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Following elections in 1994, the Government of Malawi embarked on an ambitious programme of free primary education (FPE), resulting in a dramatic increase in enrolment. The paper argues that the policy did not sufficiently consider the ways in which direct and indirect costs of schooling continue to be prohibitive for some households, or the effects that the expansion would have on quality. The relevance of education for the majority of children who receive only a few years of primary schooling is also questioned. The paper suggests that FPE might not be contributing to the achievement of poverty alleviation goals, as intended.
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International Journal of Educational Development 23 (2003) 501–516
Can free primary education meet the needs of the poor?:
evidence from Malawi
Esme Kadzamira
, Pauline Rose
Centre for Educational Research and Training (CERT), University of Malawi, P.O. Box 280, Zomba, Malawi
Centre for International Education, University of Sussex Institute of Education, University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9RH, UK
Following elections in 1994, the Government of Malawi embarked on an ambitious programme of free primary
education (FPE), resulting in a dramatic increase in enrolment. The paper argues that the policy did not sufficiently
consider the ways in which direct and indirect costs of schooling continue to be prohibitive for some households, or
the effects that the expansion would have on quality. The relevance of education for the majority of children who
receive only a few years of primary schooling is also questioned. The paper suggests that FPE might not be contributing
to the achievement of poverty alleviation goals, as intended.
2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: International education; Development; Educational policy; Gender; Poverty; Malawi
1. Introduction
Over the past decade, primary education has
been a priority amongst governments and inter-
national agencies, mainly due to its perceived role
in reducing poverty. Research has indicated, for
example, that primary education is important for
the improvement of economic and agricultural pro-
ductivity. In addition, education, particularly of
girls, has been found to be highly correlated with
improvements in health, as well as reductions in
fertility, infant mortality and morbidity rates. Edu-
cation is, therefore, considered to be economically
and socially desirable (see, for example, Col-
Corresponding author. Tel.: +44-1273-606755.
E-mail addresses: (E.
Kadzamira); (P. Rose).
0738-0593/03/$ - see front matter 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
clough, 1982; Lewin, 1993; World Bank, 1995).
As a result, international development targets (also
referred to as Millennium Development Goals)
have been set for the achievement of Universal Pri-
mary Education (UPE) by 2015. In addition,
increased access to good quality education is seen
as an important means of achieving many of the
other development goals, including halving of
extreme poverty and hunger by 2015. Despite the
attention given to primary education, particularly
over the last decade, many countries in sub-Sah-
aran Africa have fallen short of achieving the goal
of primary schooling for all in both quantitative
and qualitative terms.
Low levels of education are a cause and outcome
of poverty, both at the level of the household and
the state (Colclough et al., 2000). Although edu-
cation is expected to lead to economic growth in
the longer term, governments often lack sufficient
502 E. Kadzamira, P. Rose / International Journal of Educational Development 23 (2003) 501–516
resources to provide sufcient school places of
acceptable quality to be able to achieve this goal.
In addition, while educating children is not an
immediate survival strategy, sacrices made for
education by households in the short-term can be
considered as an investment in future well-being.
Given that households might be unable to make
these sacrices, or cannot anticipate the longer
term benets either to themselves or to society
more generally, a case is often made for public pro-
vision of education, particularly at lower levels.
However, households still incur substantial direct
and indirect costs of sending children to school,
which often means that the poorest are unable to
receive the full benets. In an attempt to attain the
UPE target, some countries in sub-Saharan Africa
have abolished primary school fees in recent years
(including Malawi in 1994; Uganda in 1997; Tan-
zania in 2001; Lesotho in 2000; and a pronounce-
ment to abolish fees in Kenya in 2003). This paper
reects on the potential of fee-free primary edu-
cation to achieve UPE and poverty alleviation
goals, focussing on the experience of Malawi.
Malawis GDP per capita has remained rela-
tively unchanged over the past two decades and
has, if anything declined in recent years (from
US$220 in 1997 to US$170 in 2000), placing it
amongst the 10 poorest countries in the world
(World Bank, 2001b, 2002). According to the 1998
Integrated Household Survey (IHS), it is estimated
that 65% of the population in Malawi are living
in poverty (National Economic Council, 2000).
order to address high levels of poverty, a Poverty
Alleviation Programme (PAP) was drawn up fol-
lowing the rst democratic elections in 1994, with
the support of the World Bank. The policy frame-
work for the PAP identied low enrolment due to
lack of school fees and limited facilities, and poor
quality due to inadequate resources and inappropri-
ate curricula amongst the causes of poverty
(Ministry of Economic Planning and Development,
1995). For this reason, education, particularly at
The poverty line, developed by the IHS, is the level of
welfare distinguishing poor households from non-poor house-
holds, taking into account per capita daily calorie requirements
and a certain level of basic non-food requirements (see National
Economic Council, 2000).
the primary level, has been an important focus of
government policy and resources since 1994. The
rationale for this emphasis was based on the per-
ception that basic education could contribute to
achieving the governments primary objective of
poverty alleviation, in particular in relation to
improved agricultural productivity and better
prospects of employment, reduced infant and
maternal mortality, lower incidence of diseases and
fertility rate (Ministry of Economic Planning and
Development, 1995: 24). The PAP recognised that
improvements in the quantity and quality of edu-
cation would be necessary for the eradication of
poverty in the long term and that there was, there-
fore, perceived to be a need to increase access to
quality, relevant and efcient education.
The paper begins by reviewing education poli-
cies in Malawi, examining the process of policy
choice, and assesses the extent to which policy is
responding to the needs of the poor. This is fol-
lowed by an investigation of the impact of the cur-
rent education policy on the poor and disadvan-
taged in practice, in respect to issues of access,
quality, relevance and t (using the framework
developed by Devereux and Cook, 2000).
2. Education policy choice and process
Since independence, government education pol-
icy in Malawi has shifted from an emphasis on sec-
ondary and tertiary education to primary education,
in line with changes in international priorities (see
Rose, 2002). The main objective of education fol-
lowing independence was to provide adequate
numbers of trained personnel in all professions to
ll posts left by colonial administrators and to
replace expatriates in a programme of progressive
localisation (Malawi Government, 1966).
Malawis rst education development plan (1973-
80) continued to prioritise secondary and tertiary
education at the expense of primary education
(Ministry of Education, 1973). In the second edu-
cation development plan, covering the period
19851995, the priority shifted from tertiary and
secondary levels to increasing access, equity and
relevance of primary education with the goal of
universal primary education mentioned as an
503E. Kadzamira, P. Rose / International Journal of Educational Development 23 (2003) 501516
explicit objective for the rst time (Ministry of
Education, 1985). Although increasing over the
1980s, by the end of the plan period the primary
net enrolment ratio (NER):
of 71% fell far short
of the intended target of 85% by 1993 (Table 1).
Educational planning entered a new phase in
1994 following the election of a new government
as a result of the rst democratic elections since
independence. Reforms that were introduced
mainly focussed on primary education, with the
aim of achieving universal primary enrolment.
Reforms introduced since 1994 aimed to expand
access to primary and secondary schooling,
improve equity, and to make education more rel-
evant. The major reforms that have been intro-
duced since 1994 include:
the introduction of fee-free primary education.
Table 1
Gross and net enrolment rates (%), 1980/811997
GER NER % Female enrolment
1980/81 65 47 41.2
1981/82 70 50 41.8
1982/83 67 47 42.3
1983/84 63 44 42.4
1984/85 65 47 42.9
1985/86 67 48 43.4
1986/87 71 52 43.9
1987/88 72 53 44.4
1988/89 79 60 44.6
1989/90 84 64 44.8
1990/91 79 60 44.9
1991/92 88 56 45.8
1992/93 88 56 47.2
1993/94 93 71 48.1
1994/95 134 83 47.0
1995/96 123 47.1
1997 139 47.7
Sources: Ministry of Education, Education Statistics
Bulletins, various years; Ministry of Education and UNICEF
(1998). Data for 1994/95 NER from Ministry of Economic
Planning and Development (1996)
Net enrolment ratio is the number of children of primary
school-going age enrolled as a proportion of the school-going
age population (613 years).
elimination of the requirements for school uni-
change to use vernacular language as medium
of instruction in standards 14.
the introduction of school fee waivers for girls
in secondary schools in 1995.
the unication of the secondary school system
through the merging of conventional govern-
ment secondary schools and Distance Education
Centres (DECs) into one system.
