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Why working with parents increases school attendance and reduces dropout rates in Malawi.

Meet a community that put this statement to the test… and won.

In Malawi, like many other countries worldwide, parents and communities play a crucial role in supporting their children's education. However, in Malawi when it comes to education, there are many challenges to overcome.

Starting at home.

In this blog post, we will explore the role of parents and communities in supporting girls' and boys' education in rural Malawi and discuss the steps we are taking to ensure children in Madziabango and Nankhumba educational zones have unhindered access to education.

If you are curious about Malawian community, local law enforcement and politics... we have a few fundamental pieces of information to help you understand the importance of parents and community in a child's life.

In Malawi, there is no social support from the government, and all help comes from family members.

So naturally, families have very close ties, responsibilities, and expectations with and for each other.

If you want help, go to your uncle, not your father.

Just as your uncle is your primary source of advice and help, your aunt and cousins are like mothers, sisters, and brothers.

The chief settles complicated community disputes. They are a member of the community who inherits this position by birth.

Serious grievances are handled by the Police and Malawian Law enforcement services.

With these nuances in mind, let's get back to schools.

Education is a human right and a key driver of development, it provides children with the knowledge and skills they need to thrive and succeed in life. In Malawi, according to UNICEF, only 28% of girls in Malawi complete Primary School and only 8% go on to complete Secondary School.

In 2015 we realised the prevalence of issues surrounding teenage pregnancies, menstruation and prioritisation of boys’ education over girls in our surrounding communities.


Teaching change to attitudes, ways of being, and cultural misconceptions is education that could run against the support and will of a community.

So first, we start our programme with communities, parents, chiefs, teachers, and the Education Department. We outline what we teach and discuss the challenges parents face with their children.

Even with this initial consent, the overwhelming feedback from learners in Std 6 over the past twelve months has been for more family support. Support from parents to allow time to study at home, to provide food in their bellies, especially around examinations and some money to cover exercise books, pens.

These seem like small, simple things. But for a family it is a big added financial commitment for a family. One that all too often isn’t prioritised.

Now the project spends an afternoon, halfway through each programme, dedicated to encouraging parents to support their children collectively in school.

Releasing them of pressures to go to the market to sell the family farm produce, chores when they are studying for examinations, prioritising funds for books and pens and perhaps more than anything else, verbally encouraging them.

With all this in place at a recent school, a teacher requested that the learners all pay 500mk (30p) each for their end-of-year examination.

The parents came together and all paid.

An incredible achievement for each family, empowered by BRAVE, they managed.

Examination day came.

The students sat down at empty, paperless desks. There wasn’t ANY evidence of the 500mk payment to be seen.

Instead, the teacher examined them from the board.

The students were outraged.

In std 6, having just completed BRAVE, the students could see this was wrong. They were expecting papers and a good examination.

Together they went to the Headteacher.

Then ….. They went home and reported it to their families.

The community knew where the BRAVE team were working, and they walked over an hour to the intersecting road to wait for them to pass.

Flagging them down, the parents reported what had happened.

Esnat and Mark went to the school and acted as mediators between the community and Headteacher, involving the relevant education authorities and chiefs.

With follow-ups and active pursual of the case, the teacher re-paid the money to the students …. and was promptly fired.

This is just one story of many, where communities have held schools to account to see a better education for their children.

With parents and communities onboard, students are encouraged. Schools and teachers are held to account.

And the foundation is laid for standards to rise in the education system.

By working together to address the challenges that prevent children from accessing quality education, we can create a more equitable and just society. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that every child has the opportunity to learn, grow and succeed.

Read more about the structure of BRAVE here

Read more about our broader projects here

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