COVID-19 response

A US$10 million grant will support the implementation of the country’s comprehensive COVID-19 education response.

Allocation: US$10 million

Years: 2020-2021

Grant agent: UNICEF

Key documents:

The government will be working with national internet providers and radio broadcasting corporations to ensure distance learning initiatives are accessible to students. The funding will support:

  • solar powered radios and tablets to support innovative digital learning solutions for vulnerable children with limited access to electricity
  • a toll-free hotline to provide additional support to lessons
  • training to teachers and education managers who provide online teaching programs
  • awareness campaigns to encourage parents to support home learning
  • remedial support by teachers once schools reopen to help students through assessments, accelerated learning and second chance opportunities.

These initiatives are based on the Ministry of Education’s COVID-19 response plan.

In late March 2020, the UNICEF office in Malawi received a GPE grant of US$70,000 to support the Ministry of Education in its response to the pandemic. The funds were used to strengthen the coordination and implementation of the response at the national and subnational levels, and to support the crisis management team.

Education in Malawi

The education sector has experienced tangible progress in Malawi. The primary school enrollment increased by 16% between 2008 and 2013 at an average annual growth rate of 4%. Yet, the sector faces multidimensional challenges such as inadequate school facilities, high pupil-teacher ratios, low learning achievement and huge capacity gap in school inspection and supervision.

To highlight few examples, more than 70% of eligible children do not have access to any form of early childhood education, the average primary student to classroom ratio increased from 105:1 in 2011/2012 to 124:1 in 2012/13, the pupil qualified teacher ratio worsened from 92:1 in 2011/12 to 95:1 in 2012/13, and the pass rates for the Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education (PSLCE) have been declining each year between 2006/07 and 2011/12 from 74.4% in 2006 to 68.9% in 2011.

To address these issues, Malawi has developed its Education Sector Implementation Plan II (2013/14 – 2017/18), which consists of five sub-sectors with their respective key objectives:

  1. Basic education encompasses early childhood development, complementary basic education that allows marginalized, out of school children and adults to access basic education, and general primary education. It aims to:
    • Ensure that 50% of children reach standard 4 literacy/numeracy by 2017,
    • Make teaching and learning materials available, and ensure that textbooks are not only available, but also optimally used,
    • Make additional classrooms available,
    • Ensure inclusion of all learners,
    • Attain a motivated and high-performing teaching staff
    • Increase internal efficiency of primary education, and
    • Improve management/resource delivery.
  2. Secondary education aims to:
    • Increase access,
    • Improve quality and equity of secondary schools by narrowing the gap between conventional secondary schools and community day secondary schools,
    • Improve secondary school management.
  3. Primary and secondary teacher training aims to:
    • Enhance the quality of primary teacher training,
    • Improve access to secondary teacher training,
    • Improve quality of secondary teacher training.
  4. Technical and vocational education and higher education aim to:
    • Increase access to technical colleges,
    • Make technical colleges more adequate to the needs of the labor market,
    • Provide a more coordinated policy and regulatory framework,
    • Ensure quality of higher education,
    • Improve financial resource mobilization, and
    • Introduce a comprehensive management information system.
    • Support services, which include system governance, management, policy development, and inspection and advisory services. Their main objective is to ensure that services be planned, budgeted and delivered on time

The plan addresses also three crosscutting issues: special needs, school health and nutrition, and gender.

Over the last five years, the government of Malawi has shown continued commitment to the education sector with the allocation of over 20% of the national budget towards education.

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Latest grant

Teacher Maureen Kaunda helps her student. Malawi, September 2016.

Teacher Maureen Kaunda helps her student. Malawi, September 2016.

CREDIT: GPE/Govati Nyirenda
Development objective: Improve the equity and quality of primary education service delivery in early grade levels with an emphasis on improved accountability and functioning at the school level.
Allocation: US$57,200,000
Years: 2021-2022
Grant agent: WB
Utilization: US$0

Malawi received a US$44.9 million for the period 2016-2020 to support the Malawi education sector improvement project (MESIP). The grant aims to: “improve the equity and quality of primary education service delivery in early grade levels with an emphasis on improved accountability and functioning at the school level by”:

  1. Improving equitable access for the most disadvantaged, especially girls
  2. Improving the retention and promotion rates at lower primary grades
  3. Improving the efficacy of interventions at the school, classroom and community level for better learning outcomes
  4. Removing barriers to girls' education for improved retention in upper primary grades.

The main components of the grant are:

  1. Performance-based school improvement grants for improving promotion and retention. The objective is to pilot the feasibility of improving promotion rates through addressing the inefficiencies of repetition and dropout in the primary education system.
  2. Improving equity for the most disadvantaged, including girls. This component aims to help reduce pupil classroom ratios in eight of the most disadvantaged districts in Malawi. It will also support the construction of classrooms, latrine blocks, and water points. All new school facilities will be constructed to ensure proper access for children with disabilities. The project will also train communities/local artisans in classroom construction and management to encourage local ownership and involvement.
  3. Improving learning outcomes, accountability, and cost- effectiveness at school level. This component will pilot cost-effective interventions targeting teachers and headmasters on how to improve classroom management in a resource constrained environment.
  4. Project management, and sector program support and coordination. This component will finance activities, consultants, and recurrent costs related to the project management and sector program facilitation.

For the variable part of the grant (30%), Malawi has selected the following indicators to be implemented in 8 of the most disadvantaged districts:


  • 10 percent increase in Female to Male Teacher Ratio in grades 6-8


  • 10 percent reduction in repetition rate in grades 1-4

Learning outcomes

  • 20 percent reduction in Pupil Qualified Teacher Ratio (PqTR) in grades 1 and 2

Source: World Bank Project Appraisal Document. August 2016


All amounts are in US dollars.

Grant type Years Allocations Utilization Grant agent  
COVID-19 2020-2022 10,000,000 7,080,560 UNICEF  
Program implementation and multiplier 2021 57,200,000 0 WB  
Program implementation 2016-2021 44,900,000 43,658,000 WB Progress report
2010-2015 90,000,000 90,000,000 WB Completion report
Sector plan development 2013-2015 250,000 0 WB  
Program development 2020-2021 313,400 313,234 WB  
2015-2016 313,569 313,569 WB  
  Total 202,976,969 141,365,363    
Data last updated: December 15, 2021

As part of its investment in civil society advocacy and social accountability efforts, GPE’s Education Out Loud fund is supporting:

  • The Civil Society Education Coalition for the 2019-2021 period. This builds on 11 years of Civil Society Education Fund (CSEF) support to national education coalitions for their engagement in education sector policy dialogue.
  • Zimbabwe Network of Early Childhood Development to mobilize an advocacy alliance across multiple partner countries, including Malawi, for the 2021-2023/24 period.

GPE had provided the Civil Society Education Coalition with a grant from the CSEF to support its engagement in education sector policy dialogue and citizens’ voice in education quality, equity, and financing and sector reform.

Education sector progress

The graphs below show overall progress in the education sector in Malawi, and GPE data shows the country progress on 16 indicators monitored in the GPE Results Framework.

Primary completion rate

Lower secondary completion rate

Out-of-school rate for children of primary school age

Out-of-school rate for adolescents of lower secondary school age

Pre-primary gross enrollment rate

Gender parity index for out-of-school rate

Public expenditure on education as share of GDP

Students/trained teacher ratio

Teachers trained

Source: World Bank - Education Data
Data on education are compiled by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics from official responses to surveys and from reports provided by education authorities in each country.

Last updated September 10, 2021