Like children in the US, hundreds of thousands of Malawian children headed back to school in September. But unlike students in the US, Malawian students face a number of obstacles to obtaining an education, particularly if they are from poor families. Paying for school supplies, uniforms, and schools fees can prove a challenging burden for families already struggling to just feed and shelter their children.
As attending primary school in Malawi is free, most Malawian children typically receive some basic education. However, school fees for secondary school is one reason why only 275,000 of the 3 million students in primary education continue on to receive a secondary education (grades 6-12).
Partners In Health (PIH) and its sister organization in Malawi, Abwenzi Pa Za Umoyo (APZU) know that access to education is instrumental to breaking the cycle of poverty and disease in resource poor countries. Studies show that people who have access to secondary education enjoy significantly higher lifetime earnings and better health. And the benefits carry over to their children who are pronouncedly better nourished, healthier, and more likely to attend school themselves.
Reports from the United Nations Population Fund show a direct correlation between primary education and rates of HIV/AIDS. The more educated young people are, the more likely they are to protect themselves and the less likely they are to engage in risky sexual behavior. If all children received a complete primary education, the economic impact of HIV/AIDS could be greatly reduced and around 700,000 cases of HIV in young adults could be prevented each year—seven million in a decade, according to the reports. Other studies show that every additional year of schooling can increase lifetime earnings by 7 percent or more. Education is crucial to addressing both disease and poverty.
APZU is committed to assisting local communities as they strive to continue providing education opportunities to their children. Since beginning work in the country in 2007, APZU has actively focused its support on orphans and vulnerable children, those young people most likely to slip through the cracks.
APZU’s Program on Social and Economic Rights (POSER) will support roughly 900 at-risk students this year. This includes both social support from APZU staff, as well as the costs of uniforms, school materials (exercise books, pencils, etc.) for primary students and tuition/examination fees and shoes for secondary students.
Learn more about APZU’s work in Malawi.