On coming to power in 1994, the new govern-
ment embarked on an ambitious programme of free
primary education (FPE). As Chimombo (1999:
117) notes, FPE was not only a response by the
newly elected leaders to the popular demand for
education from the electorate but was also per-
ceived as the main instrument for a more egali-
tarian society, for expanding and modernising the
economy, and as an essential element in the devel-
opment process. The main objectives of FPE were
to increase access, eliminate inequalities in partici-
pation between groups and sensitise the com-
munity to the importance of education. Under the
FPE initiative the government promised to under-
take the following:
assume the nancing of unassisted primary
by merging them with government-
assisted schools.
provide sufcient learning materials and teach-
be responsible for the provision of classrooms,
furniture, teacher houses, sanitation facilities
and boreholes
abolish all forms of fees
introduce community schools
encourage the participation of girls in primary
Unassisted schools were usually junior schools established
by the community, covering standards 14, which did not qual-
ify for full government support. They were usually placed in
very poor communities, mainly those under-served by the state
system. Local communities were supposed to pay the teachers
and also supply all teaching and learning materials. The conse-
quence of this policy was that many of these schools closed
before the end of the academic year due to lack of money to
pay teacher salaries.
504 E. Kadzamira, P. Rose / International Journal of Educational Development 23 (2003) 501516
education (Ministry of Education/UNICEF,
Since FPE arose from a political agenda and was
implemented to full an electoral pledge, a system-
atic analysis of the education sector was not under-
taken beforehand to assess the impact of the policy
and develop strategies that would be nancially
sustainable. As Chimombo (1999: 123) notes, the
main problem with FPE was that it was not based
on a proper understanding of the forces behind
school participationforces, which are embedded
in the socio-political and economic settings in
which the school operates. The nancial impli-
cations of implementing FPE were considerable
and, although government and donor resources
increased substantially in response to FPE, as will
be shown they have been inadequate to ensure pri-
mary schooling for all of acceptable quality and
have squeezed resources available for other levels
of education.
The Education Policy and Investment Frame-
work (PIF), which was rst developed in 1995 to
accommodate FPE and other recent reforms, out-
lines government policy at all levels of the edu-
cation system over a ten year period. The govern-
ment regards the PIF as an on-going process and,
as such, the PIF has been updated several times
since 1995. The initial PIF was largely a response
to the introduction of FPE and mainly covered pri-
mary, secondary and teacher education, also outli-
ning policies to cover issues such as school health
and nutrition (Ministry of Education, 1995). The
shortfall of the rst PIF was that it did not cover
the whole education sector, in particular tertiary
education was completely ignored. In addition, it
was criticised by donors for a lack of a critical
analysis of the current situation in each sector
which was required to justify the policy priorities
proposed by the PIF (Kilby, 1998). Furthermore,
the investment framework, which was supposed to
be at the heart of the PIF, was lacking. This led to
a revision of the PIF in 1998. However, most of the
issues raised in the rst PIF remained unanswered,
resulting in further development of the PIF in the
year 2000.
Unlike the rst two drafts of the PIF, the most
recent PIF was developed in close collaboration
with major donors to education, in particular
Most of the
concerns of donors with the rst two PIFs were
addressed, although the most recent PIF still lacks
a critical analysis of the issues affecting the edu-
cation sector to justify the policies proposed. The
PIF proposes a number of important educational
reforms. Similar to the second education plan, pri-
ority is on primary education, with the aim of allo-
cating 65% of the recurrent education budget to
primary education. The main educational chal-
lenges which the PIF tries to address are those of
access, equity, quality and relevance.
The PIF intends to adopt a sector wide approach
to educational planning. As such, the PIF process
should be a collaborative effort between the
government and donors, ensuring co-ordination of
donor activities. However, in practice this has not
been the case. Given that the nancing of edu-
cation in Malawi has always relied heavily on
donor funding, international agencies continue to
play an important role in the policy process.
Donors have exerted, and continue to exert, con-
siderable inuence on education policy in Malawi
through the various projects that that they
implement. A good example is the USAID-funded
Girls Attainment in Basic Literacy and Edu-
cation (GABLE) programme initiated in 1991
with the aim of improving access, persistence and
achievement of girls in primary schools. At the
time when GABLE was implemented girls edu-
cation was not a priority of the government and
gender disparities were not targeted in education
policies and plans.
As a result, there is some con-
cern that initiatives aimed at improving girls
schooling have not always been internalised within
the Ministry of Education, partly due to weak
organisational structures. In addition, attention to
The World Bank was not directly involved in the PIF at
this stage, focussing instead on its own projects in the country.
It is estimated that donors provide approximately 40% of
the primary education budget (Bernbaum et al., 1998).
For example the second education plan had equity as one
of its major objectives, however, gender equity was not men-
tioned as one of the areas which required intervention. Instead
the plans saw regional and district disparities as areas of
major concern.
505E. Kadzamira, P. Rose / International Journal of Educational Development 23 (2003) 501516
monitoring of the programme at the classroom
level has been weak and, given the extensive
resources allocated by USAID, questions of its sus-
tainability remain (Swainson et al., 1998; Swain-
son, 2000; Bernbaum et al., 1998).
The education policy formulation process in
Malawi does not have the tradition of consulting
with stakeholders, including teachers, parents,
communities, local leaders and NGOs involved in
education. If anything, the Ministry of Education
is antagonistic towards NGO involvement in policy
making, seeing their role as more appropriately
conned to traditional activities of service pro-
vision in under-served areas (Kadzamira and
Kunje, 2002). Since FPE was a political agenda,
there was little consultation with stakeholders
(district education ofcers, schools, teachers, par-
ents and pupils) on what form it should take. This
is likely to hinder the effective formulation and
implementation of policy.
The question remains whether education policies
have actually been responding to citizens needs.
It is not apparent whether, given the choice, house-
holds would actually have prioritised education
above their other needs to the extent that has
occurred. Many households face chronic food
shortages and coping with food insecurity is the
main priority for these households. In this situ-
ation, education is likely to rank low on the list of
their immediate needs and priorities. For example,
in a recent participatory study, the two major prob-
lems cited by most communities were lack of food
and lack of health facilities, whereas education
barely featured (Khaila et al., 1999). While this
might be partly because education is no longer
considered a problem thanks to FPE which means
that schooling is accessible to the majority of the
population, FPE was mentioned as a factor con-
tributing to improved well-being in only one dis-
trict visited. However, the implementation of FPE
did result in dramatic changes in the education sec-
tor in practice suggesting that education is highly
valued, as will be highlighted in the next section.
3. Educational policy and practice
3.1. FPE and increased access to primary
The promise of the abolition of primary school
fees as a means of increasing access to education
was high on the agenda of most of the political
parties during the 1994 general elections. Once in
power, the party that won the elections immedi-
ately fullled its pledge. This could be considered
a response to citizen needs since previous research
had shown that school fees were a constraining fac-
tor on school attendance (for example, Davison and
Kanyuka, 1990; Hyde and Kadzamira, 1994;
Burcheld and Kadzamira, 1996). It is also likely
that FPE played an important role in the elections
since success in increasing access to primary
schooling through the abolition of fees would be
highly visible and was guaranteed the nancial
support of international agencies. By contrast,
attention to other issues such as food security
(which would be perhaps more crucial for the
immediate livelihoods of the poor, as they them-
selves identied) would be less visible, and their
attainment more elusive.
The introduction of FPE resulted in an amazing
response. Although enrolment had increased stead-
ily over the 1980s, a massive expansion was evi-
dent following the implementation of FPE: enrol-
ment increased by over 50% between 1993/94 and
1994/95 (from approximately 1.9 million to nearly
3 million) with UPE attained for the rst time.
This increase was, to a large extent, due to children
(particularly boys) above the school going age re-
entering, as evident by gross enrolment ratios
(GERs) of over 100% (Table 1).
