Action Plan for Improving Education Inequality in Malawi and South Africa

Posted: November 8th, 2023

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Action Plan for Improving Education Inequality in Malawi and South Africa

Background Information

Most public policymakers should contend with the fact that societal inequality begins with education inequalities. Vulnerable learners in Malawi and South Africa are at high risk of falling behind, dropping out of school, or recording irregular school attendance due to gaps in educational provisions. High poverty and HIV prevalence rates are some of the factors contributing to the inequality and disruption of learning. Using this scientific understanding, the proposed action plan introduces a three-step solution for addressing education inequality in the two countries. The fundamental premise of the report is that Malawian and South African children face a myriad of threats to their education. A comprehensive approach that addresses key threats, including nutrition, quality of schooling, and female reproductive rights, simultaneously is key to addressing educational inequality.

            The proposed action plan borrows from the unique expertise and availability of several humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organizations, such as UNICEF. The included intervention is to be implemented through a fragmented and layered approach to better target rural areas with the highest rates of education inequality. The overarching objective is to enhance the quality and access level of education. However, to transform current practices, the action plan’s success will rely on support from national policies that acknowledge the need for systematic, behavioural, and cultural changes in the education sector. While the action plan seeks to make education equality a reality in South African and Malawian communities, the success of the program will rely on the effectiveness of the shared understanding of the basic needs and principles behind human rights education and access to a concrete framework for strengthening community partnerships and cooperation at the regional level.


The research methodology for the proposed business strategy follows content and textual analysis of studies on education policy papers and scholarly material on previous policy research on the issue of education inequality in Africa. The assessment will adopt a deductive approach to ensure the findings borrow from history and highlight the current state of educational research and policy. The content analysis will assess texts, including documents, oral communication, videos, and code the textual elements to outline an interpretation others can repeat (White and Marsh 25). The assessment will highlight the state of educational inequality in light of history, culture, and science. The goal is not to focus on the statistical analysis of word frequencies but rather compare systems for a rhetorical criticism of education interventions applied in the past.

            The content analysis focused on news articles, social media posts, conducted interviews, and scientific papers on the research topic. A total of five scientific papers, seven news articles, and thirteen social media posts were identified and selected for the content analysis. The selection criteria for the materials included the date of publication, the authority of authors, the institutions behind the information, and the degree of engagement (Vrij and Mann 343). The inclusion of social media posts was perceived as crucial to the development of a comprehensive action plan because they provide persuasive messages that act as tools for social criticism. The research made sure to source materials from different humanitarian, public, and non-governmental organizations to benefit from a broader pool of professional insight on what has been done to enhance education equality in African countries.

Literature Review

            Pridmore and Jere conducted a longitudinal qualitative study in Malawi to find that school absences and the loss of schooling cannot be explained solely by poverty (520). A multivariate analysis of government data from 1992-2006 found that gaps in education were not mainly economically motivated. Foremost, the study found the likelihood of household organizational changes was associated with a lack of social cohesion, which increased the chances of child abuse and early pregnancy (Pridmore and Jere 520). The authors also found that rural areas had a high demand for child labor, even in the commercial sectors. There was the financial motivation for parents to use their children to earn as opposed to enrolling them in schools (Pridmore and Jere 520). One of the overarching discoveries was the ineffectiveness of school policies. According to the authors, school policies in the country are designed to maintain the status quo. The policies exclude the poor and do not help address gender-based violence and discrimination (Pridmore and Jere 520). Malawi had no fees for schooling but still had a high absence rate, denoting that the trend is not economically motivated.

            The Brookings Center for Universal Education found that addressing the legacy of colonialism and ethnic inequality contributes positively to addressing educational inequalities, especially in rural areas. The research outlined the importance of having locally trained educators spearheading changes in the education setting (Agbor para 2). Local integration was perceived as key in addressing the low teacher-student ratio and in incentivizing parents and children to enroll in community schools. The research also outlined the importance of public and private funding targeted to these local figures (Agbor para 2). Funding was to work in tandem with what the local educators understood was a better quality of life for the students. Therefore, the key message was the inclusion and training of local teachers, who equally participate in decision-making and resource allocation. Rural areas are plagued with infrastructural problems, but their development in addressing educational inequalities should not happen without the integration of locals lest policymakers risk the continuity of systematic barriers, such as low teacher-student ratios.

Localized Schools and Role Models

            In addressing gender-based educational inequalities, Chikhungu and her co-authors found a variety of causes and solutions. The authors cited the lack of appropriate role models in schools to educate mothers and young girls (Chikhungu et al., 5). Rural girls do not have suitable individuals to look up to. As a result, they fail to internalize the importance of having an education. Household responsibilities and the time taken to travel from home to school were other major factors behind the low attendance rates. Rural girls are more likely to stay at home for household-related jobs. For those free to learn, long distances between home and school negatively affected the willingness to participate (Chikhungu et al., 5). The social and infrastructural problem aligns with Pridmore and Jere’s assertion that poverty alone cannot explain the educational disparities. Policymakers are to ensure each rural locality has well-built and stocked learning facilities.

The Social Mobility Issue

Education inequalities will persist if governments do not address the social mobility problem. Rural-to-urban migration in Malawi is a major cause of school attendance and performance differences, especially for young girls (Kadzamira and Rose 16). The Girls’ Attainment in Basic Literacy and Education (GABLE) project, operational from 1991-1998, found that introducing fee waivers for primary school students reduced the parental inclination to move to urban centers (Kadzamira and Rose 17). Since the waivers ensured parents could provide quality education despite their lack of employment, there was less need for them and the children to travel to towns in search of work. Important to note is that access to educational services comes with the additional advantage of access to meals. Children going to school meant that parents benefited from them being fed. Improved learning and nutrition interplay to reduce the inclination to relocate. GABLE, a national, government-based program, is evidence of why bursary initiatives for education need to be expanded and implemented more effectively.

