Despite its stable democracy and flourishing tourism industry, Malawi is among the poorest, most underdeveloped and most densely populated countries in the world. Malawi has one of the lowest per capita incomes in the world and relies heavily on partnerships with foreign aid agencies and nonprofit organizations.
Rich in culture and warm in spirit, Malawi is known as the warm heart of Africa. Malawians are challenged with major agricultural, health and education issues. Many Malawians rely on agriculture, but increasing climate variability results in poor crop yields. In addition, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has devastated the Malawian community, with a particular impact on children.
Despite monumental progress, educational development continues to be a challenge in Malawi. In 1994, the government established free primary education for all children. However, the resulting surge in enrollment led to an understaffed and underfunded education system, with schools struggling to find necessary resources and teachers. The average teacher to student ratio is 1: 130 and the average text book to student ratio is 1: 10-15.
Students also face language challenges throughout primary school and as part of the process of being selected to secondary school. Although English is the National language, the vernacular languages in HELP’s catchment area are Yao and Chichewa. Students have the added task of learning and mastering English in order to receive acceptable marks on the national exam for secondary school.
In addition, secondary school education is only provided through scholarships or the family paying tuition. However, given the fact that parents in Malawi typically live on $1.50 a day, they cannot afford furthering their children’s education.