Interestingly, previous targeted attempts at abol-
ishing primary fees before the elections had a more
limited impact. These included a phased abolition
of tuition fees in Standard 1 in 1991/92 with the
aim of gradually abolishing fees for the rst four
years of primary schooling, and the introduction of
A similar response to the abolition of fees was apparent in
Uganda, where UPE was also immediately attained for the rst
time (Tumushabe et al., 2000).
506 E. Kadzamira, P. Rose / International Journal of Educational Development 23 (2003) 501516
a school fee waiver programme for non-repeating
girls in standards 28 from 1992/93 sponsored by
the GABLE programme. The girls fee waiver pro-
gramme is reported to have met with some resist-
ance from parents who did not understand why
girls should get preferential treatment, although the
controversy it created succeeded in placing the
issue of girls education, as well as fees more gen-
erally, high on the governments agenda (Wolf,
1995). The limited impact of these reforms sug-
gests that the success of the fee abolition in 1994
was partly related to optimism around the changing
political and economic environment, and possibly
also the impact of other reforms taking place in
the education sector simultaneously (such as non-
enforcement of uniforms which also had the possi-
bility of substantially reducing household direct
costs on education).
In principle, the abolition of school fees could
free household resources for other household
needs. However, given that poor households
responded by sending more children to school, it
is likely that the proportion of their expenditure
allocated to education actually increased, since
children from poorer households in particular
started school as a result of FPE. Although they
do not have to pay fees, they still incur other direct
costs of education such as buying exercise books,
pens and clothes for school. Furthermore, these
costs are substantially higher than the amount
required for fees. Recent estimates indicate that
poorest households spend approximately 6% of
their total nancial resources per child in primary
school, on average, compared with 2.5% spent by
the upper quintile. Given that households generally
have several children in school, households spend
13 and 7.5%, respectively, of their total expendi-
ture on education overall (Rose, 2002).
The rela-
tively high proportion spent by poorest households
is likely to be at the expense of other basic needs
of the household.
Previous to FPE, only the Northern Region of
Malawi had achieved universal primary education
Despite the non-enforcement of uniforms, the vast majority
of households continue to indicate that clothes are bought
especially for school, accounting for approximately two-thirds
of household education expenditure.
in both rural and urban areas. After 1994/95, UPE
was attained in both rural and urban areas in the
Central and Southern Regions. However, although
signicant improvements for all sub-groups fol-
lowing the introduction of FPE are evident, dis-
parities remain between income groups (Table 2).
This suggests that, despite some relaxation of n-
ancial constraints on primary schooling, there are
factors that continue to constrain poorest house-
holds from sending all their children, as dis-
cussed below.
Furthermore, although children are entering
school in vast numbers, and almost all children
now spend some time in school, many leave before
they are likely to have obtained basic literacy and
numeracy skills. Given existing dropout and rep-
etition rates, only half of all children who start
school will reach standard 3, and less than one-
fth will complete the primary cycle, with fewer
girls than boys completing (Table 3). It should be
noted, however, that the poor internal efciency of
the system was evident even before the introduc-
tion of FPE and there are, at least, favourable signs
that the gender gap has narrowed: in 1993/94 only
13% of girls who entered school completed, com-
pared with 18% of boys whereas, by 1997, survival
rates increased for both girls and boys to 18 and
20%, respectively (Table 3).
In addition, given
that a larger number of children are entering
school, the absolute number of children expected
to complete has also increased considerably.
This suggests that, although the vast majority of
the school-aged population has access to primary
schooling, many households are not able to sustain
their initial demand for education for a variety of
reasons, often related to poverty. After children
have been enrolled in school, households can nd
the costs associated with schooling prohibitive.
These costs increase in higher classes, when more
Survival rates are calculated as the number of pupils who
would be promoted each year of the primary cycle, given pre-
vailing dropout and repetition rates. If there were no repetition
and dropout, survival rates would be 100% (or, of 1000 pupils
entering the system, 1000 would complete after 8 years). How-
ever, some children stay in one standard for more than a year,
and some children leave school before completing due to dro-
507E. Kadzamira, P. Rose / International Journal of Educational Development 23 (2003) 501516
Table 2
Primary gross enrolment rates by income quintiles and gender
Gross enrolment ratio Net enrolment ratio
1990/91 1997 1990/91 1997
Boys Girls Boys Girls Boys Girls Boys Girls
IPoorest 65 51 115 106 34 31 70 72
II 83 69 125 111 50 45 75 75
III 88 83 124 116 52 57 76 78
IV 104 89 127 117 66 61 78 79
VRichest 113 106 124 115 76 75 81 79
All 86 75 123 112 52 50 76 76
Source: Castro-Leal (1996); Al-Samarrai and Zaman (2002)
stationery and better quality clothing is required,
increasing the likelihood of drop-out for poorer
students. According to a recent household survey,
expenditure on a pupil in Standard 48was
approximately 50% higher than a pupil in Standard
14(Rose, 2002).
According to a group of children who had
dropped out from school: FPE has not addressed
the problem of poverty (Kadzamira and Chib-
wana, 2000). In the context of FPE, studies con-
tinue to show that inadequate clothing and lack of
money to buy school supplies are an important rea-
son for non-enrolment (Rose, 2002; Kadzamira and
Chibwana, 2000; Burcheld and Kadzamira, 1996;
Chimombo, 1999). Although the government is
supposed to provide exercise books and writing
materials, these are often insufcient so that house-
holds have to supplement the supply from the
government. In addition, the studies indicate that,
despite the abolition of fees, schools continue to
request contributions for sports, water bills etc., as
well as labour and materials for school construc-
tion and maintenance. These additional costs can
be prohibitive for poorer households. This suggests
that educational policies have been unsuccessful in
providing for the poorest, who continue to be
under-served by the education system.
Moreover, although children might initially
enrol in school, they might be withdrawn from
school because their labour is needed by the house-
hold. Studies have shown, for example, that child
labour can be an important aspect of a poor house-
holds coping strategy, particularly in relation to
ganyu (casual labour which is often seasonal and
usually undertaken on a piece rate basis) in rural
areas and street vending in urban areas (Devereux,
1999). These activities are often not compatible
with schooling although, in some cases, boys in
particular are able to combine schooling and work,
by engaging in ganyu to raise money to pay for
their school expenses (Kadzamira and Chibwana,
2000). Furthermore, children, particularly girls,
may be needed to substitute for the domestic work
of adults in the household to allow them to under-
take income-generating activities. This has become
more severe in the context of HIV/AIDS which
often means that girls are required to look after
sick relatives, and take on roles of childcare and
other domestic chores following the death of a par-
ent (Kadzamira and Ndalama, 1997). Evidence also
suggests that, although children in school spend
approximately two to three hours per day working
for the household, on average, children out of
school spend an additional four and a half hours
per day than a child in school working either for
the household or in income-generating activities in
both rural and urban areas. This suggests that chil-
dren out of school provide an important contri-
bution to the household which poorest households
are unable to sacrice even in the context of FPE.
508 E. Kadzamira, P. Rose / International Journal of Educational Development 23 (2003) 501516
Table 3
Survival rates by gender
Survival rates by standard
1 2345678Graduate(a) Actual standard 1 Implied number of % repeaters
enrolment(b) graduates(a/1000
1993/94 (pre-fee abolition)
Girls 1000 686 543 418 332 250 189 135 130 284,960 37,045 16.3
Boys 1000 708 559 437 358 285 237 192 182 273,287 49,738 16.8
1997 (post-fee abolition)
Girls 1000 651 527 405 332 264 213 188 175 433,710 75,899 15.1
Boys 1000 656 521 401 325 266 223 212 199 447,715 89,095 15.1
Source: Authors calculations from Ministry of Education statistics, various years
Furthermore, girls, both in and out of school, spend
approximately one hour per day more than boys
working for the household (Rose, 2002).
