Last year, 127 women and three men from Lilongwe were awarded certificates after undergoing adult literacy classes.
The classes were conducted by the Lilongwe City Council under the Informal Settlement Upgraded Programme.
But few men compared to women attend adult literacy classes in the country and other developing countries, especially in rural communities.
According to the country’s study findings on Adult Literacy Programmes by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology conducted in 1998, 1999 and 2001, women comprise approximately 88 percent of the total annual enrolment.
According to the report, Malawi adult literacy policy aims at offering quality education to adults, reducing national illiterately rate of 50 percent to 30 percent and increase male participation in adult literacy by 20 per cent.
But why do men shun the programme?
A representative of LCC Vito Muula, who presided over the graduation expressed concern over the low participation of men.
“Government is unhappy that men are not actively participating. However, we will continue to sensitise them on the importance of literacy to development,” said Muula.
Head teacher of one adult school, Martha Longwe, said most men do not participate because they feel uncomfortable.
“A lot of men claim to be busy, but we know they are ashamed to attend the classes together with the women. However, we still visit and encourage them to come,” said Longwe.
Adam Dickson, a 2013 graduate said the presence of many women can be intimidating.
“It was not easy to be in class with so many women. It is uncomfortable, especially at the beginning. Still, I wish a lot of men would realise its importance and start attending the classes. I now participate in a lot of development activities in my area because I know how to read and write,” he said.
In his remarks, education activist Benedicto Kondowe blamed government for not putting much emphasis on adult literacy programmes.
“In other countries, over three percent of national budget is allocated to adult literacy programmes. But in Malawi, the allocation is less than one percent. How can this promote such programmes?” he wondered.
He urged government and civil society organisations (CSOs) to enhance awareness on the importance of adult literacy and provide more support on the programs.
“One of the reasons most men do not attend such classes is the concept of the whole programme. It is structured in a way that more women than men appreciate it.
“Also, traditionally, men would want to be superior to women which means they would feel belittled to be in the same class with the women,” he said.