While Malawi is on the road to realize the Vision 2063, the country’s development blue print, DVV International, a German organization, says adult education is key for Malawi’s success in achieving the 2063 goal. Nation Publications Limited’s Reporter Clement Chinoko engages DVV International Communications Officer for Southern Africa, DYSON MTHAWANJI. Excerpts:
When did DVV International open its doors in Malawi?
DVV International officially opened its doors in Malawi in December 2017. The Malawi country office is also the headquarters for DVV International Southern Africa, which also includes South Africa, and Mozambique.
In Malawi, we are closely working with the National Centre for Literacy and Adult Education (NACLAE) at the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare. NACLAE oversees approximately 10,000 literacy centres nationally. About 15 percent of these centres are for English while 85 percent are for Chichewa. DVV International supports these centres through training of literacy instructors among other interventions.
Do people fully understand Adult Learning and Education (ALE) in Malawi?
Historically, ALE in Malawi and in Southern Africa has been viewed in a very narrow way as just literacy and numeracy (Sukulu za kwacha). We need to move away from this old-fashioned way of thinking. ALE is about all of the learning and skills that adults need for their lives across multiple sectors. Literacy and numeracy are foundational skills and are important but they need to be linked to practical knowledge and skills that adults need and are interested in and can use in their daily lives.
Of late we have seen much talk and visibility for ALE. How important is it to personal, community and national development?
ALE is an important component in all development aspects. For people to follow and understand good agricultural practices, they should be able to read various messages that government or NGOs put forward. ALE is important in health, climate change, entrepreneurship and all other sectors. In short, ALE is a cross cutting issue which should be mainstreamed in all development interventions.
According to the World Bank, smallholder farmers account for 80 percent of Malawi's population but statistics show that 60 percent of them are illiterate. Malawi is an agro-based economy; thus, we should make more small-holder farmers literate for them to easily understand new agricultural technologies. Extending the ALE reach to agriculture, as DVV International is bidding, could spur production.
In 2020, Malawi Government approved the National Adult Literacy and Education Policy. What was the gap in absence of this Policy? And how will it benefit the ALE sector?
As there was no policy in the past, it was difficult for stakeholders to follow a common direction. The policy enables stakeholders throughout the country to understand what the national goals and aspirations are to contribute to achieving these.
The goal of the policy is to reduce illiteracy and enhance skills development and education amongst adults and targeted youths for effective participation in socio economic development. The policy has four priority areas, which are: coordination and collaboration; access, relevance and quality; visibility and awareness; and resource mobilization. The policy will thus give government and stakeholders the much-needed direction to accelerate achievement of literacy goals in relation to the four priority areas.
Also take note that in July 2022, Malawi Government approved the National Adult Literacy and Education Strategic Plan. Both the Policy and the Strategic Plan will be launched soon.
Why should Malawi invest resources in ALE?
Education, in general, and literacy, in particular, harbours many positive contributions towards economic and sustainable development. ALE enables people at the grassroot to effectively participate in development.
In Malawi, it was demonstrated by the academicians in 2009 that one additional year of schooling increased lifetime earnings by 10 percent on average, by 9.7 percent among male workers and 11.4 percent among female workers. Education contributes 3 percent to the GDP which is estimated at K6.7 trillion according to the 2020 annual economic report by the Ministry of Finance. Higher levels of literacy are needed to improve people’s contribution towards personal and community development in Malawi.
ALE is the least funded of all sub-sectors of education, even though it is by far the longest learning period of our lives. Funding for ALE has been less than 1 percent of the education sector budget. For instance, between 2003/2004 and 2007/2008 government allocation to adult literacy in relation to the Ministry of Education was: MK50,000,000 (0.48 percent).
Between 2012 and 2016 government funding ranged from K120 million in 2012/2013 financial year to K80 million in 2016/17 financial year. In the past five years funding declined from K309 million in 2017/18 to around K104 million in 2020/2021 averaging just 0.16 percent of the education sector budget.
As the country moves towards Vision 2063, it is important to mainstream ALE because it is a hub of community development. Government should also increase funding towards ALE.
Is Malawi making progress on Adult Learning and Education?
Yes, there is great progress in Malawi. Previously, the country had no policy regarding ALE. But now there is a National Policy on Adult Literacy and Education which was approved by the Malawi Government in February 2020. The ALE Policy aims to ‘make literate’ 1,500,000 people between 2020 and 2025.
This Policy is important because it will help in reducing illiteracy and enhance skills development and education amongst adults for effective participation in personal, community and national development.
ALE needs to be understood as multi-sectoral and multi-dimensional learning. We should not limit our discussion to the ability to read and write. The ability to read and write in one’s language and others’ languages is very important because it helps one to be aware of knowledge hidden behind those languages’ codes.
ALE goes beyond literacy and numeracy. ALE provides the necessary skills and information that are required in people’s everyday lives. This may include information about hygiene, political rights etc.
We should make literacy centres attractive as far as the provided skills and knowledge are concerned. Men think of engaging in things that will give them good reward in relation to what they already engage in. Therefore, there is a need to bring innovative approaches towards ALE. That is why DVV International has been implementing Integrated Adult Education. A programme like this gives people skills and knowledge that are important in their business, agriculture and other endeavours.
Literacy and numeracy are foundational skills but they need to be linked to practical knowledge and skills that people need and use in their daily lives. To redesign the ALE focus, DVV International is working with the Government of Malawi and Civil Society Organisations in the country to promote Integrated Adult Education.
Through Integrated Adult Education, participants learn knowledge and skills in areas they need such as agriculture and entrepreneurship while simultaneously learning literacy and numeracy.
The United Nations championed Sustainable Development Goal number four challenges countries to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all”
Target 4.6 of the goal explicitly tackles ALE, asking its member countries to "by 2030 ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy.”
(This article was first published by the Weekend Nation newspaper in Malawi on 4th Match, 2023)