Children tend to enrol in school considerably
later than the ofcial starting age of six years. This
raises particular problems for girls who reach
puberty before completing the primary cycle. Early
pregnancy is often cited as a reason for girls drop-
ping out of school although little is known about
the magnitude of the problem. In addition, in some
cases girls may drop out of school before they are
discovered to be pregnant. Furthermore, early mar-
riage to avoid pregnancy outside of wedlock can
also be a reason for girls to be withdrawn once
they reach puberty. Pregnancy of school girls and
early marriage are, however, often also related to
poverty as girls seek material support from boyfri-
ends or husbands which their parents are unable to
provide (Davison and Kanyuka, 1990; Burcheld
and Kadzamira, 1996; Khaila et al., 1999; Kadza-
mira and Chibwana, 2000). Thus, non-economic
factors can also be a constraining factor for some,
although they are often interlinked with poverty-
related factors, and disproportionately affect girls.
Despite the revised pregnancy policy which allows
girls back to school after giving birth, it appears
that many girls are not taking advantage of this,
partly because parents fear that their daughters will
be impregnated again, and also because they face
intimidation by fellow pupils (Kadzamira and
Chibwana, 2000).
In conjunction with the encouraging response of
households to the fee abolition, the government
also responded positively by increasing resources
to education, particularly at the primary level. The
proportion of government recurrent expenditure
allocated to education increased dramatically from
11% in 1990/91 to 24% in 1997, and the percent
of education expenditure allocated to primary edu-
cation increased from 45 to 65% Malawi Govern-
ment, various years). This increase was partly the
response of the government to full its pledge of
FPE, but also a result of donor conditionality.
An important reason for the increased allocation of
resources to education is due to conditionality of the USAID
GABLE programme which committed the government to
increase the budgetary allocation to education to 27% by 1997.
509E. Kadzamira, P. Rose / International Journal of Educational Development 23 (2003) 501516
However, the initial increase was only just suf-
cient to cater for the increase in primary enrol-
ment (recurrent expenditure per pupil increased
only slightly from K39 to K41 in 1990 prices, over
the same period).
In addition, government pro-
vision for instructional inputs, which research has
shown to have a signicant impact on achieve-
ment, remains very lowin 1997, only 6% of pri-
mary recurrent expenditure was spent on learning
materials, with the vast majority allocated to teach-
ers wages (Kadzamira and Chibwana, 2000).
While this is not unusual, given that teaching is a
labour-intensive activity, it meant that the govern-
ment was unable to compensate fully for the loss
in fee income which was previously allocated to
teaching and learning materials.
Given that primary education was also a priority
of donors, it was possible to implement the prom-
ise of FPE made during the elections, as donors
provided much needed nancial support to the pro-
gramme through construction of classrooms and
schools, provision of teaching and learning
materials and training of teachers. However, ques-
tions of sustainability have been raised if govern-
ment and donor priorities shift once again. Fears
have been expressed that, if one or two current
donors to education decided to pull out, the pri-
mary education system would collapse (Bernbaum
et al., 1998). There are already indications that the
large amount spent on education has not been sus-
tainable, with the share of the budget allocated to
education falling back to 13% in 1999/2000, as
expenditure on roads and agriculture has increased
(World Bank, 2001a).
Emphasis on primary education has implications
for other sub-sectors of the education system. In
particular, it is likely to increase pressure on
teacher training as more teachers are needed, and
on the secondary school system as the cohort of
children entering primary school as a result of FPE
in 1994 reach the end of the cycle (see Kunje,
2002; Lewin, 2001). Although the pressure of the
FPE bulge cohort has not yet reached secondary
school, by 1997 the secondary GER had increased
The exchange rate in 1990 was K2.7 = $1 (International
Monetary Fund, 1999).
to 18%, from 10% in 1990/91 (Kadzamira and
Chibwana, 2000).
This increase might partly be
because secondary education is now a necessary
condition for obtaining employment, since a larger
proportion of children now have access to pri-
mary schooling.
Even so, fewer than half of those who complete
the primary cycle are able to continue to secondary
school. While only 8% of girls and boys who com-
pleted primary school were admitted to govern-
ment secondary schools in 1997, approximately
20% of primary school completers entered Dis-
tance Education Centres (DECsnow Community
Day Secondary SchoolsCDSSs) (Ministry of
Education, 1997). This is an indication of the high
demand for secondary education since these
schools not only charge higher fees than govern-
ment schools, but also are of considerably lower
quality with, for example, average pupil/class
ratios of 84:1 in DECs compared with 48:1 in con-
ventional government secondary schools in 1997.
Furthermore, the vast majority of teachers in DECs
are only trained to teach at the primary level and,
therefore, do not have training in secondary school
subjects. The recent and sudden transformation of
DECs into CDSSs is likely to reduce the number
of school places available further, since they have
to meet the same requirements as government
schools, including a limit on the pupil/class ratio
of 50:1. In addition, the merger puts increased
pressure on government resources, since the
government has committed itself to fund CDSSs in
the same way as conventional government second-
ary schools. There are already signs that the quality
of the secondary school system, which was rela-
tively high a decade ago, has deteriorated over
recent years. One indication of this is the deterio-
ration in pass rates in public examinations since
1994/95. In 1999, for example, about 87% of the
students who sat for the Malawi School Certicate
Examination failed.
Higher levels of the education system have tra-
ditionally enjoyed large subsidies. The cost of one
Note that these gures include enrolment in all types of
secondary school (i.e. conventional government secondary
schools, DECs and private secondary schools).
510 E. Kadzamira, P. Rose / International Journal of Educational Development 23 (2003) 501516
university student in 1997, for example, was equiv-
alent to nancing 124 students at primary level
(Kadzamira and Chibwana, 2000). In order to
address government resource constraints at the sec-
ondary and tertiary levels as a result of the prior-
itisation of primary schooling, the PIF proposes
various forms of cost sharing measures including
shifting full costs of boarding to parents at second-
ary and university, phasing out of boarding at sec-
ondary level, introduction of various forms of user
fees, for example non-refundable book fees and the
introduction of fee-paying students at the univer-
Since the abolition of primary school fees made
the primary fee waivers for girls obsolete, the fee
waiver was shifted to the secondary level. Despite
pressure from USAID, which was funding the fee
waiver, to target needy girls, the government
decided that all girls enrolled in secondary school
should be eligible. Thus, the government provides
school fee waivers for all non-repeating girls irres-
pective of need. Available research evidence shows
that the majority of girls in conventional govern-
ment secondary schools come from wealthier fam-
ilies than boys (Hyde, 1994) and the poorest rural
households are virtually unrepresented at the sec-
ondary level (Castro-Leal, 1996; Al-Samarrai and
Zaman, 2002). As long as the secondary system
remains selective based on merit, the poorest girls
are unlikely to make it to secondary school and
therefore be eligible for the fee waivers since
research has shown that performance at the pri-
mary level is closely linked to socio-economic
status (see, for example, Kadzamira and Chib-
wana, 2000).
The fee waiver for girls does not appear to have
had a signicant impact on the gender gap in enrol-
ment at the secondary level: in 1997, only 39% of
those enrolled in the different types of secondary
schools were female (Ministry of Education,
1997). In addition, an objective of the secondary
school fee waiver was to encourage girls to con-
tinue with their primary schooling as they would
now have a better chance of attending secondary
school. However, primary survival rates shown
above suggest that this has not been entirely suc-
cessful. Although, in principle, the secondary
school fee waiver should enable those who cannot
afford to pay for their education to have access to
secondary schooling, the fact remains that very few
children in Malawi ever attend secondary school,
and the majority of those who do, attend schools
of very low quality.
3.2. Is there a trade-off between quality and
quantity of primary schooling?
As noted, FPE indicated a real commitment by
the government to primary education, and was sup-
ported by a substantial increase in resources to the
sub-sector. However, the impact of the abrupt
increase in enrolments meant that access to facili-
ties could not expand concomitantly. Rather, it led
to an increased number of children using existing
facilities more intensively, resulting in a substantial
increase in class size, particularly in early stan-
dards, and more classes being taught in the open
air. The government responded to the increased
demand by recruiting approximately 18,000
untrained teachers, but these were both insufcient
to provide classes of an acceptable size and also
meant that a large proportion of the teaching force
were inexperienced and unqualied (Kunje, 2002).
By 1997, over half of teachers were not qualied
compared with 16% in 1993/94 (Ministry of Edu-
cation, 1994, 1997).
Although the pupil/teacher ratio has, on average,
remained reasonably stable following the introduc-
tion of FPE, this is mainly because of the appoint-
ment of a large number of unqualied teachers.
