BETWEEN the mid 2000’s and early 2020 Malawi greatly improved access to education, reaching net primary school enrolment of over 90 per cent. The dropout rate for primary education has also improved significantly from 11.7% in 2009 to 3.2% in 2018. However, retention remains a challenge, with a primary completion rate of 52% and repetition rate of 24.5%. Challenges with education quality also remain. A national assessment of student performance (2015) showed that mean language scores for male and female students in grade 4 were 25% or lower- far below minimum national standards. School closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have compounded these challenges.
WORLD VISION IN MALAWI (WVM) implements education activities in 306 primary schools and 954 early childhood development centers across Malawi’s north, central and southern regions, supporting 159,753 boys and 146,647 girls between the ages of three and nine. According to the WVM Education Program Manager, given the low literacy levels of early grade learners, all WVM education programs address age-appropriate reading. One of the key challenges underpinning poor performance has traditionally been limited parental involvement resulting from prevailing negative attitudes about the utility of school.
In March 2020, once COVID-19 hit and school closures began, the WV team in Malawi worked within the emergency cluster system to support Governmentof Malawi (GOM) efforts to develop and roll-out remote education strategies, including radio and televisionbased educational programming, materials development, and the distribution of age-appropriate printed reading materials. However, with the existing challenges of limited parental involvement and poor student performance, the WVM team worried that long school closures would lead to a chasm of learning loss.
To address the additional challenges of COVID-19, WVM adapted its traditional literacy programming, developing the CAREGIVER HOMESCHOOLING INSTRUCTION PROGRAM. The intervention sought to strengthen the capacity of caregivers to lead their children’s education. The initiative leveraged national efforts, while building on existing WVM literacy programs, especially Unlock Literacy, and ensuring personalised interaction between families, teachers, and volunteers.