Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is great honour for me to be here in front of you today. As you have already heard, my name is Esnart Chapomba from Malawi. I would like to share with you some of the teaching and learning experiences from
Malawi. As most of you might have already known, Malawi is one of the countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa.
After adopting a Free Education Policy in 1994, the primary education sector in Malawi has been facing a learning crisis affecting the disadvantaged the most.
Teachers are few and far between. Class sizes are enormous and from the facts that I am going to share with you, I think that you will all agree that this has to change.
In Malawi children are not getting the best education and the quality of education is poor. Let me share with you some examples of what I mean by this.
I have seen children crammed into classrooms with more than 200 students and only one teacher.
I myself, have taught a class of 230 children and I had to teach under a tree because there was no classroom.
With so many students, I was only able to teach three subjects out of 6 on the daily timetable because I had to finish correcting every student’s work before proceeding to the next subject; as a result, I just ran out of time.
Many teachers especially those working in rural primary schools in Malawi will tell you the same story – we are far behind the Government’s target of 60 pupils per classroom.
Even more shocking is the fact that some rural schools have less than four teachers in a school of about 1000 children.
This means that on many occasions, children are left sitting in a classroom on their own, without a teacher, or they are sent home early. These children will learn very little by the time they graduate from the primary cycle.
Sometimes classes are combined and children from different grades sit together to learn from the same teacher . This is a form of multi-grade teaching).
To make this way of teaching more effective, teachers learn about ‘multi-grade teaching’ in training colleges so that they are able to handle students from different grades.
As you can imagine, this is not the best solution, but we are working hard to accommodate children in classes as best as we can.
In my experience, children in rural areas suffer the most. A 30 minute lesson would be taught in less than 20 minutes because they learn under very unfavourable conditions, like sitting under trees, and are frequently interrupted by rains and other external factors.
And I’m sad to say that rural children are taught by teachers who are often demotivated due to poor working conditions, poor accommodation and are living in remote areas where they are unable to access healthcare and other social amenities.
These issues are now being recognised and the Ministry of Education is providing rural teachers with an additional amount of money to cater for their hardships, and by building better houses in these areas to keep teachers motivated so that they can drive the provision of quality education.
The truth of the matter however is that huge classes and learning under unfavorable conditions in Malawi drastically reduce the quality of time that a teacher can spend with a child.
This is having a negative impact on the quality of teaching and children’s ability to learn. This has consistently been demonstrated by the SACMEQ results.
You will be shocked to hear that some children in Malawi reach grades three and four without being able to add up, read or write.
I’ve even seen children as old as 9 and 10 who are unable to read and write their names when clearly they should be able to do this.
These children will miss out on good opportunities and will be without the skills they need to have a decent future.
A lack of resources is also hampering teaching and learning. There are simply not enough books and pencils to go around. In most schools I have worked in, up to 10 children share a textbook. Again the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in Malawi has been working to help provide one textbook per child, but this can’t come soon enough for the children who have already been left behind in their studies.
The Ministry of Education is also in the process of strengthening the early grade curriculum, all aimed at simplifying Teacher’s Guides and introducing more relevant and effective teaching methodologies.
The underlying truth is that the knock on effect of children performing poorly is catastrophic.
Children end up being demotivated and repeat and/or drop out of school before completing their primary school years. In Malawi, dropout rates are higher for girls across all grades. On average, 12.3% of girls will dropout compare to only 8.6% of boys according to official statistics(EMIS 2012).
Therefore, there is an urgent need for policies and strategies that can ensure that all children not only complete primary school, but also secondary education.
The situation I have faced is sadly not uncommon, as this year’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report highlights. This is why it is vital that policy-makers take note of the important messages in the Report – to make sure all schools have enough teachers, and these teachers receive the necessary support so that all children have the chance to learn.
As a teacher educator, I am aware of the challenges teachers face in schools; therefore, I try and teach teachers to carry out their work professionally with limited resources.
I show teachers how to motivate children to learn, especially through frequent assessments and then providing children with feedback.
It is imperative, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen that the government of Malawi continues to commit itself to educating its children and reach out to the most disadvantaged.
An education must prepare our children to be productive citizens of our country so that we can lift ourselves out of the vicious cycle of poverty and have a better future.
I believe that a quality education liberates people’s minds making them able to provide for their livelihood and is an essential tool for solving their daily life problems.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you very much for your attention.