Free primary education was implemented in Malawi in 1999 but students are still required to buy some books and materials and are required to wear uniforms. Primary education is eight years and pupils join at seven years. Secondary education is four years, but school inadequacies and tuition fees inhibit many from enrolling.

According to the Southern Africa Consortium on Monitoring Education Quality, fewer than 25 percent of eligible Malawian children remain in school by Standard 8. In addition, only nine percent of primary school students were found to have reached a minimum level of mastery in reading in English, and a mere two percent of pupils possessed skills beyond basic numeracy. These poor outcomes are a result of economic constraints at the household level and a severe lack of pedagogical resources and education infrastructure, as demonstrated by a student: teacher ratio of 80:1, one of the highest in the world, and a student: classroom ratio of 100:1. (Source: World Bank, 2010)

Among adults, nearly approximately 42% are illiterate with women at a higher rate than men.  (Source: Republic of Malawi, Ministry of Women and Child Development, 2008)

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