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First Education Sector Support Project (ESSUP)

Almost all children in Malawi benefited from the DSS program - beneficiaries at a primary school in Mchinji District with pens and exercise books. Credit: Zeria Banda, World Bank

Quality of Education
Improving Teaching and Learning Capacity in Malawi


The Education Sector Support Project (ESSUP) contributed to improving the quality of education at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels in Malawi. At the primary level, the quality of learning was improved through provision of learning and teaching materials, and food and medication for better health and nutrition, to almost all schools in the country. At the secondary and tertiary levels, learning was boosted with better-trained teachers and new classrooms.


Since 2002, Malawi’s poverty reduction strategies have identified the enhancement of human capital as one of Malawi's formidable challenges. The 2006 strategy prioritized improvements in education access, quality and equity across education levels in a bid to foster human development for growth. Three major constraints to education service delivery were identified: declining quality of education, in part, due to the high number of untrained teachers; inefficient service delivery due to distorted resource allocations over the years; and high absenteeism and low retention levels partly due to poverty and limited community involvement.


In response to these challenges, the International Development Association’s (IDA) approach focused on (i) teacher capacity development, (ii) constraints to learning and (iii) policies for better quality of education. The approach included training of primary school teachers, provision of materials to secondary teachers and training of university lecturers at various levels. The project engaged the communities through the participation of parent-teacher associations in the procurement of learning materials, organization of school feeding programs, and promotion of good health and nutrition practices. This support was delivered through a direct support to schools program. Finally, the project supported the development of a better policy framework and more comprehensive strategic plan.


  • Teacher capacity developed at all levels which improved the Pupil to Qualified Teacher Ratio (PqTR) at all levels: (i) At the primary level a new training college was constructed in for primary teachers to increase the number of trained teachers by 605 annually, compared to the targeted 500. The PqTR decreased to 70:1 by 2010, from 82:1 in 2004. (ii) Approximately 1,000 additional spaces to train secondary teachers in tertiary education (five times the project’s target of 200 spaces), decreased the PqTR from 82:1 to 65:1. The facilities for such training were constructed at Malawi Polytechnic, Chancellor College, and Mzuzu University. (iii) In higher education, 29 university lecturers were trained, resulting in the expansion of college program offerings and increased student intake. Training was offered at master’s and doctorate levels.
  • Improved conditions of learning in four secondary schools: Blantyre, Dedza, Lilongwe Girls, and Mzuzu Government were refurbished with better hostels, libraries, and classrooms. Each school has about 700 students every year.
  • Improved learning through supply of basic learning materials to schools while strengthening the participation of communities in school management: Ninety-eight percent of the 5,086 primary schools in Malawi benefitted from the direct support to schools program (DSS) that enabled them to procure required learning and teaching materials at the local level. Three million pupils attending public primary schools benefited from the DSS grants, including district education management officials and members of the school management committees whose capacity was built in managing the grants. 
  • Mitigated externalities affecting the quality of education through health and nutrition interventions to at least 98 percent of pupils under the age of 10: Children were reached with interventions, which included distribution of Vitamin A and iron, folic acid, de-worming, treatment of malaria and fever, and promotion of good health and nutrition practices.
  • The country developed a National Education Sector Plan (2008-2017), which is now being used as the framework for government and its development partners supporting the education sector. Malawi also developed a teacher education policy, strategy and model.

`Bank Contribution

Before this project, all the girls in Form One used to sit on the floor. But now, every girl at all levels has a desk and a chair. This is a very significant change in their learning environment. Additionally, girls need more comfortable accommodations and safe storage for their belongings. We now have that although we still need more bed space. We also look forward to having our laboratories refurbished and we need a multipurpose hall for all activities including examinations. 

—Mrs. Anita Kalinde, the Headmistress of Lilongwe Girls SS
The project supported the rehabilitation of four national secondary schools, including the Lilongwe Girls Secondary School (SS), which has 678 students and benefited from rehabilitated hostels, classrooms, a library, and a kitchen.


This is an emergency or disaster risk reduction type of project. There has not been much donor interest or capacity to support this project. IDA remains the only donor partner for this project through its three successive phases.

Toward the Future

With the objective of expanding the impact of the first and second phase of the project, the Additional Financing Credit-1 of US$20 million is closing in October 2010. The results of the project are tangible and people recollect how their lives changed before and after the IDA effort got underway. The achievements made were not only recognized by those living in Taiz but also by those who know people before the initiative. If there is a project that all people have the same voice about it, it is the Taiz Municipal Development and Flood Protection Project

For more information, please visit the Projects website.

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