Literacy project in Nkhata Bay District benefits thousands of learners
Updated: Mar 29
In August of 2021, Think Malawi awarded a grant of £3,000 to their partner, TEMWA, a community-led development charity that works to improve literacy levels in the Nkhata Bay district of Malawi. After awarding and utilising the grant, as well as their existing project funding, TEMWA was able to achieve outstanding results and significant progress in the aim to improve literacy and increase the educational opportunities for young people in the specific area.
The aim of the project is to improve literacy which is very poor among children in the area. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic further worsened the situation as the prolonged closures of schools led to a six-fold increase in teenage pregnancies and child marriages and a three-fold increase in the amount of students that dropped out of schools. TEMWA’s project aims were to create an enabling and inclusive environment targeting literacy that would improve reading and writing skills as well as improvements in library services. They had various methods to strive for this including, community awareness activities, reading groups for children and young women and increasing the community and school library services.
The following are outstanding outcomes that they achieved by means of this project:
Outcome 1: An enabling and inclusive environment created
TEMWA was able to reach an estimated amount of 20,000 people through a radio awareness campaign that included six bimonthly radio shows and two daily jingles. They also organised Spelling Bee competition that helped develop a sense of pride amongst the parents and guardians of the children that participated, leading to the realisation of the value of their child’s education. They managed to attain 970 participants for these competitions. Significant positive effects were seen within the community such as parents and guardians been more actively involved in their child’s education – an estimated 43% of learners were receiving support from their homes.
Through the organisation of six community engagement meetings, TEMWA has been able to engage the wider community in increasingly placing value on education and actively willing to improve it. A significant corner stone for the community was local education bylaws that stemmed from TEMWA’s initial engagement that have led to an increase in student enrolment within schools.
Outcome 2: Improved reading and writing skills in Chichewa, Tumbuka and English
In Nkhata Bay North, under-investment in education has resulted in large class sizes and high teacher-student ratios, leading to poor literacy levels among children. Temwa's reading groups provide low-cost after-school education that has been attended by over 1,300 primary school-aged children per week, including 47 young women who received literacy education and broader mentoring support. The project has been successful, with 95% of children attending reading amps, passing their school exams and two learners becoming the top two performers in their primary-school class. The project's success can be attributed to the 43 voluntary mentors who have been running the reading groups and producing 567 books reflecting local stories and culture. The project also received stationery, books, and sports equipment, making the lessons more engaging.
Outcome 3: Improved library services
The schools in Nkhata Bay North are often poorly resourced, with many learners having to share one textbook. However, the expansion of local library services has significantly increased community access to learning resources and is increasing reading engagement. All ten school libraries have been regularly open, with an estimated 6,000 pupils visiting and even borrowing books for their families to improve their literacy skills. The Usisya Community Library has seen a record number of visitors, with 7,256 recorded between June 2021-August 2022, including 97% school-going children. The library offers computer access and lessons attended by 34 students, helping expand their employment opportunities.
‘The investment one can make in educating children is the most powerful investment for the development of a community’ ~ Samuel Kamanga, Reading Camp Mentor
The impact that Temwa has upon the community in Nkhata bay is extraordinary and Think Malawi is grateful that they were able to help this journey in transforming the educational journeys for many young individuals. The continuity of Temwa working with local governance structures, mentors and families, has allowed for large amounts of increased appreciation and prioritisation of education in these communities. Temwa’s future goals seek to strengthen community-based educational provision through reading groups and libraries. They aim to empower the communities to take a leading role in managing local educational activities that can transform the futures of their communities.