The number of pupils per qualied teacher has,
therefore, risen dramatically following FPE, from
88:1 to 119:1 (Table 4). These averages mask dis-
Table 4
Indicators of educational quality at the primary level, 1992-
Primary pupil per: 1992/93 1994/95 1997
Teacher 68 62 61
Qualied teacher 88 108 119
Textbook (basic subjects) 3 7 3
Permanent classroom 102 162 156
Desk 18 27 NA
Source: Authors calculations from Ministry of Education
statistics, various years
511E. Kadzamira, P. Rose / International Journal of Educational Development 23 (2003) 501516
parities between and within schools. The
pupil/teacher ratio in urban schools was 48:1 on
average, compared with 63:1 in rural schools, and
75% of teachers in urban schools were qualied
compared with 51% in rural schools. Moreover,
lower classes within schools suffer from fewer
resources. They are more likely to be held out-
doors, to lack chairs and desks and to be taught by
inexperienced and untrained teachers. Furthermore,
due to unequal distribution of teachers within
schools, the class size is considerably larger in
earlier standardsranging from 113 pupils per
class in standard one, on average, to 27 pupils per
class in standard eight (Ministry of Education,
unpublished data). Before and after FPE, two to
three pupils had to share a textbook in lower stan-
dards (Ministry of Education, 1994, 1996). Fur-
thermore, teacher guides are also insufcient,
while other teaching aids required for the curricu-
lum, such as globes, maps, clocks, mathematical
sets and charts, are absent from classrooms
(Kadzamira and Chibwana, 2000).
An important reason for lower standards being
most affected by low level of resources is due to
the examination orientation of the education sys-
tem, which places emphasis on upper standards
(Chimombo, 1999). This is suggested to have con-
tributed to high repetition and drop-out in the early
years of schooling (Kadzamira and Chibwana,
2000; Kadzamira and Kunje, 1996). The unequal
distribution is particularly detrimental for students
from poorer households in rural areas who are
often more likely to drop out early, for reasons dis-
cussed above. These students, therefore, only
experience schooling of extremely poor quality,
which would often prevent them from even
attaining basic literacy and numeracy skills.
Low achievement attained as a result of poor
quality is evident from tests administered to chil-
dren in Standard 3. Ten percent of children inter-
viewed were unable to write their name, while
approximately half could not identify letters of the
alphabet. Furthermore, fewer than half of the chil-
dren interviewed could read common words in
English or Chichewa which appear frequently in
textbooks (Rose, 2002). It is not possible to com-
pare what would have happened in the absence of
the rapid expansion of enrolments nor with test
results in previous years, but the lack of basic liter-
acy skills amongst some of the children suggests
that, despite the achievements made in increasing
access, serious problems of quality in the primary
education sector remain, preventing children from
achieving their potential. Furthermore, low quality
of education is likely to reduce perceived returns
by increasing the number of years necessary to
acquire the minimum skills. This, in turn, increases
the direct and indirect costs of obtaining basic liter-
acy and numeracy, which is particularly detrimen-
tal for the poorest households.
Studies have suggested that teacher performance
has deteriorated following FPE due to low morale,
which also has implications for the quality of edu-
cation delivered. In addition, parents blame
increased problems of discipline in school on tea-
chers as they no longer feel accountable since par-
ents are no longer paying for schooling and cannot,
therefore, make demands on teachers. However,
teachers blame parents for disciplinary problems
due to their misinterpretation of free education
which means that they no longer take an interest
in their childrens schooling. In some cases, par-
ents and pupils have misinterpreted the meaning of
FPE to be free to attend school or not. Democ-
racy is also misinterpreted to mean freedom to do
anything, contributing to disciplinary problems
(Ministry of Education/UNICEF, 1998).
3.3. How relevant of primary schooling to
meeting the needs of the poor?
The primary school curriculum in Malawi is
intended to be child-centred, including active par-
ticipation of pupils through group work, debates
and problem solving activities. However, teachers
do not appear to be well trained in the method-
ology that is being promoted by the Ministry of
Education in conjunction with international agenc-
ies, and the curriculum does not appear to be
appropriate for, or adapted to use with the large
class sizes.
Furthermore, teachers often lack
See Croft (2002) for a discussion of the ways in which
some lower primary teachers deal constructively with the con-
straints they face in the classroom.
512 E. Kadzamira, P. Rose / International Journal of Educational Development 23 (2003) 501516
teaching and learning materials to enable them to
deliver the curriculum effectively. Thus, teachers
are observed to continue to use traditional teacher-
centred approaches with a large proportion of class
time spent on pupils doing exercises which teach-
ers check or mark during the lesson. This can be
demotivating and uninteresting for the pupils,
particularly in standard one where the large class
size means that it is almost impossible for pupils
to receive any individual attention (Ministry of
Education/UNICEF, 1998; Kadzamira and Chib-
wana, 2000). The problems are partly related to
inappropriate policy choice given the social, econ-
omic and cultural context within which primary
schooling currently operates.
The appropriateness of the content of the cur-
riculum has also been questioned in relation to its
applicability to poverty alleviation. A study by the
Ministry of Education/UNICEF (1998) reports that
parents, teachers and school heads mention that
teaching technical and agricultural skills is more
important than the present academic curriculum,
which is aimed at preparing students for secondary
education to which very few actually have access.
Language of instruction is a particularly conten-
tious issue. The current policy states that children
should be taught in the vernacular from standards
14 and in English from standards 58. In practice,
it has been difcult to implement the change in
policy in the early classes because textbooks are
still only available in Chichewa, the national lang-
uage and previous language of instruction for stan-
dards 14. In addition, some teachers do not speak
the language of the local area, and in some areas
there is a mix of ethnic groups making it problem-
atic to select a common language for instruction
(Kadzamira and Chibwana, 2000). Thus, the pol-
icy has proved impractical however pedagogically
sound it may be(Chimombo, 1999: 131). Further-
more, it has been found that the policy is not popu-
lar with parents who want children to learn in
English from an early age because they consider
that it is more useful for getting better jobs in the
future (Kaunda, 1999). However, since fewer than
half of pupils survive in school beyond standard
four, the usefulness of learning in English for these
children is questionable, and might not be appro-
priate for the achievement of poverty alleviation
As mentioned, an important impact of FPE was
to encourage older children to enrol or re-enrol in
school. As a result, there is a wide age range of
children in school. In a recent survey, the age in
standard one ranged from four to 18 years, with
students as old as 30 years enrolled in primary
school. The age range was wider in rural schools,
and males tended to be older than females
(Kadzamira and Chibwana, 2000). The demand for
the labour of older girls at the household level and
the fact that some of the girls might be mothers or
married is likely to have prevented them from
going back to school. Not only does this mean that
primary school classes are likely to be disrupted
by older students, these students are unlikely to
receive the type of education suitable for their
needs. A non-formal system of education would
probably cater better for the needs of the older stu-
dents, rather than formal primary education. An
adult literacy programme could, for example,
reduce the pressure on primary schooling as well
as assist in moving towards the achievement of
poverty alleviation goals in the short term since,
by providing older students with appropriate orien-
tation in technical and agricultural skills. In
addition, improved literacy of adults has generally
been found to have important inter-generational
advantages. Yet, with the implementation of FPE,
non-formal education has become a forgotten pri-
ority. The current adult literacy programmes con-
tinue to be plagued by low attendance, and poor
quality and coverage.
The PIF proposes to revise the primary school
curriculum to make the primary cycle terminal, and
de-emphasise selection to post-primary. On the one
hand, this might be important in terms of address-
ing immediate poverty alleviation goals by focus-
ing resources on ensuring that all children obtain
minimum levels of basic literacy and numeracy.
However, most households do not see the benet
of only primary education and, in reality, second-
ary education is needed for economic and social
benets to be realised. Parents often perceive edu-
cation as a way out of poverty through enabling
their children to obtain a job, but in reality the
opportunities available for primary school leavers
513E. Kadzamira, P. Rose / International Journal of Educational Development 23 (2003) 501516
are extremely limited. Secondary education has
now become the minimum qualication for entry
into the formal job market. A recent study nds
that most communities in both urban and rural
areas realise this, and identied lack of secondary
schools and/or poor selection to secondary as one
of the priority problems in their areas (Khaila et
al., 1999). In reality, very few children are likely
to get the chance to attend a secondary school.
