UNICEF through its Basic Education and Youth Development programme works with the Government and other partners to increase access to early childhood learning, raise net enrolment in primary schools, improve completion rates, and provide primary school children with lifeskills education on HIV and AIDS. UNICEF supports the Government to ensure that children continue learning in the event of an emergency, to help young people adopt safer sexual behaviours, and to promote the participation of adolescents in decision-making processes.
One of the Government's key priorities is to improve the quality and relevance of education, which would help to keep children in school. The Child Friendly Schools (CFS) initiative, with its extended vision of providing a quality education, is one of the main approaches being used. Since 2007, CFS has been integrated into the National Education Sector Plan. This means that a standard minimum package of interventions, which promise to transform schools into safe, child-centered and gender-sensitive places of learning, will be progressively adopted by all public schools in Malawi. The package promotes child health and nutrition, child-centered and gender-responsive curricula and teaching methods, school safety, water and sanitation, and partnerships between schools and communities.
A new primary school curriculm has successfully been rolled out to the first grade and preparations have been made to introduce it to other grades. UNICEF has supported the training of District Education Managers and teachers on the curriculum and has funded the transcription of new learning and examination materials into Braille for blind learners. UNICEF has aso supported a communications campaign to prepare the country for the roll-out of the curriculum to other grades.
Girls are disadvantaged in education because of cultural and socio-economic barriers. Attempts to address this imbalance include the finalisation and dissemination of a gender policy and the undertaking of a gender audit of the National Education Sector Plan.
As part of efforts to promote girls’ education, UNICEF has supported the “joyful learning” package of interventions. Joyful learning focusses on the learning process, encouraging and training teachers to use more interactive and gender sensitive teaching methods. Efforts have also been made to extend the package to include, in a few selected schools, the rehabilitation of school blocks, supply of teaching/learning materials, school furniture, and provision of safe water and sanitation facilities. In some schools, support has been provided for school feeding in collaboration with WFP.
Lifeskills 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 institutionalization of lifeskills education into standards 1-8. UNICEF's support has included training 5,000 teachers in lifeskills and distributing more than one million lifeskills pupil books, teacher guides and syllabi for standards 1-4.
Extra-curricular clubs called 'Edzi Toto' ('Say No to AIDS') continue to expand to more schools. An estimated 5,000 teachers have been oriented in the management of anti-AIDS clubs as part of their lifeskills training. Todate, 95 per cent of public schools are running Edzi Toto clubs offering HIV awareness and prevention education on HIV through peer-to-peer learning.
The education sector SWAp continues to be a key area of education development in Malawi. The National Education Sector Plan has been costed and will be the guiding document for the education sector SWAp.