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allAfrica.com: Africa: Abolishing Fees Boosts African Schooling (Page 2 of 2) - 0 views

  • Malawi struggles to cope

    Other countries have been less successful. Malawi eliminated its school fees in 1994. But with less than half of Kenya's gross domestic product per person and fewer financial and human resources to draw on, it still faces difficult challenges in providing universal primary education.

  • As in many other African countries, notes the UN study, "the adoption of universal primary education was triggered by political demands rather than by rational planning processes." Although Malawi had lifted some fees for Standards 1 and 2 and waived primary education fees for girls prior to 1994, the decision to eliminate all fees coincided with the return of multiparty elections that year. The focus, the researchers found, was on increasing enrolment. "Very little attention was paid to quality issues."
  • One immediate response was to hire 20,000 new teachers, almost all of whom were secondary school graduates who were given only two weeks of training. Plans to provide on-the-job training failed to materialize. Instructional quality declined sharply as the pupil-teacher ratio climbed to 70 to 1.
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  • The lack of facilities meant that many classes met under trees, and books and teaching materials arrived months late, if at all. Despite increases in the education budget, spending per student, already low, declined by about 25 per cent and contributed to the decline in quality. As a result nearly 300,000 students dropped out during the first year, and high dropout rates continue to this day.
  • Overall, reports the UN study, only about 20 per cent of boys and girls successfully complete eight years of primary education in Malawi. This is largely a function of the country's deep poverty, the researchers say, and the lack of resources, such as nutrition programmes, to help poor children remain in school.
  • The abolition of school fees is a precondition for getting large numbers of poor children into school, but it must be accompanied by strong public and political support, sound planning and reform, and increased financing.
  • fter systems adjust to the surge in enrolment, they argue, resources must be directed at improving quality and meeting the needs of the very poor, those in distant rural areas and children with disabilities. The analysts say that a particular focus should be girls, who face a range of obstacles to attending and staying in school, including cultural attitudes that devalue education for women. Improved sanitation and facilities and better safety and security conditions can make it easier to keep girls in school.
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