In Malawi, Save the Children is campaigning for children living in the most remote areas who lack access to quality healthcare and education services. 

One teacher for 200 students

Jafali studies in 7th standard of primary school in his remote village in Gumba, Malawi. He has desires to learn, thrive and have a better future but faces so many challenges every day. The school Jafali goes to doesn’t have enough resources. The health centre is very far and there is no medical staff nor enough drugs. Unfortunately, these are only some of the many barriers that are excluding children in Malawi from basic healthcare, nutrition and education each year.

The primary school of Gumba, where Jafali studies, was the place Save the Children chose to launch the Every Last Child campaign in Malawi. In this country, the campaign aims to ensure all children living in remote areas have a chance to receive life-saving healthcare and learning opportunities. Over the past seven years, a strong suite of legislation, policies and programmes have laid a firm foundation for attempting to get all school-aged children into schools. The primary school gross enrolment increased from 3.6 million to 4.5 million between 2008 and 2013. The net enrolment also increased from 73% in 2006 to 85% in 2013.

Despite the progress, there are still a number of challenges. School-related costs such as user fees, notebooks and uniforms limit children’s ability to exercise their rights to basic education. The high pupil/teacher ratios continue to affect the quality of basic education.

Gumba is an emblematic example of that. This zone has a ratio of one teacher to 200 learners. Classes are conducted under trees and temporary shelters which are constructed by communities. All schools in Gumba have inadequate teaching and learning resources. To make things even more difficult, the average distance of schools is 8 kms from the villages, preventing children from attending classes. And if we talk about completing secondary school, it seems to be such a privilege: the closest senior Community Day Secondary School (CDSS) is 34 km from Gumba zone.

Things do not get better in healthcare services either. People hardly access the health services because of long distances leading to children dying of preventable causes. In Malawi, only 46% of the population have access to a health facility within a 5 km radius and only 25% of the population lives within 25 km of a hospital. That is one of the reasons why the country is characterized by high levels of child and adult mortality rates and high prevalence of diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, HIV/AIDS and other tropical infections.

Reaching every last child

All these challenges, as well as a number of proposals, were presented to the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Kondwani Nankhumwa, District Council officials, Civil Society Organisations by Jafali and other children during the launch of the Every Last Child campaign in Malawi.

A group of boy and girls from Gumba had signed and handed in a petition to the President of Malawi, asking for solutions that guarantee their rights; the rights of children like Jafali, who are most remote, the most vulnerable, and the poorest.

Save the Children will campaign during the coming years to ensure this petition is taken into account. We want to guarantee that Jafali and his peers have a chance to survive, learn and fulfil their potential. For that, we are calling on the government to reach every last child in Malawi, by securing specific changes in policies and budgets. Together, we can build a country in which no child’s opportunities are determined by who they are or where they live.