Results from the fourth Integrated Household Survey (IHS4) show that the literacy rate for people aged 15 and above has improved to 73 percent in 2016 as compared to 65 percent in 2010.
The IHS is one of the primary instruments implemented by government through National Statistics Office (NSO) roughly every five years to monitor and evaluate the changing conditions of Malawian households.
Literacy is described as the ability to read and write in any language, usually a result of education attainment. This development, therefore, means that 27 percent of the population cannot read and write.
According to the survey, the Northern Region registered the most literate individuals in this group (84 percent) followed by the Central Region (72 percent) and the Southern Region (71 percent). Higher literacy levels are also evidenced in males at 81 percent as compared to females at 66 percent.
In Malawi, poverty levels have largely been attributed to low levels of education, which has not built the necessary human capital the country needs to escape the poverty trap.
Chancellor College economics professor Ben Kaluwa, while commending the improvement in the literacy levels, said there is more the country needs to do to improve the education levels as the literacy rates define basic education and not necessarily higher levels of education.
He said: “This has been late in coming. Where we are in terms of underdevelopment it’s because of the very same low levels of education.
“Literacy is important. If you are talking about financial inclusion and the role that mobile network operators are playing to improve the rate of financial inclusion in the country, then people have to be literate to be included. They need to read and write”.
In a previous interview, Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) executive director Dalitso Kubalasa emphasised the need for serious investments in the health and education sectors to promote human capital development which is a critical factor of production.
He said: “If human capital is rationally used, the economy will be growing. All this will have a contribution to this positive trajectory we are projecting in the economy and that is the key driver for the economic growth we want to see”.
Recently, the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranked Malawi 109 out 130 economies on the Global Human Capital Index in 2017. According to WEF, public spending on education in Malawi is at 5.6 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). n