Need for More Inter-Sectorial Collaboration

There is a lack of inter-sectorial collaboration in Malawi in interventions taken to address educational inequalities and the mistreatment of young girls. Sevenier laments over the poor participation of the healthcare industry in advocating for changes in the Malawian Tobacco industry. Healthcare organizations have mainly focused on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, failing to take note of how the Tobacco industry is encouraging child labour, early pregnancies, and educational disruption (1). The healthcare industry is well positioned to work with the government and private sector organizations to raise awareness of the tobacco industry’s perils. The author introduces the need to establish welfare programs that target reducing the age of sexual debut and early marriage (Sevenier). The argument is that educational inequalities will not end if the education sector is the only governmental agency tackling the problem. Healthcare, internal security, and sports are some of the ministries that need to be heavily invested in the campaign.


Value Proposition Canvas

Job to be DoneGainsGain CreatorsPainsPain Relievers
Improve local education infrastructureImproved access to schools Enhanced quality of learningGovernment Non-governmental organizationsLack of inter-sectorial collaboration Public corruptionPrivate sector organizations
Rise gender awareness on the plight of girlsImproved girl attendance rate Negation of harmful gender stereotypesParents Community leadersHarmful cultural practices The Tobacco industryGovernment policies Community role models
Introduction of teacher training programsImproved educator-to-student ratio The emergence of role models The incentive for children to attend local schoolsGovernment Non-government organizationsRural-to-urban migration Lack of inter-sectorial collaborationPrivate sector organizations
Collaborate for mandatory primary educationImproved access to learning resources and quality of educationHumanitarian agenciesA lot of legislative advocacy required Cost barriers Lack of inter-sectorial collaborationPrivate sector organizations
Extend policy for mandatory learning to secondary schoolsImproved access to learning resources and quality of educationGovernment Inter-government funding (International funding)High operational costs It will take time to come into effectCommunity leaders humanitarian agencies
Foster sustainability and community engagementImproved quality of education Community Ownership and PrideLocal businesses Government agencies NGOsLack of inter-sectorial collaborationHumanitarian agencies and private sector organizations

The goal was to combine the literature review results and the value proposition canvas to help ensure that suggested solutions can be localized. The approach began by considering the students’ and educators’ negative experiences per identified solutions in the literature. The next step was to find a balance between the value proposition canvas’s results and the young learners’ profile. Identified was that the suitable solutions will have to go beyond the socioeconomic gaps within primary and secondary education. All solutions have to entail a substantial degree of localization to address the implications of generational mobility that remains persistent due to market forces and adverse cultural practices (Winthrop 1). Local training and development will be crucial. The approach will introduce familiar role models, leaders to foster community engagement, and administrators that improve the student-teacher ratio and educational resource utilization.


The proposed business model for addressing inequality adopts a bottom-up approach where educators and community members work within their limits to address the inequality problem. The first step in the business model is educators working with external financiers to provide books to low-income households. The educators will ensure access to textbooks in the classroom environment. Therefore, parents will not have to buy books because the children get them at school. The next step is to increase the children’s flex time by allowing students to select groups and assignments. Flex will be offered twice a week to allow students to benefit from participation enrichment, clubs, and skill development associated with extracurricular activities. The approach offers educators new ways of identifying students’ academic needs. Students will take ownership of their assignments, motivating them to be consistent with their school attendance.

            Educator training to prioritize literacy skills. Educators in emerging economies must have superior literacy skills to equip young learners with the necessary languages and communication skills. Students from under-resourced learning institutions need to benefit from literacy resources and diverse libraries to make them feel empowered. Good oral skills and speech make students feel confident, improving their chances of voicing concerns and securing higher learning opportunities. The last step of the bottom-up approach would be to reduce the digital divide. Schools are bound to improve their attendance rates if they switch to remote and hybrid learning. Technology can help address the access issue posed by the long distances from rural villages to learning institutions. Equitable funding will be required to ensure that rural schools have access to high-speed internet and computing devices. Parental education must also be undertaken so that low-income families become aware of how to maximize online learning.

Works Cited

Agbor, Julius. Poverty, Inequality and Africa’s Education Crisis. Brookings, 26 September 2012,, Accessed 9 May 2023. 

Chikhungu, Lana, Esme Kadzamira, Lizzie Chiwaula, and Elizabeth Meke. Tackling Girls Dropping Out of School in Malawi: Is Improving Household Socioeconomic Status the Solution. International Journal of Educational Research, vol. 103, 2020.

Kadzamira, Esme and Pauline Rose. Educational Policy Choice and Policy Practice in Malawi: Dilemmas and Disjunctures. IDS Working Paper, no. 124, 2011, pp. 1-27.

Pridmore, Pat and Catherine Jere. Disrupting Patterns of Educational Inequality and Disadvantage in Malawi. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education. 2011, pp. 1-9. 

Sevenier, Galle. “Schools Help End the Cycle of Abuse with Life-Skills Education for Girls – Malawi.” ReliefWeb, 22 February 2008. ion-girls, Accessed 9 May 2023. 

Vrij, Aldert and Samantha Mann. “Criteria Based Content Analysis: An Empirical Test of Its Underlying Processes.” Psychology, Crime, and Law, vol. 12, no. 4, 2006, pp. 337-349.

White, Marilyn Domas and Emily Marsh. Content Analysis: A Flexible Methodology. Library Trends, vol. 55, no. 1, 2006, pp. 22-45.

Winthrop, Rebecca. “Improving Access to Quality Public Education in Africa.” Brookings, 11 February 2022,, Accessed 9 May 2023.

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