Themicroloanfoundation's Blog


Free Education in Malawi: Throwing away the baby with the bath water.
June 11, 2010, 11:17 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

There is only five years left before the Millennium Development Goals’ deadline rolls around. Malawi is confident that it will meet all the goals set by the UN five years ago. Malawi President Bingu was quoted as saying “I am optimistic that come 2015 we will probably implement some may be partially but definitely implement some of them fully.” Mutharika attributed this confidence to the revamped agricultural sector that according to statistics had led to a reduction in the number of people living under the poverty line from 60%, in 2004, to 40%, in 2008. Furthermore, the introduction of free primary school education in 1994 has increased enrolment and at the same time reduced the gender gap between boys and girls at school. In 2004 for the first time in the country’s history Malawi achieved an equal ratio of boys and girls at primary schools.

Critics lament that free education in Malawi has created a lot of challenges in the education system including shortage of classrooms, qualified teachers and learning materials. A primary school teacher in Malawi, Exnart Chist, says that the free primary education has compromised quality education in public schools.

While the increased rate of school attendance driven by free education, may put pressure on the school system in Malawi, it still provides a viable means towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals for Education—one teacher to 40 pupils by 2015. No child should be denied primary and secondary education because the family could not afford to send them to school. The critics are right in suggesting that the Malawi government should implement a comprehensive solution to problems created by free schooling. For example, the government of Malawi can alleviate the current situation where there are 200 pupils to one teacher, by increasing the number of schools and trained teachers. This may require more time than the 2015 deadline to achieve, but Malawi should not throw away the baby with the bath water by eliminating free education as critics seem to imply. Free education does not necessarily undermine Malawi’s ability to one day achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

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