Low-cost, low-tech and sustainable – how to transform the Malawi education system

Low-cost, low-tech and sustainable – how to transform the Malawi education system


3rd April 2019

With over 12 years’ experience working to improve the quality of education in Malawi, Link Community Development reflect on their latest results.

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Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world with around 87% of the population living in poverty. Education is the key to escaping this cycle of poverty, and yet 10% of primary school teachers have not received the minimum training, just 22% of schools have access to electricity and thousands of children are being left without the education they need to change their lives.

We’re on a mission to turn that around. We’ve been working in the country since 2006 and helped to create the first ever national quality education framework laying out what a good school should look like, which has now been put in place in every school in Malawi. Our next challenge was to help the Ministry of Education to use those standards to drive forward the improvements that are so desperately needed.

We started where we always do. With communities.

Over the past few years we have been running projects that mobilise parents, teachers, pupils, school inspectors, and every stakeholder you can think of to take ownership of their schools and help them be the best they can be. Using the new national framework as a foundation stone, we built community solutions to entrenched problems and empowered communities to understand what a good school should look like, what they can do to help and their right to demand quality schools for their children.  One crucial piece of work was to ensure that people who are usually marginalised (living with disability, albinism, extreme poverty, and vulnerable children) were included throughout the process. We know no school is an island. Every voice is needed to stand up for children across the country and their right to a quality education.

Crucially, our approach is low-cost, and low-tech. We spent just £615 per school per year. Some of our most effective interventions were things such as painting murals on school walls to help parents hold their school accountable to government policy or using a ‘board game’ to train PTAs and community school governance committees on how to make more effective and inclusive decisions when managing their school.

I’m writing this today as the results are in and we are thrilled. We’ve seen an amazing 22% increase in the number of children passing their primary school leaving exams. 5 times more community members told us that they think their school is being managed well and there’s been an 88% increase in the number of marginalised people getting involved with school activities.

We know the power that local communities have to transform their fortunes and make real change. We are delighted to be able to support them and can’t wait to see what happens next.

Click here for more information about Link’s work and the results from these projects or watch the video below to hear first-hand how they’re making a difference.