EQUALS project to improve sciences in Malawi schools

Some secondary schools in the country which operate without science laboratories are looking up to the Equity with Quality and Learning at Secondary (Equals) Project for help to have the facilities soon.

Equals aims to improve quality of science and mathematics instruction in community day secondary schools (CDSSs) and increase access to secondary education in selected remote areas.

It is a 6-year Government of Malawi project under the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, supported by the World Bank through an IDA credit facility of US$90million.

However, a tour of Nchalo CDSS and Dzumila Secondary School in Chikwawa District, Mphande CDSS in Mwanza District and Chiyendausiku CDSS in Balaka District–established that science laboratories have not been built since the Equals project rolled out about two years.

Mwanza Secondary School, another facility which was toured, has physical science and biology laboratories but authorities there were quick to say that the laboratories require more apparatus and improvements.

But head teacher for Dzumila secondary school, Nsiku Banda, said the teaching and learning of science subjects still goes on–with teachers motivated by the “teachers support trainings” they have had under the Equals project and students motivated by the promise of laboratories and more apparatus.

“As it is, we continue using our own means to demonstrate to the students how they can apply practically the things they learn in theory.

“The promise for laboratories must come to fruition for this is what excites our teachers and students to become more interested in sciences,” said Banda.

Banda’s sentiments were echoed by head teacher for Chiyendausiku CDSS, Hackson Chikodzera.

Otherwise, as established in the five schools, learning sciences without laboratories or apparatus is reportedly “reducing the chances of students to excell in these subjects”.

Esmie Timpuza, a form four student at Nchalo CDSS, said: “We have capable teachers well supported by Equals project in terms of skills development.

“But without laboratories, we come out of the classroom without hands on experience about the theory things we learn. This affects our performance during school and national exams”.

But how are the science teachers’ managing to generate interest among learners to still take up science subjects amid all these challenges?

Kayira Gwaza, a Mathematics teacher at Mphande CDSS, said this is possible because of “good teaching and presentation methodologies of content” she learned during teachers support trainings sanctioned by the Equals project.

“The trainings are helping us handle topics better, how best we can apply the knowledge in order to take the students from basic level to higher levels. We emphasize on hands on activities. Not abstract methods,” she explained.

In his response to the concerns, deputy director for secondary education in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Samuel Chibwana, said construction of laboratories has delayed because the ministry wanted to “ensure that all the necessary processes of procuring contractors are done in a better way”.

“In one or two months, the contracts will be awarded to the successful bidders. And looking at the schedule, it will take 18 months for some of the infrastructure to be erected. Before the end of this year, these structures will be erected at some of the sites,” said Chibwana.

He added: “some of these schools and districts are targeted because indicators showed that students from there are facing a number of problems with their education. These laboratories and libraries will be constructed so that the students access materials nearby. They should not walk long distances”.

Chibwana further said the ministry has completed teacher orientation on the new curriculum in four of the country’s six education divisions, adding that trainers are on the ground to assess how teachers are handling some of the materials already prepared.

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Erik P
Erik P
1 year ago

Science will always be a problem in most African countries because universities are mostly closed to the outside world. Europe and USA positively fund and encourage movement of scientists. A typical UK or US university will have about a third of the staff from abroad, as they want the best. Malawi is more concerned about salaries for Malawians than scientific progress. Although there are some excellent scientists in Malawi, education at graduate level will remain substandard until Malawi grasps internationalism.

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