Thus, in practice the policy choice of providing
primary schooling for all leads to qualication
ination, so that only those who have access to the
limited secondary schooling available receive the
economic benets of education, with the impli-
cation that FPE could actually become anti-poor.
3.4. How does primary schooling fit with
livelihoods of the poor?
The t between the school calendar and the
livelihood systems of the poor is problematic. On
the one hand, some believe that the school calendar
should t around the agricultural calendar (which
also inuences the timing of initiation ceremonies)
so that it does not conict with peak times when
childrens labour will be required to assist with
household activities. On the other hand, there
might also be a desire for the school calendar to
mirror the agricultural calendar so that agriculture
can be properly taught in school. However, the cur-
rent calendar does not appear to t either of these.
The school year, which previously ran from
October to July, now begins in January with long
holidays in November and December (the begin-
ning of the hunger months). The reason for this
adaptation, rather than based on an assessment of
needs at the primary level, was due to water short-
ages in boarding secondary schools and tertiary
institutions which meant that they had to be closed
from October to December. The calendar does not,
therefore, either mirror the agricultural calendar,
nor avoid peak agricultural times.
Before the change in calendar, research showed
that, since the school calendar coincided with the
hunger months (DecemberFebruary), children
would often go to school without food (Kadzamira
and Ndalama, 1997). The problems intensify dur-
ing periods of famine which have been shown in
the past to be closely related to periods of stag-
nation, and even decline, in enrolments (Fuller,
1989). Following the change in the school calendar
in 1997, studies continue to show problems. The
Ministry of Education/UNICEF study (1998) noted
that there is a high correlation between the agricul-
tural cycle/initiation ceremonies and absenteeism,
with high absenteeism during the harvest and
immediately after the harvest when initiation cer-
emonies are held. It has also found that, of the boys
who had been involved in an initiation ceremony,
over half were initiated during AugustOctober
which now conicts with the school calendar
(Kadzamira and Chibwana, 2000). Furthermore,
since the long school holidays now fall within the
hunger months, parents have little food and
money to spare and are, therefore, reluctant to
adjust the initiation calendar to t with school hol-
idays (Kaunda, 1999).
The dilemmas around an appropriate school cal-
endar are not easy to solve but suggest that a ex-
ible approach to the curriculum might be desirable,
so that children who are absent for a period of time
can continue with their studies at their own pace
(as, for example, with the Esceula Nueva pro-
gramme in Colombia). However, the feasibility of
implementing a exible curriculum of this kind
would not be easy given large class sizes, parti-
cularly in the earlier standards.
4. Summary
This paper has highlighted that, although UPE
has been achieved at the national level following
the abolition of primary school fees, rather than
contributing to international development and
national targets aimed at reducing poverty as
intended, the outcomes work against the poor and
disadvantaged in a number of ways (Table 5).
In reality schooling is still not free even in the
post-FPE era and the cost of schooling continues to
be the main reason for children not being in school.
Furthermore, primary schooling for all cannot be
attained if other important needs are not addressed,
which may be beyond the scope of educational pol-
icy. Poverty at the household level which leads to
lack of food (hunger), poor health, lack of clothes
514 E. Kadzamira, P. Rose / International Journal of Educational Development 23 (2003) 501516
Table 5
Access Pro-poor
Massive increase in primary enrolment after 1994 FPE, but poorest still most likely not to be in school,
and continued low survival rates, particularly for poorest and girls
Quality Anti- poor
Large numbers of untrained teachers, large class size and limited facilities particularly for lower classes,
with resources concentrated at the upper level where the poorest are less likely to be enrolled
Increase in years of schooling required to achieve basic literacy and numeracy
Relevance Anti-poor
Qualication ination: mass primary education, so need secondary to benet
Suitability of academic vs vocational curriculum in schools
Wide age range in lower classes
Appropriateness of vernacular, national or international language of instruction
Fit Anti-poor
Schooling conicts with child work, placing demands on girls and the poorest in particular
and lack of money to buy school essentials con-
tinue to be important causes of high dropout in the
primary school system, even in the FPE era. Thus,
the success of educational initiatives such as FPE
is dependent on other needs being satised, sug-
gesting a need for an integrated approach to social
policy. Moreover, even though the government has
committed a signicant proportion of its resources
to education, particularly at the primary level, these
continue to be insufcient to provide primary
schooling of acceptable quality.
Thus, contrary to the conventional view which
sees primary schooling as a panacea for poverty
alleviation, the evidence from Malawi indicates
that the achievement of poverty alleviation goals
through increased access to primary schooling is
unlikely. While FPE has increased enrolment in
primary schools, poor quality, particularly at the
lower level to which the poor have most access, is
apparent. Furthermore, many of the economic and
social benets of education are not realised until
late primary or even the secondary level
(particularly when quality is so low) which very
few children reach. Thus, despite considerable
achievements in terms of meeting quantitative tar-
gets, consequent deterioration in quality raises
questions about the extent to which the needs of
the poor are being met. This is of particular con-
cern given that these households invest a consider-
able proportion of their own resources on education
in the hope of bringing themselves out of the pov-
erty trap in the longer term. The evidence from
Malawi suggests that, unless attention is paid to
the quality, relevance and t of primary schooling,
the possibility that it can contribute to a pro-poor
strategy is unlikely to be realised.
This paper was prepared as part of the Social
Policy Research Programme, funded by the UK
Department for International Development. Pau-
line Rose gratefully acknowledges the ESRC
award number R00429924382. Many thanks to
Stephen Devereux and Yusuf Sayed and two
anonymous referees for insightful comments on an
earlier draft of the paper. The authors would also
like to recognise the contributions of Mike Chib-
wana to the research on the Gender and Primary
Schooling in Malawi programme, as well as the
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... The study uses several models to achieve this, that's the Ordinary Least Squares (OLS), the Two Stage Least Squares (2SLS), the Regression Discontinuity Design (RDD) and fixed effect model to check for any kind of heterogeneity in the data. The OLS for the first stage model was used to predict the years of education controlling for a number of factors like region, religion, residence age, sex, wealth and number of siblings in a family as is in [34,37]. The study then uses the predicted values from the first stage model to determine its effect on the maternal health utilization. ...
... Then lastly, fixed effects model was used to control heterogeneity factors due to region as it is known that other regions were not stable at the time of implementation of the free education. For women living in wealth households, mother's age, region, religion, residence and sex appeared to be the influential factors, showing significant either negative and positive effects [10,14], partner's education [38,39], women's age [10,14,40,41], access to health facility [34,37], religion [41] and working status [38] are also important factors associated with the outcomes of interest. The predicted years of education in the subsequent model had an influence in the maternal health utilization. ...
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Background Maternal health care is among the key indicators of population health and economic development. Therefore, the study attempted to explore female education and maternal healthcare utilization in Uganda. The study identified the causal effect of introduction of free education by exploiting the age as an instrument at the second stage model (BMC Health Serv Res. 2015. 10.1186/s12913-015-0943-8 ; Matern Child Health J. 2009;14:988–98). This instrument provided an exogenous source of variation in the years of schooling and allowed to implement a regression discontinuity design which accounted for heterogeneity in the cohort overtime. Methods The study used the Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) to help predict years of schooling that were used in the second stage model in the Two Stage Least Squares (2SLS). The study further used the Regression Discontinuity Design (RDD) model with a running variable of birth years to observe its effect on education. To control for heterogeneity in regions in the second stage model, a fixed effects model was used. Results Female education indeed had a positive impact on maternal health care utilization. It was further found out that age also influences maternal health care utilization. Conclusions Therefore, as an effort to improve professional maternal health care utilisation, there is need to focus on education beyond primary level. Uganda Government should also ensure that there is an improvement in community infrastructure and security across all regions and locations.
... Progression rate refers to the ratio of students who successfully passed examination in class (t) in a given year (y), and are promoted to class (t +1), in the next academic year (y+1) in percentage. Kadzamira and Rose (2003) stated that lack of money to buy essential school materials for children schooling is likely to cause lack of enrolment in the first place and potentially high dropout at a later stage. Due to the geometric increase in population, there should be corresponding increase in enrolment, because an educated population is indeed an enlightened and productive populace. ...
