Malawi: Keeping students hopeful and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic

Read how students keep studying on their own through radio instruction, after the closure of all educational facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Malawi.

April 04, 2021 by GPE Secretariat
2 minutes read
Matilda and her twin daughters  Yankho and Pemphero. Behind them on the chair is some of their learning materials. Credit: UNICEF Malawi/2020/Gondwe
Matilda and her twin daughters Yankho and Pemphero. Behind them on the chair is some of their learning materials.
Credit: Credit: UNICEF Malawi/2020/Gondwe

When the government of Malawi announced the closure of all educational facilities in March 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic, 15-year-old twin sisters Pemphero and Yankho Benard both tried to continue their studies on their own through radio instruction with their mother’s encouragement.

Lessons were aired through radio programs and community radios were used to increase reach, in addition to TV options. Both girls, however, lost motivation when their radio was damaged due to a power surge. Fatigue of studying on their own had also set in.

We developed a solid studying routine, a couple of weeks after we came home. But when our teachers could not state with certainty the day we were to return to school, we lost hope as we didn’t even understand what we were studying for.


“For our dreams to be fulfilled we needed to be in school. Besides schooling, we also used to receive a delicious meal of porridge that was mixed with groundnuts or sometimes vegetables,” says Pemphero.

“I miss the school library more,” adds Yankho. “We also used to get relief items in form of a bag of maize and money amounting to K5,000 (US$5) at regular intervals which has not been happening since schools closed.”

In September 2020, after six months of school closures, Malawi announce the first phase of school re-openings, followed in October by a complete reopening of all schools.

With a $10 million emergency grant from GPE, Malawi developed and disseminated school re-opening guidelines and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) material to schools to ensure a safe, healthy and conducive school environment.

“With such assistance learning will continue smoothly and our education system will sure recover from school closures necessitated to help stop the spreading of the virus,” says Redson Bwanalis the headteacher at Cape Maclear Primary School.

Cape Maclear Primary School instituted a double shift for its 2,500 students and 31 teachers as part of the COVID-19 reopening measures.

We have 8 classes that conduct their lessons under trees, which is indicating that we are already overwhelmed. Social distancing can therefore only be possible with double shifting as it will ensure learners’ safety, protection and wellbeing once the schools are reopened.

Redson Bwanali, Cap Maclear Primary School Headteacher

As schools find ways to reopen safely, twin sisters Pemphero and Yankho can look forward to achieving their shared dream of becoming teachers.

This story was produced with the support of UNICEF Malawi.

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