Our partners in Malawi
The University of Regina has many international outreach programs, but one of the most successful – and unknown – is the partnership between the U of R and the Polytechnic College at the University of Malawi.
The college focuses on the development of technical skills and the Faculty of Education at the U of R has been working to develop teachers and students skills there.
Last week, two scholars from Polytechnic, Vanwyk Chikasandra and Elias Kaphesi, visited the U of R to report on the progress of the university and negotiate the continuation of the Malawi TEVET Reform project, an initiative started in 2008 in order to help the University of Malawi reach the educational standards of western universities. On March 2, they delivered a report to students and faculty at the Teacher Preparation Center.
Chikasandra spoke about the several goals of the program. She said the focus of the program was to “support poverty reduction and socio-economic development through technical, entrepreneurial, and vocational education and training programming and policy support.”
The U of R’s aim is to help the Polytechnic College teach the skills its students need to overcome the nation’s high povert. Malawi has a population of 13 million. Thirty-nine per cent of that population is living beneath the poverty rate, despite the nation having an 84 per cent literacy rate.
The big question for scholars from both Canada and Malawi is, if the majority of the population is able to learn, why are so many living in poverty?
Kaphesi cited under-qualified educators as one of the main issues. In response, the Polytechnic College formed their Committee on University Teaching and Learning, which aims to help professors and teachers reach their potential.
Both speakers identified some challenges the Polytechnic College is facing: a need for resources, poor organization, and limited access to education. The U of R is aiming to help the Polytechnic College get past these issues by providing help with research and education conferences and meetings for both students and teachers.
The Malawi TEVET Reform Project is not simply an effort to increase the standards of education in Malawi. There are several issues that the Polytechnic College hopes to resolve through its partnership with the U of R. One of the most emphasized issues is gender equality in education, which is a common problem in Malawi.
“We have introduced mother groups, which gives day care for their children and encourages women to stay in school and develop technical skills,” Chikasandra said.
Another issue Chikasandra touched on was HIV/AIDS, which is recognized as one of the main hindrances to Malawi’s socio-economic progression. The education Polytechnic offers includes a program on HIV/AIDS issues, which seeks to inform students, teachers and, other staff about the dangers of HIV.
While the project has some really positive goals and outcomes, Polytechnic is still in need for some help from the U of R. Abu Brockarie, a U of R education professor, commented on the ways students can get involved.
“We have talked about students, especially education students, [about] doing internships at Polytechnic, or perhaps getting student involvement through fundraisers and student-centered events,” he said.
Similarly, the university’s partnership with Polytechnic has led to partnerships between elementary schools in both nations and some schools have already began fundraising to promote education in primary schools in Malawi.
Currently, there are very few ways students at the U of R can get involved in the project, but this will be changing in the next two years of the project. Through student involvement the project may be extended and U of R will continue to help Polytechnic at the University of Malawi. In the meantime, the U of R encourages students to visit malawitevetproject.ca.