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The study examined the enrolment of public secondary school students by class in Delta North Senatorial District of Delta State from 2005-2011. The study was carried out to evaluate the index number and determine progression rate of students' enrolment. Two research questions and the ex-post facto research design were adopted, while quantitative data was retrieved from State Ministry of Education. The population of the study consisted of nine LGA with a total of 157 public secondary schools. Three LGAs were randomly selected using a simple random sampling technique to get a sample size of 50 schools representing 31.8%. Retrieved data on the number of schools and retrospective students' enrolment were obtained and statistically analyzed for index number and progression rate. Findings revealed that the trend in rates of index number and progression were undulating and inconsistent, with the least and highest index numbers of 52% and 146% in Year 2010 and 2011 respectively whereas the least average progression rate was 59.3% in Year 2007-08 but progressively peaked at 222% in Year 2010-11. This showed that some students repeated classes (Progressive rate > 100%), due to the observed low investment in education in the senatorial district. The study therefore recommends that environment of public secondary school should be conducive for pedagogical activities; and reduce such educational wastage through frequent elucidations of index and progression rates as critical decision tools in the Delta State Ministry of Education. Keywords: Educational Input, Enrolment, Index Number, Input, Output, Progression Rate
... The primary cause of the nonenrollment of girls under the age of six is housework [31][32][33]. While boys drop out of school around the age of 11 to engage in the agricultural and service sectors [34,35]. This preference in the investment of male children's education in Sub-Saharan Africa stems from gender discrimination in the labor market, as the expected economic rewards from investing in female children's education are less than that in a male child's education [36,37]. ...
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This paper sheds light on the causes of school dropouts, a major challenge facing UPE attainment in public primary schools of Uganda. We offer microregional analysis of school dropout patterns in the Mpigi district, and show a number of distinct patterns of school dropouts in Mpigi that can be differentiated from studies based on national data. While the Universal Primary Education program covered tuition fees, additional costs for education, such as meals, school transport, and uniforms, function as hurdles for longer school years. This is an obstacle regardless of parental awareness about education’s importance and how wealthy the parents think they are. Such findings directly conflict with existing knowledge that higher household income results in longer school years. The previous understanding of girl dropouts in Sub-Saharan Africa and its patriarchal context offer little explanations on the dropout pattern of Mpigi, as it is more related to the economic cost of education and the high demand for male agricultural labor. For a multicultural society such as Uganda, we highlight the importance of microlevel regional study in educational research.
... In a country where GDP per capita is only $300 per year (World , it can cost between $40 and $700 per year for a student to attend secondary school, an amount much higher than many families can afford-even for a single child (Banda, 2016). In addition to these direct school fees, households face indirect costs of school attendance (including school uniforms, supplies, and transportation), and high opportunity costs to send their children to both secondary school and college (Kadzamira and Rose, 2003;Pridmore and Jere, 2011;World Bank, 2010b). ...
Purpose The study aims to provide insight on the potential effectiveness of demand-side financing for catalyzing improved educational outcomes in Malawi; and, given the extent of cost-related constraints to school contexts in other low-income countries, the results have relevance for education policy decisions more broadly. Design/methodology/approach This study utilizes a non-equivalent groups research design to compare the educational experiences and outcomes of two student groups – those who did and those who did not receive a needs-based scholarship to attend secondary school and college in the Dowa, Kasungu, and Lilongwe Districts of Malawi. The authors assess impacts across a range of short and medium-term outcomes, including: school attendance, withdrawal, attainment, graduation, employment status, employment quality, and post-schooling income. Findings The scholarship substantially reduces the household cost of participation in school, and reduces the distance travelled to school. As a result, scholarship recipients attain between 1 and 1.5 years of additional schooling and graduate at higher rates. In terms of post-schooling outcomes, recipients are in higher wage-earning occupations after leaving school. Overall, results suggest that scholarships are an effective demand-side strategy for improving educational attainment, progression, and potentially longer-term labor market outcomes. Originality/value The study adds new evidence on policy approaches for expanding access to educational opportunities and increasing labor market outcomes in a context (Malawi specifically and sub-Saharan Africa more broadly) where evidence on such demand-side interventions is still growing.
... Kadzamira and Rose [13], Banda [2] and UNESCO [28] states that there are gaps in Malawi which requires to be unveiled and bridged in order to fulfil its educational National strategy for education for all by 2020. However, the Malawi Educational Monitoring Information System [8] contends that there are some undiscovered reasons which contributes to low or poor attendance and performance for the youth in Malawi educational system. ...
Gender disparities in education continue to undermine girls' opportunities, despite enormous strides in recent years to improve primary enrolment and attainment for girls in low‐ and middle‐income countries (LMICs). At the regional, country and subnational levels gender gaps remain, with girls in many settings less likely to complete primary school, less likely to complete secondary, and often less likely to be literate than boys. The academic and policy literatures on the topic of gender‐related barriers to girls' education are both extensive. However, there remain gaps in knowledge regarding which interventions are most likely to work in contexts with different combinations of barriers. This systematic review identified and assessed the strength of the evidence of interventions and exposures addressing gender‐related barriers to schooling for girls in LMICs. The AEA RCT Registry, Africa Bibliography, African Education Research Database, African Journals Online, DEC USAID, Dissertation Abstracts, EconLit, ELDIS, Evidence Hub, Global Index Medicus, IDEAS‐Repec, Intl Clinical Trials Registry, NBER, OpenGrey, Open Knowledge Repository, POPLINE, PsychINFO, PubMed, Research for Development Outputs, ScienceDirect, Sociological Abstracts, Web of Science, as well as relevant organization websites were searched electronically in March and April of 2019. Further searches were conducted through review of bibliographies as well as through inquiries to authors of included studies, relevant researchers and relevant organizations, and completed in March 2020. We included randomized controlled trials as well as quasi‐experimental studies that used quantitative models that attempted to control for endogeneity. Manuscripts could be either published, peer‐reviewed articles or grey literature such as working papers, reports and dissertations. Studies must have been published on or after 2000, employed an intervention or exposure that attempted to address a gender‐related barrier to schooling, analyzed the effects of the intervention/exposure on at least one of our primary outcomes of interest, and utilized data from LMICs to be included. A team of reviewers was grouped into pairs to independently screen articles for relevance, extract data and assess risk of bias for each included study. A third reviewer assisted in resolving any disputes. Risk of bias was assessed either through the RoB 2 tool for experimental studies or the ROBINS‐I tool for quasi‐experimental studies. Due to the heterogeneity of study characteristics and reported outcome measures between studies, we applied the GRADE (Grading of Recommendation, Assessment, Development and Evaluation) approach adapted for situations where a meta‐analysis is not possible to synthesize the research. Interventions rated as effective exist for three gender‐related barriers: inability to afford tuition and fees, lack of adequate food, and insufficient academic support. Promising interventions exist for three gender‐related barriers: inadequate school access, inability to afford school materials, and lack of water and sanitation. More research is needed for the remaining 12 gender‐related barriers: lack of support for girls' education, child marriage and adolescent pregnancy, lack of information on returns to education/alternative roles for women, school‐related gender‐based violence (SRGBV), lack of safe spaces and social connections, inadequate sports programs for girls, inadequate health and childcare services, inadequate life skills, inadequate menstrual hygiene management (MHM), poor policy/legal environment, lack of teaching materials and supplies, and gender‐insensitive school environment. We find substantial gaps in the evidence. Several gender‐related barriers to girls' schooling are under‐examined. For nine of these barriers we found fewer than 10 relevant evaluations, and for five of the barriers—child marriage and adolescent pregnancy, SRGBV, inadequate sports programs for girls, inadequate health and childcare services, and inadequate MHM—we found fewer than five relevant evaluations; thus, more research is needed to understand the most effective interventions to address many of those barriers. Also, nearly half of programs evaluated in the included studies were multi‐component, and most evaluations were not designed to tease out the effects of individual components. As a result, even when interventions were effective overall, it is often difficult to identify how much, if any, of the impact is attributable to a given program component. The combination of components varies between studies, with few comparable interventions, further limiting our ability to identify packages of interventions that work well. Finally, the context‐specific nature of these barriers—whether a barrier exists in a setting and how it manifests and operates—means that a program that is effective in one setting may not be effective in another. While some effective and promising approaches exist to address gender‐related barriers to education for girls, evidence gaps exist on more than half of our hypothesized gender‐related barriers to education, including lack of support for girls' education, SRGBV, lack of safe spaces and social connections, inadequate life skills, and inadequate MHM, among others. In some cases, despite numerous studies examining interventions addressing a specific barrier, studies either did not disaggregate results by sex, or they were not designed to isolate the effects of each intervention component. Differences in context and in implementation, such as the number of program components, curricula content, and duration of interventions, also make it difficult to compare interventions to one another. Finally, few studies looked at pathways between interventions and education outcomes, so the reasons for differences in outcomes largely remain unclear.
