Malawi SDNP Education in Malawi


Introduction Education Divisions Free primary Student Protection   Behaviour After Primary



Introduction - Primary School System

Most children start formal education at primary school at the age of six. The primary school takes 8 years from standard 1 to 8 at the end of which pupils write the Primary School Leaving Certificate examinations. These are jointly set, conducted and marked by the Ministry of Education and the Malawi National Examinations Board (MANEB). Students have to pass and get selected if they are to attend secondary school education in a government secondary school.

The introduction of Free Primary Education in Malawi has seen a  large increase in the number of pupils going to primary school but this increase in access has also brought major infrastructure problems and a big decline in quality.

To help manage the many primary schools in Malawi, the Ministry of Education has created Education Divisions which group primary schools into smaller groups for management purposes. A policy framework has been developed to enable the provision of education needs to be well-planned, and priorities drawn out.


Education Divisions for Primary Schools


Malawi has been divided into six Education Divisions namely:-

  • South West Division (Chikwawa, Blantyre Rural, Blantyre Urban,Mwanza, Nsanje)
  • South East Division (Zomba Rural, Zomba Urban, Balaka, Mangochi, Machinga)
  • Shire Highlands Division  (Mulanje, Chiradzulu, Thyolo, Phalombe)
  • Central West Division  (Lilongwe Rural, Lilongwe Urban, Mchinji, Ntcheu, Dedza)
  • Central East Division  (Kasungu, Dowa, Ntchisi, Salima, Nkhotakota)
  • North Division  (Mzuzu, Mzimba, Karonga, Chitipa, Nkhatabay, Rumphi)
These Education Divisions comprise of 4-6 Education Districts. These divisions are further divided into zones and each zone has 6 - 10 primary schools. On average a single primary school contains up to 3000 pupils and an average of 350 teachers. This form of grouping is done for easy management of the schools.

Every year the Ministry of Education prepares an Annual Primary School Census Questionnaire which is distibuted to every primary school. The purpose of this questionnaire is to find out general information about the school.This information includes:-

  • School Identification Data :- When the school was established, the current Headmaster,Head Teacher, School phone number, School Registration number, Location of the school, School address, the proprieter of the school,
  • School Enrollment Data :- records are submitted by Age, Sex and Standard, repeaters by Sex and Standard, transfers in by Sex and Standard, transfers out by Sex and Standard, the previous years dropouts and also teachers by qualification.
  • Physical Facilities:- these include classrooms, staffroom, workshop, teachers houses, water toilets, pit latrines, kitchen, hostels, electricity, tables, chairs.
  • Supplies and Textbooks:- this checks wether supplies to the school are adequate or inadequate i.e. footballs, netballs, notebooks, textbooks, pencils, pens, registers, chalk etc.
  • Teacher's Data :- Statistics are collected of all the teachers i.e. Sex, Date of birth, standard they are teaching, teaching qualification, total teaching periods, first appointment to education service.

For private schools to be recognised they obtain a license from the government and after registering they get a center number so the center can administer Primary School Leaving Certificate Examinations. For a private primary school student to get selected to a government secondary he has to apply directly to the Ministry of Education so that they can decide his eligibility.



Free Primary School Education

The introduction of Free Primary Education in Malawi has seen a large increase in the number of children going to primary school. In effect more Malawians are being educated and hence the whole nation is moving towards literacy and a well-informed society with sound judgement and reasoning, where individuals are able to communicate with each other on the same level. A basic education is essential for someone to understand how the world works and to appreciate the value of the property one has. In Malawi it is essential for each individual to be able to appeciate what one has. Education helps build ideas in ones mind, without basic education even an intelligent child would not be able to develop to his full potential.

Despite the advantages free education has also brought with it a lot of problems: -

  • Infrastructure: - Children have to learn under trees because there are more children attending primary schools and not enough classrooms to house the children. As a result Children are being denied the chance to learn under normal conditions due to scarce resources e.g. desks, books, teaching materials etc. Children are also exposed to hardships beyond their age due to lack of classrooms e.g. cold, rain, and wind since most of them are learning outside.
  • Hygiene: - Children have to live in an environment that has very poor sanitation, most of the toilets and water taps have been vandalised and those that have not do not work properly.
  • Teachers: - The Government has made provisions that for every 60 children there is a teacher allocated but in most cases you will find three teachers sharing 200 students in one class and dividing the subjects between them. This does not help the concentration of the children and neither that of the teacher. There is no way a teacher can pay attention to 200 pupils.
  • Public attitude: - Both the etchers, the public and the pupils are misunderstanding the word "free" they have an attitude that implies that since education is free they only teach if they want or not and similarly with children. The idea behind Free Primary Education is that education is free but the rules and regulations still apply to both teachers and pupils in the schools. There is also a general attitude that says government should do everything for us when that should not be the case at all.
The government has put in pace Free Primary Education for the good of the nation and it is up to the public, parents, teachers and students to make it work.

Protection of Children

Most children start formal education at the age of six. And since most of the children attending primary school are between the ages of 6 - 14 and are aslo in large numbers it is difficult for the government to provide protection for students, some of the protective measures put in place include: -

  • The Ministry of Education has ensured that within a 3 km radius of every household there is a primary school and therefore children do not have to travel for more than 3 km to get to a primary school. If parents chose to send their children to schools that are miles away then they are doing it at their own risk .
  • In most primary schools due to the large numbers some of the pupils attend school in the morning and the others in the afternoon, the younger children attend school in the morning so as to ensure that they get to home in time for lunch.
  • Children in lower classes are also encouraged to travel in large when going to and from their respective school to ensure their safety.
  • Where the schools by the main roads Zebra Crossing have been put in to ensure easy road crossing by the children.

Protective measures have been put in to the best of the government’s ability but the public should help protect these children, as they are our future.



Student Behavior


When a child goes to primary school it is at the age when he is keen to learn and explore and also a time when children need more guidance. The general behavior of primary school children in Malawi is decent and has resulted in a high passrate in the Primary School Leaving Certificate Examinations.

Most of the children are willing to listen to their teachers and learn from them, but it is very difficult to discipline a class of 200 children and hence some rowdy behavior still develops.

Most problematic behavior is seen in higher classes e.g. standard seven and eight where young girls have to dropout of school due to teenage pregnancies. Most of this also results from the fact that children are starting school at an older age and therefore reach adolescence while still in primary school. There are many NGOs that are looking into problems of this nature and are working with the government to help prevent such outcomes.



Moving on to Secondary School


The primary school education takes eight years from standard 1 to 8 at the end of which pupils write the Primary School Leaving Certificate examinations. These are set, conducted and marked by the Malawi National Examinations Board (MANEB). All the results are then sent to the Ministry of Education, which sets the standards for selection to National Secondary Schools. The results are then sent to the districts for selection into Community Day Secondary Schools. Committees consisting of Headmasters from cachement primary schools and the Community Day Secondary School in question select students to go to this school.

If a child is selected and cannot afford secondary school fees bursaries have been set aside by the government so that no child should fail to go to get a secondary school education because of lack of funding.

Girls who are pregnant at the time secondary school starts are allowed to take time off and just register with the school and start in the next academic year. One might argue that this encourages students to miss behave but it has been observed that the students given this opportunity come back stronger and more determined to continue with their education and are among the most successful in their classes.




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