UNICEF’s Basic Education and Youth Development programme is contributing to improving enrolment, quality of learning, and school completion rates. The National Education Sector Plan is the basis for the education sector SWAp and a coordinated donor support to the sector through a common financing mechanism. UNICEF supports curriculum reform, enhancing the capacity of teachers, and building more classrooms.
In 2007, the Child-Friendy Schools approach became institutionalised in Malawi through its integration into the National Education Sector Plan. This means that a standard minimum package of interventions, which promise to transform schools into safe, child-centred and gender-sensitive places of learning, will be progressively adopted by all state primary schools in the country. The CFS package includes child health and nutrition programmes, child-centred and gender responsive curricula and teaching methods, school safety programmes, water and sanitation facilities and partnerships with the wider school community.
During 2007, 55 Ministry of Education officials and other key implementers were trained in the CFS approach; 1,300 teachers were trained in CFS methodologies; more than 250,000 children in 200 schools received school-in-a-box kits and exercise books; and 200 schools received furniture, benefiting over 40,000 school children. Sixty new classrooms were constructed and 24 classrooms in six schools were rehabilitated, enough to accommodate 220,000 students now and for the next few decades. Sixty-five schools were provided with water and separate girls and boys toilets and hand washing areas.
Mobilising communities in support of girls' education continued through mothers groups, school management committees, girls' clubs and the Girls Education Movement, helping to retain girls and orphaned and vulnerable children in more than 1,200 schools.
The new primary school curriculum was successfully rolled out to the first grade, and preparations made for its introduction to other grades. UNICEF supported the training of District Education Managers and teachers on new curriculum material for Standard 1, transcribed new learning and examination material into Braille for blind learners; and designed and carried out a communications campaign to prepare the country for roll out to Standards 2, 5 and 6 in 2008.
Girls are disadvantaged in education because of cultural and socio-economic barriers. Attempts have been made to address these hurdles. A gender audit of the National Education Sector Plan and ongoing evaluation of the Girls Education project have been used to develop a communication strategy while the National Gender Policy, being reviewed this year, will help to inform programming for girls' education.
Life skills education to prevent HIV infection in children in the 10–14 age group, considered the 'window of opportunity' in helping to curb the spread of the epidemic, has become a recognised learning area in primary education. Life skills education has been successfully integrated into standards 1–5 and is a timetabled subject in the new curriculum. The Ministry of Education, the Malawi Institute of Education, UNICEF and UNFPA are supporting the institutionalising of life skills education into standards 1–8. To fulfill this mandate, UNICEF has supported training of 5,000 teachers in life skills and the distribution of more than one million life skills pupil books, teacher guides and syllabuses and supplementary reading material for standards 1–4. The extra-curricular 'Edzi Toto' ('Say No to AIDS') school club programme continued to expand to more and more schools during the year. An estimated 5,000 teachers were oriented on the management of anti-AIDS clubs as part of their life skills training and 900 patrons were trained to set up and run Edzi Toto clubs. To date, 95 percent of public schools are running Edzi Toto clubs and offer peer education on HIV awareness and prevention.
Comprehensive knowledge about HIV and AIDS is low in Malawi. 'Comprehensive' is defined as the knowledge of two transmission routes and three misconceptions about HIV infection. Only 41 percent of girls and boys in the 15–19 age group have comprehensive HIV knowledge. Data also reveals that many young women are having sex with someone who is not their regular partner and use condoms inconsistently.
Knowledge alone is not enough for young people to change their behavior but it is critical for young people to understand their risk of infection and learn and use skills to avoid infection. A national plan of action to scale up sexual reproductive healthcare and HIV prevention for young people was launched in 2007 and will provide an overarching framework to streamline and accelerate interventions in this area. The plan was included in Malawi's proposal on primary prevention to the Global Fund, which received a grant of over US$30 million.
An increasing number of opportunities for youth participation and development are becoming available in Malawi, ranging from anti-AIDS school clubs to highly organised youth NGOs. There are now nearly 5,000 Edzi Toto clubs in schools and 3,500 similar clubs out of school. Youth NGOs have also expanded both in number and capacity. These structures provide UNICEF and its partners with a platform to reinforce HIV prevention messages and skills development, and effort has been put into strengthening their capacity.
During 2007, 40 percent of youth centres were given a standard package of materials, ten youth NGOs and youth centres received institutional support, and schools, youth centres and NGOs received 200 sports-in-a-box kits. Various materials were printed and distributed to youth centres and NGOs including 2,000 handbooks on basic HIV and AIDS information, 2,000 Edzi Toto club activity handbooks, 2,000 copies of best practices in adolescent mobilisation as well as posters, leaflets, stickers and T-shirts. Around 650 young people received vocational training and 45 youth leaders were trained in club management.
The Education SWAp continues to be a key area of education development in Malawi and includes partners such as UN agencies, the Ministries of Education, Youth Development and Local Government and selected NGOs. The SWAp process has moved forward in 2008 with the adoption of the National Education Sector Plan and plans are well underway to establish a SWAp secretariat. The plan's priorities constitute the SWAp'sprogramme of work.
Real lives: Basic Education and youth development
Photo essay: Child friendly schools
Learn more about the challenges faced by children to get an education and what UNICEF is doing about it depicted through photos.
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