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Evaluation report

2017 Malawi: Evaluation Report: UNICEF Malawi’s Child-Friendly Schools Construction Component

Author: Nitika Tolani and Jeffrey Davis

Executive summary

 With the aim to continuously improve transparency and use of evaluation, UNICEF Evaluation Office manages the "Global Evaluation Reports Oversight System (GEROS)". Within this system, an external independent company reviews and rates all evaluation reports. The quality rating scale for evaluation reports is as follows: “Highly Satisfactory”, “Satisfactory”, “Fair” or “Unsatisfactory”. You will find the link to the quality rating below, labelled as ‘Part 2’ of the report, and the executive feedback summary labelled as ‘Part 3’.

Access to quality, basic education in Malawi has numerous barriers. These include infrastructure-related factors, such as physical access to the learning environment and long distances from school to home, as well as social factors, including persistent discrimination of vulnerable populations. The main purpose of UNICEF’s school construction component of the Child-Friendly Schools program (SCC-CFS) is to put in place an appropriate response to improve access and quality of education through child-friendly spaces. The CFS concept in Malawi was introduced in 2011-2012 and is being implemented by the Ministry of Education in partnership with the Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO), Association of Christian Educators in Malawi (ACEM), and Creative Centre for Community Mobilization (CRECCOM), among others. The CFS’s school construction component’s objective is to ensure adherence to child-friendly principles in building design and construction of schools. The SCC of UNICEF’s CFS program in Malawi has supported 31 primary schools across five districts in Malawi—Blantyre, Lilongwe, Nkhatabay, Mangochi, Thyolo, and Phalombe—between March 2010 and September 2015. The SCC-CFS intervention’s diverse range of construction activities varies across districts and schools. The focus has been on constructing new classrooms—182 across the years for all the districts—followed by construction of new staff houses (81) and sanitation facilities (32).


The evaluation’s purpose is to determine the SCC-CFS program’s impact on schools with regard to three key outcomes: access to quality basic education for all, learning environment, and key learner outcomes. The evaluation examines the SCC-CFS program’s impact, effectiveness, efficiency, relevance, and sustainability and explores to what extent the program has increased key stakeholders’ capacity through participation, training, and guidelines.


The evaluation approach was guided by the OECD DAC criteria for evaluating development assistance. In order to measure the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability of the SCC-CFS program, the evaluation used a concurrent mixed-method, quasi-experimental design using a mix of primary and secondary data analyses. The quasi-experimental design—a matching difference-in-differences model—allows estimating the SCC-CFS program’s impact on enrolment, dropout rates, repetition rates, and passing rates. The secondary data component of the evaluation’s design complements the quasi-experimental design with both quantitative and qualitative analyses on school infrastructure, safety, efficiency and sustainability, stakeholder perceptions of education and infrastructure quality, and stakeholder capacity

Findings and Conclusions

• The SCC-CFS program had a limited impact on increasing enrollment, but had a statistically significant effect on decreasing dropout rates.
• MSI also found that the male, female, and overall (male and female) dropout rates of grade 1 students and the overall school-level dropout rates decreased in Blantyre/Lilongwe districts. 
• In the remaining districts sampled in this evaluation, the SCC-CFS program decreased the female and overall (male and female) dropout rates of grade 1 students; the male and female dropout rates of grade 4 students; the female and overall (male and female) dropout rates of grade 5 students; the male and female dropout rates of grade 7 students; and the female school-level dropout rates.
• The SCC-CFS program had no impact on increasing enrollment of students with disabilities, but it helped improved access to classrooms and toilets for these students.
• The SCC-CFS program had a modest impact on the education quality outcomes of repetition rates and in the Primary School Leaving Examination’s passing rates.
• The SCC-CFS program led to a perception of increased quality of education in the schools and communities.
• Results for enrollment and dropout rates suggest that the construction and rehabilitation of school facilities are keeping students who are already in school from dropping out, but not incentivizing students who would not usually enroll in school to actually enroll.
• The SCC-CFS program’s impact on decreasing dropout rates is higher in provinces that finzliez the construction more recently Mangochi, Nkhata Bay, Phalombe, and Thyolo, suggesting the effects of the construction might decrease over time.
• Construction of teachers’ living facilities is a relevant factor, even if the SCC-CFS did not focus on improving the supply of teachers.


• Launch enrollment campaigns—including a special component to enroll children with disabilities—every time school construction and rehabilitation activities take place.
• Target learners’ education outcomes by increasing education support in classrooms through partnerships with teachers’ assistants and other teacher training activities within the community.
• Build on the existing community support at schools to continue promoting education for all through the creation and rehabilitation of child-friendly spaces.
• Develop community-based monitoring systems to identify, monitor, and follow up on schools’ infrastructure-related needs in real time.
• Increase the number of teacher housing construction activities.
• Include a fence and/or other school perimeter delimitations as a component of the school construction activities.
• Provide more training on governance, leadership, and child protection more frequently as part of the CFS program.
• Provide training for teachers and staff to work with students with disabilities and material appropriate for these students.

Lessons Learned

• Mothers’ clubs are a pivotal community organization with numerous positive effects in equitable access and quality of education, as well as assisting in attendance and dropout rates. Mothers’ clubs can also play a powerful role in mitigating issues related to lower attendance among girl students, such as menstrual hygiene management related constraints.

• Increased access to classrooms and toilets for students with disabilities. Major improvements have been made to classroom facilities and toilets.

• Overall perception of increased quality of education. Parents and teachers share a positive perception of the quality of education and it has had a positive trend in recent years.

Full report in PDF

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Report information






Ministry of Education



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