Malawi: lack of govt. commitment halts adult literacy programme

Date: October 4, 2012
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Name of the article: Thirty and trying to read

Name of publication: The Nation

Name of journalist: Mwereti Kanjo

Date: 7 September 2012

Country: Malawi

Theme: Education

Skills: Sources, perspective and use of data

Genre: Features

Gem classification: Gender aware

This media highlight analyses a feature story published by Malawi’s Nation newspaper regarding the adult literacy programme in Malawi. The article – published a day before International Literacy Day – highlights that lack of funding is a major factor halting the programme in the country. This media highlight critiques the article from a gender perspective.

Although the headline is catchy, it does not fully reflect the essence of the article. The story reports beyond a 30 year old mother learning how to read and write. Perhaps the story could have had a sub headline indicating that the government is currently finalizing efforts to revive the programme.

The reporter quotes four sources; three females and one male. Considering that the story focusses on women, having more women sources is justifiable.

However, the article quotes from an anonymous secondary source that literacy levels in the country are at 64 percent. The reporter could have attributed the source of information to make the information credible. In addition, the reporter could have given sex disaggregated percentages of literacy levels as opposed to giving a summative percentage. Sex disaggregated information is important because it helps campaigners, advocates and any other concerned people to determine an approach or intervention to address the problem.

Further, the reporter could have also interviewed other women willing to enroll for adult literacy but are being discouraged by other factors such as unavailability of adult literacy centres and shortage of teachers. These could have stressed a need revive the programme and allocate to it enough resources.

The article uses gender sensitive language.

Visual Images
The story uses a picture of Mary Silvester Phiri, the main character in the article. The character is pictured in a classroom setting while writing in a notebook. The picture is relevant to the article and makes it more credible.

Story angle and perspective

The article uses a human interest angle by featuring Mary Silvester Phiri, as an example that adults particularly women who did not have a chance to go to school in their youthful age can still study through the adult literacy programme.

From this character, the reporter builds another dimension to the article: challenges faced by adult literacy education in Malawi. One of the major challenges highlighted in the article is “lack of funding”. To the contrary, the reporter writes that the government has been allocating funds to the programme through the national budget since 2010/11 government financial year. This is followed by the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Welfare comment that “the programme…ended because of lack of funding…”

Placement and positioning
A bold headline and sizeable picture makes the article visible. In addition, the article is prominent as it is given the whole features page.

Training exercise

– Suggest a relevant headline for the article
– If the editor had assigned you to write this story, what would be your angle/perspective and why?
– Write a story about how the adult literacy programme should be restructured.

Other training resources
– SADC Gender Protocol 2012 Barometer: education and training chapter



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