Shocking! Malawi’s higher education enrollment is among the lowest in the world and the least in the entire Southern and Eastern African region, a 2016 World Bank study has shown.
This development has angered Chancellor College education expert Antonie Chigeda, who warns that this means ‘very few capable hands are leading the development of the nation’.
The National Council for Higher Education (Nche) has since cautioned that the economic development is ‘obviously affected’ noting that this is a result of ‘focus on basic education for too long at the expense of higher education’.
“The country now needs to promote higher education because very few school leavers are currently absorbed by our higher education institutions and university graduates are by far more productive citizens than secondary school leavers,” said Mathilda Chithila, Nche chief executive officer.
The argument, pushed by different experts from various disciplines, is that education is a fundamental factor of social mobility—the ability for a person to move from a lower social class to a higher one.
The understanding is that education equips people with necessary skills for the job market, eventually determining their social class position.
Eventually, the more educated someone is the higher the earning power he or she commands.
Evidence supports assertion
A 2010 study titled ‘Education and Employment in Malawi’ by Vincent Castel, Martha Phiri and Marco Stampini found that within regular wage employment, secondary education is associated with a 123 percent wage premium whereas university education boasts a 234 percent wage premium(relative to illiteracy).
University of Malawi (Unima) economics professor Ephraim Chirwa, and Mirriam Matita, also did a study in 2009 which attests to the latter.
The study established that secondary education improved one’s earning potential by 15.4 percent. A university education, on the other hand, improved one’s possible income by 66 percent. A primary school qualification, meanwhile, improved one’s earning potential by a measly 5.1 percent.
This, according Chigeda, a doctorate holder, underlines the reason a robust higher education is a must for any country’s development.
To increase enrollment, the study recommends the need to expand non-university institutions, further development of private sector and an emergence of distance education options, which Chigeda agrees with.
He argues that given the limitation of conventional delivery of higher education and cost implications associated with accessing higher education at conventional institutions, Malawi needs to move away from this mode of delivery to more open and distance delivery modes.
On-line learning is quite new in the country and least developed as a delivery mode, said Chigeda, Chithila, on the other hand, said the country needs to look at where it wants to be in the long-term and set priorities and align higher education to those priorities.