USAID and UNICEF sign MoU in multimillion dollar secondary education expansion project for Malawi

United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), who are among major development partners for the Government of Malawi, on Thursday, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which enables the two agencies to collaborate in the implementation of the Secondary Education Expansion for Development (SEED) project.

The MoU signing took place at Mkoko construction site in Lilongwe—in the presence of the Minister of Education, Agnes NyaLonje.

NyaLonje being shown a building under construction

Apparently, USAID in partnership with the Government of Malawi, has already been implementing the project to the tune of US$90 million, which seeks to construct new or renovate infrastructure in 250 secondary schools across the country in order to improve enrolment and learning.

USAID committed to funding the initial school infrastructure at each construction site, including, among others, two classroom blocks, a science laboratory, latrines and two teacher houses.

Under the MoU, UNICEF will, among other things, invest an additional US$6 million into SEED, which will be used to procure furniture for all schools constructed under the project.

Speaking during the signing, USAID Malawi Mission Director, Dr. Catie Lott, said the partnership will work to expand opportunities so that the youth, particularly adolescent girls and young women, can contribute to their own and their community’s development.

Signature being exchanged

“One of the most important tools we can give to young people is the opportunity to pursue a quality education. As USAID, we are proud to work with UNICEF and the Government of Malawi to improve access to quality education and marketable skills, so that all Malawian children and youth can have the foundation for healthier, more productive lives.

As we work together to lay foundations—both figuratively and literally—we know the buildings that will come, the teachers who will occupy them and the villages that surround and support these schools, will nurture these youth to become our future doctors, engineers, farmers, electricians, pilots, journalists, chiefs and presidents,” Lott said.

In his remarks, UNICEF Representative in Malawi, Rudolf Schwenk, said the agency is honored to partner with the Ministry of Education and USAID to equip secondary schools with school furniture, including, among others, chairs and desks for students and teachers and laboratory stools.

“The signing of this MoU is a testament to our commitment to addressing the pressing infrastructure needs in the education sector, especially the shortage of classroom facilities and furniture required for a conducive learning environment for children.

At UNICEF, we believe that every child has the fundamental right to quality education – one that provides a safe, friendly environment with appropriate facilities and infrastructure. And yet, we know that millions of children in Malawi do not have access to basic classrooms and adequate education materials that make learning difficult for them. Proper school facilities like desks help keep children in school by increasing attendance and improving the learning experience,” Schwenk said.

As part of the SEED project, the Government of Malawi has committed not only to secure land tenure for the construction of schools, but also to staff the completed schools with qualified teachers.

Taking her turn, the Minister of Education, Agnes NyaLonje, said the partnership between USAID and UNICEF will help “bring to fruition” the Tonse Government’s dream of equitable access to secondary education for all Malawian youths.

“Increasing access and improving the safety of schools will allow more youth, especially adolescent girls and young women to transit from primary to secondary and be able to complete their studies. The current transition rate from primary to secondary is 37% while the net enrolment rate in secondary school is at 15%. This means that majority of secondary school going age youths are not in school.

“USAID and the Ministry of Education are proud to now partner with UNICEF in this endeavour, ensuring that the SEED schools are fully equipped with furniture supplied by UNICEF, so that the children and youth that attend these schools can sit comfortably and learn in an environment that maximizes their ability to gain the skills and knowledge necessary for making healthy choices and continuing their education beyond secondary,” NyaLonje said.

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