Education in Malawi: A Reflection on International Day of Education


On January 24th the world celebrated the International Day of Education with this year’s theme being "learning for lasting peace". This day does not only serve as a reminder of the important role that education plays in the world, but also as an opportunity to improve education systems, especially in developing countries like Malawi, where education represents a pathway towards positive change and economic growth.

Malawi is a landlocked country in south-eastern Africa with half its population comprising young people. The importance of education in Malawi where almost half of the population are youths cannot be downplayed. Education is not only a key to economic growth but a fundamental aspect of promoting democracy and better institutions in a country (Barro, 1998).  Despite this obvious significance of education, Malawi still faces numerous challenges.

Challenges facing the education system in Malawi

The digital divide is one challenge that the education system in Malawi faces. While there has been a huge transformation experienced in the developed world including internet developments, mobile technologies, as well as the rise of open education resources, such changes cannot be said for many developing countries like Malawi, where access to digital technologies is much more limited (Hilbert 2011; Miah and Omar 2012). With the world going digital, Malawi remains behind with only 24.4% of its population having access to the internet (World Bank Open Data, 2024).  UNICEF's Malawi Education Fact Sheets reveal that over 90% of students between the ages of 3 and 17 lack internet access, with merely 4% of 15 to 24-year-olds possessing ICT skills in Malawi. This denies students access to remote learning tools, which is a very important part of education. The Report also observes that more urban youth have ICT skills than rural youth, which indicates that the digital divide exists along socio-economic lines (UNICEF, 2022).

Disparities in social and economic status also pose as a big challenge in Malawi’s education system. UNICEF’s Malawi Education Fact Sheets states that, the gap between completion rates of children from rich and poor backgrounds remains high at all levels of the education system. Rural and poor children have completion rates below the average for all Malawians, whereas urban and richer children have completion rates above average. This means that children from wealthier families are far more likely to finish their education compared to their less fortunate peers. In primary school (elementary school), 67% of the children from the wealthiest families complete their education, compared to only 11% from the poorest families. Furthermore, while 43% of children from the richest families complete senior secondary education, less than 2% of children from the poorest families do so. The disparity by wealth quintile exists in both repetition rate and dropout rate as well, with children belonging to the poorest wealth quintile having higher repetition and dropout rates (UNICEF, 2022).

Gender disparity is another challenge that persists in the Malawian education system. To date, the prevalence of child marriages in Malawi is higher for girls than for boys, particularly for those married between ages 15 and 18. The Malawi Education Fact Sheets reveals that in the year 2022, among girls who had attained primary education as their highest level of education, 41% of them were married between 15 and 18 years old. This increased school dropout rates among female students has resulted in girls who married early having markedly lower literacy rates and an extremely low share of ICT skills (UNICEF, 2022).

What can be done?

With these statistics, the first step is to bridge the digital divide that is prevalent in Malawi by intentionally putting in place policies that will make it easy for people to have access to digital devices including the provision of digital training to students. By providing digital training, students can acquire digital literacy and gain a competitive advantage which will in turn improve their learning experiences and open doors of opportunities for them. This is in conjunction with the need for digital technologies in education institutions in Malawi. The integration of digital technologies is crucial as it equips individuals with essential knowledge, skills, and competencies necessary for thriving in a technology-driven society. This integration also fosters lifelong learning opportunities, enabling citizens to adapt to evolving technological landscapes. Additionally, it facilitates the expansion of access to quality education, ensuring that communities can fully utilize the benefits of digital technologies (Kalolo, 2019).

Additionally, given the current socioeconomic circumstances in Malawi, there is a need for incentives that can encourage citizens to send their children to school. It is also critical to increase awareness about the importance and impact of education, especially educating girls. This will enable citizens to make appropriate choices and provide an enabling environment to achieve gender parity in education. Creating awareness about the importance of educating girls and addressing the issue of gender disparity in education, requires the adoption of a more coordinated and integrated approach with constant support from all stakeholders (Somani, 2017).

In a nutshell, as we reflect on the International Day of Education, it is essential to celebrate the progress made in expanding educational opportunities in developing countries, like Malawi. However, it is also a time for renewed commitment and action. The government, policymakers, civil society organizations, and the international community must work together to address the underlying educational barriers, including the digital divide, socioeconomic biases, and gender disparities. Investing in education is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic investment in the future of nations.


  • Barro, R.J. (1998) Determinants of Economic Growth: A Cross-Country Empirical. MIT Press, Cambridge.
  • Hilbert, M. (2011). The end justifies the definition: The manifold outlooks on the digital divide and their practical usefulness for policy-making. Telecommunications Policy, 35, 715–736.
  • Kalolo, J. F. (2019). Digital revolution and its impact on education systems in developing countries. Education and Information Technologies, 24(1), 345–358.
  • Miah, M., & Omar, A. (2012). Technology Advancement in Developing Countries During wet Age. International Journal of Information Management, 32(6)
  • Somani, T. (2017). Importance of Educating Girls for the Overall Development of Society: A Global Perspective. Journal of Educational Research and Practice, 7(1)
  • UNICEF, (2022). Malawi Education Fact Sheets: Analyses for Learning and Equity Using MICS Data. UNICEF. Lilongwe.
  •  World Bank Open Data. (2024). World Bank Open Data. Retrieved 4 March 2024, from

About the Author

Mayamiko Chimbali

Mayamiko Chimbali is currently pursuing a Master's in Public Policy from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy at the University of Erfurt. Holding a Bachelor's in Communication and Cultural Studies from the University of Malawi, Chancellor College, she has a diverse background in public relations, community development, and education.

~ The views represented in this blog post do not necessarily represent those of the Brandt School. ~

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