One of the poorest countries in the world, with over half the population living below the international poverty line, Malawi lacks the resources to provide its students with comprehensive and challenging coursework. With an economy still based in agriculture, the education system is primarily focused on vocational studies, as opposed to academics. Thus, teachers of all subjects are needed to train the future labor force, comprised of Malawi’s youth.
Photo Credit: Lauren Locke
In 1994, the Malawi government introduced free primary education. This led to an increase in students attending school, which consequently wore down facilities and decreased the quality of education. In some cases, only one teacher teaches a classroom of 300 or 400 elementary-aged children.
Volunteer positions in Malawi are primarily located public schools in rural areas. Teachers will instruct English as a Second Language (ESL), but also math/science, health education, art, or sports. Education is compulsory for grades 1-8, so volunteers will often teach more than one age group in elementary schools.
In addition, Malawi HIV/AIDS rates are very high, with much of the population, especially in rural areas, where proper treatment facilities are lacking. Volunteers have the chance to establish awareness or after-school programs at local schools, which can empower and education students to make healthy decisions in the future.
Instruction at international schools is taught in English. Some private international schools are religious and run by church organizations. Most others are secular, such as Hillview International School, and embrace a comprehensive curriculum (often the British system). In addition, these schools specifically cater to students living in urban areas.
When and Where to Look for Jobs:
Most volunteers are placed in schools in rural Malawi areas. While some private schools are located in urban areas, such as the capital city of Lilongwe, much of the demand for teachers comes from rural, underdeveloped areas.
A bachelor’s degree is required for volunteers. While previous experience and a TEFL certification are not required, both can be extremely helpful in managing a classroom of many students.
Salary & Cost of Living:
Volunteers share accommodations with other participants, which is included in program fees. In some cases, food is provided; meals are served 3 times/day in these shared volunteer homes. Due to this fact, volunteers typically do not receive a stipend.
Classroom & Work Culture:
Malawi’s national school schedule greatly differs from those in the United States (although it is somewhat similar to some European types). The schedule is made up of three terms: term one is from September to December; term 2 is from January to March/April (depending on when Easter falls); term 3 is from April to July.
However, these are only rough dates. The government sets school terms and often does not release them until a few weeks before the start date. This is an ongoing problem in Malawi schools, in which there is little structure and a lack of oversight. Time and specific start dates are frequently neglected.
Keep in mind that many schools are underfunded. There are hardly any basic resources for teachers to utilize in the classroom. It is recommended that you do a bit of fundraising prior to departure, so that you can purchase some tools or materials for teaching. With a little creativity and help from friends and family, you can organize some interactive lessons.