle. They are happy in ways seldom seen in the west and their zest for life is remarkable,” concludes Richard Stephens, who has been working in Malawi for the past 26 years.
“And let me note,” he adds, “there is nothing more notable about these kids than when you see their excitement over going to school. They often walk eight or 10 miles to sit on the ground, a hard concrete floor, or in a bamboo hut in order to gain even a portion of an education. They deserve so much more than they are being given.”
Education in Malawi is an uphill challenge. Not only do many of the village children walk for miles to reach a classroom, but the conditions and the effort look almost impossible. Consider the following information that reflects the struggle to win a seat in the classroom.
- Primary education in Malawi was offered free to every child in 1994. Since that time school enrollment has leaped upward from 1.6 million children to three million.
- Malawi has an increasing shortage of teachers, classrooms, school supplies, and textbooks, as well as funding.
- The government encourages preschool, but it must be carried out locally. The federal system cannot fund it.
- 44 percent of pre-school children are undernourished, yet the government cannot afford to supply even basic food programs.
- Over 50 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. This makes it extremely difficult to keep children in school with all of the costs involved, as well as the need to have them at home to help support the family.
- 4.6 million are currently enrolled in school, yet only about 8% will complete secondary school.
- Only 35 percent of Malawi’s children will complete primary school.
- In grade one there is one teacher for 130 students.
- 83 percent of first-grade students cannot read a single syllable, and 92% fail to read a single word.
- Only 14.9 percent of females and 24.2 percent of boys are able to obtain a primary education.
(Statisticsare from the Borgen Project)