26 January 2016

Malawi: 'Child Friendly Schools Catalyst to Quality Education'

Mangochi — Acting Director of Department for Teacher Education, Mary Chirwa has said child friendly schools' concept could be a catalyst to achieving quality education if it were implemented to the fullest.

"The concept of child friendly schools is one among several factors affecting girl child learner achievement in our schools. There is need to address this factor through teacher training in order to achieve accessible and quality education," Chirwa said.

Chirwa was speaking at the weekend during a stakeholders' annual review meeting on joint programme on girl child education at Machinga Teachers Training College (TTC) which is being implemented in Dedza, Mangochi and Salima for three years with support from UN agencies.

The acting director said the education sector has a deliberate policy focusing on improving access and quality education for a girl child considering that girls were lagging behind in that aspect. She emphasised that all schools should strive towards creating an enabling environment to realize the much needed quality education.

"For example several policy documents including the EMIS 2011, indicate 53 percent of boys completed full cycle of primary education while girls had 47 percent. Therefore, putting emphasis on girl child education does not completely mean leaving out boys," Chirwa added.

She appealed to all players in the education sector to fight against forces which may stand in the way for the attainment of set goals regarding retention of girls in schools. "I am sure this is one reason Machinga TTC, as a government primary teacher college, wants to be part of the war, fighting these forces."

Chirwa, however, observed that while attention was being shifted from Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable development Goals, the education's role would be to champion inclusive quality education for sustainable development.

"We need proper methods for delivery of our curriculum, we need resources for education to be meaningful to our learners and we need life skills to sustain life after school," Chirwa said, pointing out that there were 28 national education standards developed for government to monitor delivery of education in the country.

She said the education ministry was impressed with the girl child education intervention considering the numerous challenges facing the girl child, saying the initiative would make a positive contribution to the socio - economic development of the country whose major factor was quality education.

Chirwa, therefore, thanked the UN agencies such as UINCEF, UNFPA, WFP and UNDP for their efforts in improving access and quality of education in Malawi with emphasis on a girl child.

In his remarks, Machinga TTC Principal, Macauden Msakatiza said the programme has registered a number of successes in the first year, citing training of teachers in participating clusters to mobilize and manage teaching resources in the established Teacher Resource Centres (TRCs).

"The monitoring exercise that was conducted revealed that there is a change in the way things are being done in the participating schools of the three districts," Msakatiza said, admitting that challenges were inevitable in the course of programme implementation.

"One of the major problems we encountered in the first year was during the establishment of TRCs. Most schools did not have adequate space for TRCs which require a special room for keeping teaching and learning materials where both teachers and learners can appreciate," he said.

Msakatiza, therefore, disclosed that the project would in the second year of implementation construct 35 Teacher Resource Centres in the three participating districts which would act as models for other schools within the cluster to emulate.

Ngolowindo Cluster Leader Charles Chitsamba hailed the introduction of the girl child education concept, saying it has contributed to effective delivery of lessons and management of resources thereby enhancing access and quality education for the girl child.

"There have been some notable changes which were not there before the concept was introduced. We had no skills in mobilising communities to come up with resources for teaching since we only thought that such work was limited to a teacher.

"Since within the elements of TRC we also have an area of child protection, we have managed to establish child protection committees whose membership comprises learners, community members and teachers," Chitsamba added.

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