According to UNICF, “Every day, millions of children throughout Africa struggle to learn while sitting on the floor or on the ground outdoors. Giving them a desk, where they can write and concentrate, is the first step towards creating an educational system that attracts, and keeps, eager young students,” many of these children live in Malawi.
Malawi, officially called the Republic of Malawi (formerly known as Nyasaland), is located in southeast Africa. It is bordered by Zambia, Tanzania, and Mozambique.
Malawi with a per capita of less than $1,000, is one of the world’s least developed countries. More than 80% of the population lives in rural areas. Joyce Hilda Banda is the President of Malawi since April 2012. She is the first female president, an educator, and grassroots women's rights activist. Forbes named President Banda as the 71st most powerful woman in the world and the most powerful woman in Africa.
The economy is maintained by the agribusiness which contributes to more than 35% of GDP. In 2011, the country was ranked 119th safest investment destination in the world by the IMF. The continued growth of corruption within the country has fostered its underdevelopment. The Malawian government faces many economic difficulties and persistent health issues, especially, those related to HIV/AIDS.
The major task of improving the educational system is being tackled by the government and outside groups. The constitution of Malawi dictates that citizens are entitled to at least five years of primary education. In 1994, free primary education for all children was established by the government, which increased attendance rates. However, 4 of every 5 school aged child in Malawi does not have a desk in school.
Various studies have shown that, “Dropout rates are higher for girls than boys, attributed to security problems during the long travel to school, as girls face a higher prevalence of gender-based violence.”
The studies further state that, “attendance rates for all children are improving, with enrollment rates for primary schools increased from 58% in 1992 to 75% in 2007, while the number of students who begin in grade one and complete grade five has increased from 64% in 1992 to 86% in 2006. Youth literacy has also increased, moving from 68% in 2000 to 82% in 2007. This increase is primarily attributed to improved learning materials in schools, better infrastructure and feeding programs that have been implemented throughout the school system.”
Lawrence O'Donnell, Jr., is an American political analyst and host of The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell (a weeknight MSNBC opinion and news program), decided to help. He started a program called Kids In Need of Desks (KIND Fund). He recently announced that over $6 million has already been raised to provide desks and scholarships for children in Malawi. Learn more here.
Compiled and edited by: Karl A. Haughton