A quality education is critical for the future of Malawi’s children. Yet, the country consistently ranks below average within the Southern African Region in terms of access and indicators of quality. The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) Early Grade Reading Barometer indicates that in 2012, 90 percent of Malawian second graders were unable to read a single word of a grade level text; by 2018, this level had improved only slightly to 81 percent. An inadequate supply of teachers, quality learning materials, and infrastructure, contribute to poor student performance. Recognizing these problems, in 2016 the Government of Malawi developed its National Reading Program (NRP). Since its inception, USAID has partnered with Malawi’s Ministry of Education (MOE) to support the NRP.
From 2015 to 2021, USAID provided support through its flagship MERIT: Malawi Early Grade Reading Improvement Activity, led by RTI, and supported by partners Infonex, SIL-LEAD, Viamo, Perkins School for the Blind, Miske Witt and Associates, Link Community Development-Malawi, and blueTree Group. This five-and-a-half-year Activity supported the MOE and collaborated with government officials, teachers, families, and local community leaders.
MERIT improved instruction for primary grade reading outcomes by
- providing and expanding access to teaching and learning materials
- ensuring safe learning spaces
- supporting teachers and coaches
- strengthening the relationship between families and schools, and supporting government and community ownership of reading interventions.