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This study examined the effects of poverty on household education expenditure in Malawi. Most of the data of the variables used in this research was secondary data that were sourced from the National Statistics Office (NSO) of Malawi. This study applied Logit Regression model for the purpose of estimating the probability that the unobserved variable falls within the various threshold limits. Household income, household size, the number of people who are employed, employment status, and the education attainment of the household were found to exert a strong positive impact on household expenditure. The gender and age of the household head had no impact on the variations in household expenditure. The results of this study contribute to the understanding of the socioeconomic and demographic effects of poverty associated with household expenditure in Malawi. It also provides a picture of poverty outcomes which helps identify potential target groups for poverty alleviation strategies. This study suggests that for the government to alleviate poverty, there is need to invest in tertiary education. The government should also invest in affordable, high quality child care and early education.
Purpose This study investigated the trends of repetition and dropout rates in Myanmar's lower secondary education before and after the introduction of the “Continuous Assessment and Progression System (CAPS)” and probed the dependence of these tendencies on high-, middle- and low- socioeconomic status (SES). The obtained results were then examined to extract effective policy implications for the achievement of universal secondary education as specified in the Sustainable Development Goals. Design/methodology/approach Before and after the CAPS introduction at four government secondary schools, grade repetition and dropout rate trends were examined with respect to differences in students' SES. The analysis utilised a sample of 7,272 students from target secondary schools in urban Yangon Region, Myanmar. Findings It was found that since the introduction of CAPS, the grade repetition rates had fallen significantly in all SES groups, so was effective regardless of students' SES. The results also demonstrated the influence of unequal CAPS on dropout rates: in the middle-SES group, significant falls to nearly zero post-CAPS implementation. The high-SES group was at ceiling pre- and post-CAPS, so was unaffected. However, in the low-SES group, high dropout rates persisted, indicating that the poor socioeconomic backgrounds of these students significantly reduced the benefits of CAPS. Originality/value Rather than using cross-sectional data such as education statistics, this study used longitudinal data based on academic enrollment registries that included information on individual enrollment statuses, which allowed for the relationships between grade repetition, school dropout, education policies and socioeconomic circumstances to be elucidated.
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A study was commissioned by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Bureau for Africa, to investigate the changing roles of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in basic education in Africa. This Malawi case study was conducted by the Centre for Educational Research and Training of the University of Malawi. Information for the study was collected through interviews with key stakeholders in crucial institutions such as the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST); Ministry of Gender, Youth and Community Service (MoGYCS), the ministry responsible for NGO registration; donor agencies that are currently responsible for youth registration; donor agencies that are currently using NGOs to implement their programs, particularly in basic education and NGOs directly involved in education. The study used nine NGOs and four international, three local, and two networking coalitions. Six lessons learned from NGO experience in the education sector in Malawi were: (1) regulation of NGOs within the sector is weak; (2) MoEST should monitor NGO activities and give direction to ensure coherence and harmony in efforts exerted within the sector; (3) the little interaction that exists between NGOs and MoEST is superficial, with weak mechanisms for collaboration; (4) absence of meaningful interaction between NGOs and MoEST robs the system of opportunities to scale up programs; (5) in the recent past, the roles of NGOs in education in Malawi have evolved from service provision to policy advocacy; and (6) NGOs could do well to involve MoEST from the designing to the implementation stages of innovations to increase the chance of government adopting the innovations nationally. (Contains 13 references.) (BT)
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Summaries This article asks whether social policy in the South meets social needs. We argue that in poor countries, social policy as conventionally designed and delivered leaves the needs of the poor inadequately addressed – and identify two key reasons why this is so. The first is that northern models of social provisioning were transplanted to poor countries with little adaptation to local realities; the second arises from the top-down and sectoral nature of social policy. The result is a mismatch between the provision of social goods and services and actual needs. We propose criteria for assessing whether social policies match needs, and discuss initial steps which might bridge the identified gap.
The new Government of Malawi has made education, particularly primary education, its top priority. After public recurrent spending on education surged and primary school fees were abolished in 1994, Malawian households responded and primary-level enrollments jumped by more than 60%. This study uses the Benefit Incidence Analysis to examine the distribution of public spending in education across different socioeconomic groups before and after these changes. Recent public budgetary changes favoring primary-level spending, the removal of all primary school fees and the surge in enrollments at this level had a significant impact on the distribution of public education spending in Malawi. In 1994-5, the poorest one-fifth of the population received 16% of all public education spending compared to only 10% in 1990-1, while the share going to the richest one-fifth of the population declined from 38 to 25% between the same years. The Malawi example shows that an effective way to increase the equity of public spending in education is to increase the total allocation of public resources to primary education whlie easing the constraints on the demand for education faced by poor households.
In 1994, the newly elected Government in Malawi abolished primary school fees. Using household survey data from 1990/91 and 1997/98 this paper assesses the impact this major policy change, combined with increased Government spending on education, has had on access to schooling by the poor. This paper shows that enrolment rates have increased dramatically over the 1990s, at both the primary and secondary levels, and that crucially these gains have been greatest for the poor. In order to sustain and build-on these gains the paper suggests cutting back on the informal 'contributions' that are widely prevalent in primary school and improving the allocation of secondary school funding. Furthermore, the focus of policy reform, particularly at primary, should shift towards raising the quality of education.
Since 1980 harsh economic factors have hit Malawi: periodic drought and subsequent decline in crop output, falling world prices for export commodities, and an ever heavier debt burden. How have these economic shocks touched children and schools? This article shows how Malawi's protracted period of adjustment temporarily lowered school enrolment, as rural families drew on their children's labour to backstop erosion of subsistence and surplus production. But this slowing of school expansion was short lived. Popular demand for primary education rebounded strongly, far outpacing the government's limited fiscal capacity to build more schools and train more teachers. -from Author
Malawi adopted free primary education in 1994 following the democratic election of a new government. This resulted in a massive increase in the demand for primary teachers. Pre-career, full-time teacher education was replaced by the Malawi integrated in-service teacher education programme (MIITEP). This was a mixed-mode system where periods of college-based training alternated with distance and local level support for training with a school base. The programme was introduced in 1997 and has successfully trained over 18,000 teachers. This paper describes the programme, and presents evidence on different elements of its implementation. It draws attention to its strengths and weaknesses and some of the conditions which need to be met to improve its quality.
The work of experienced and student lower primary teachers in three schools in Southern Malawi was studied, using lesson observations, interviews and pupil tests. The use teachers make of songs is given as an example of how they use oral culture. The function of songs in lessons is mainly to manage the class rather than to teach content, in contrast to the emphasis in official curriculum materials. The ways in which songs indirectly support learning by ameliorating some of the difficult teaching and learning conditions are described. It is argued that teachers respond to the situation of the learners as a group, which leads to a critical examination of common interpretations of learner-centred teaching. Several implications of the study for teacher education and research are highlighted.
The contribution of primary schooling to economic development is greater than has conventionally been percieved. This review of recent research shows that primary schooling increases labour productivity in both urban and rural sectors, and that the economic returns to such investment are typically high. In addition, it reduces fertility, improves health and nutrition, and promotes other behavioural and attitudinal changes which are helpful to economic development. Investment strategies which give primary schooling an important place would be more conducive of growth-with-equity than many alternatives. Priorities for government and donor policies are indicated, as are those for future research.