Improving school education
Malawi, a landlocked country in South-Eastern Africa, is one of the world’s least developed countries, ranking 170 out of 188 on the Human Development Index. Over 79 per cent of the around 20 million inhabitants live in poverty. Access to clean water, sanitation, health care and education is limited, especially in rural areas. Child marrying rates are among the world’s highest: 46.7 per cent of girls get married before the age of 18. The population is growing rapidly, which puts more pressure on the government to improve to scale up services in social services, including education.
Positive developments, but lack of good education
Over the past few decades significant improvements were made. According to UNICEF, the under-5-mortality rates declined from 232 per 1000 live births (1990) to 63 per 1000 live births (2016) and mother-to-child transmission of HIV was reduced by 84 %. The access to education became much better, too. In 2018 around 90 % of kids were enrolled in a primary school.
However, due to poor school environments and low quality of teaching, getting a proper education in Malawi remains challenging. Some of the problems are lack of well-trained teachers and learning materials, a high pupil-teacher ratio, and often not enough space in classrooms. UNICEF states: “Children in Malawi can expect to complete about nine years of schooling by age 18. When adjusted for quality of learning, this is equivalent to only about five years, highlighting a learning gap of four years” (School-Age Children | UNICEF Malawi)
Mentorship program for better education
Digital learning and mentorship can improve education for kids both in and out of school. That’s why Edukans Malawi launched the “School based blended education mentorship program for Malawi” (SBEMPro), in collaboration with SkillEd, and funded by UNICEF Malawi. The one-year-pilot has been implemented since November 2022, in nine districts of the country: Chiradzulu, Dowa, Machinga, Mangochi, Thyolo, Salima, Dedza, Lilongwe and Nsanje. The goal is to scale up to all education districts. By August 2023 the program will have reached 360 schools, 130,000 girls and boys in primary schools, 50,000 boys and girls in secondary schools, 30 master trainers, 1 800 school leaders and 9 000 teachers.
For teachers, the program offers demand-driven, blended content for professional capacity development via access to on/offline digital modules on SkillEd and the provision of necessary light equipment: tablets and micro-servers at school-level. The mentorship training (using a cascade model) is available for both teachers and students. For the students, this is combined with blended learning courses on topics around individual growth and informed decision-making (related to rights, sexuality, prevention of STIs and unintended pregnancy, early marriages).
While in the one-year pilot phase, the mentorship model is being continuously monitored, evaluated, and lessons learned will be included in the roll-out after this year. Materials and content produced will be assessed and made available to other districts with all steps validated by relevant (government) stakeholders.