A Tale of Two Classrooms

Rhodrick Mwale is a teacher at one of buildOn’s partner schools in Malawi. His students – motivated, passionate and hardworking sixth graders – know that education could be the key to their success.

In Malawi, a country plagued by high unemployment rates, most young men and women fail to reach advanced levels of education. It is estimated that only 65 percent of Malawi’s youth complete primary school and less than 30 percent complete secondary school. This leaves many under-qualified to enter the competitive workforce and ill-equipped to act as job creators in such a tough economic climate.

And while there are many outside pressures that keep young people, especially girls, out of school, students also fall behind because of factors they cannot control. For classes that meet outside, students are sent home during poor weather. They miss out on lessons and remain unable to catch up. In other cases, teachers might not show up to school or lack proper training, as less than 17 percent of Malawi’s primary school teachers have attended a teacher’s college.

This may change, however, as UNESCO recently announced a study to better assess what services do exist in areas in sub-Saharan Africa that suffer from poor quality education systems. The study is intended to help stakeholders, such as donors and governments, learn what is needed to better meet the needs of students.

Currently, in Malawi, only 10 percent of primary schools have access to electricity and nearly 16 percent do not have toilets. On average, sixth graders, have one textbook for every six students. And, in many cases, no textbooks at all. Class sizes top over 80 students on average, reaching well over one hundred students in some areas.

And since a lot of information goes unreported, the situation may be even more dire than the numbers show.

There is hope for Malawi’s students, however, because of programs like buildOn’s school construction program. Second grade teacher Joseph Sadalaki is thrilled with the school’s classroom block that was constructed by buildOn. While it cannot accommodate all of the school’s students, the structures are already making a positive difference.

In fact, the school has seen a 48 percent increase in graduation rates since the classrooms were built. Students are more focused, comfortable and face fewer distractions when they are inside the classroom, ultimately improving student performance.

To us, this is empowerment. Empowering for students to take better advantage of their educational opportunities and for schools to more effectively educate Malawi’s future leaders.

Source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics