Empowering Education: Ntondo Primary School’s Push for PSLCE Success

By Raymond Nakulenga

Figure 1.Ntondo Full Primary School, Photo Credit: Raymond Nakulenga

In line with global and national policy calls for improved education, particularly for girls as outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Malawi National Educational Policy, Ntondo Full Primary School is striving to make a significant impact on its students’ futures. As the Primary School Leaving Certificate Examinations (PSLCE) commence on May 22, 2024, Ntondo Primary is one of 6,953 primary schools across the nation, including private institutions, participating in this crucial academic exercise.

Located in Nyani village, Traditional Authority Malemia, within Zomba rural’s South East Education Division, the two-decade-old school will see 41 of its Standard 8 pupils (14 male and 27 female) sit for their PSLCE this year. Despite various challenges, the school’s commitment to education remains unwavering.

“We are hopeful our pupils will perform well,” says Andrew Mtengula, the school’s head teacher. However, Mtengula acknowledges the difficulties faced by the current group of exam candidates. “There have been many disruptive factors over the past year. Almost half of the class has dropped out this academic year due to high food shortages and poverty, which forces pupils to leave school and help their families,” he explains.

Figure 2 “We are hopeful our pupils will perform.” Andrew Mtengula

Poverty remains a significant factor influencing primary school dropouts in Malawi. According to the Ministry of Education’s EMIS Report (2023), nearly 53,000 pupils dropped out of school due to poverty last year. Additionally, the deputy head teacher, Jane Mvula, notes that two female pupils will miss the national exams due to pregnancy. “It is quite demoralizing. We tried convincing the parents to let these girls write their exams, but there was heavy resistance from the guardians,” Mvula shares.

The dropout rate due to pregnancy is alarmingly high, with approximately 6,000 girls leaving their primary education in 2023 (EMIS Report, 2023). Despite these setbacks, the school, with support from community leaders under the Community Chiefs Forum and the Parent and Teachers’ Association, has been working tirelessly to motivate and support the 41 registered PSLCE candidates. Through motivational talks and personalized guidance and counseling sessions, the school’s Discipline and Welfare Committee aims to address each student’s unique needs.

“We provide counseling to each pupil depending on their situation,” says Mvula, emphasizing the individualized approach the school takes. This effort has fostered a sense of optimism, bolstered by the school’s recent performance in district mock examinations. “Last year, our highest-scoring pupil achieved 350 marks out of 600. This year, our top student scored 450 marks. A 100-mark improvement is very promising, and we are hopeful this momentum will continue in the actual exams,” Mtengula highlights.

On a national level, there has been positive development ahead of the PSLCE. The Executive Director for Malawi’s Examination Board (MANEB), Prof. Dorothy Nampota, confirmed that for the third consecutive year, more female pupils are expected to sit for the PSLCE based on registrations (M’banga, 2024).

As Ntondo Primary and its community rally behind their students, this story underscores the vital importance of continued support for educational initiatives. Ensuring that every child, regardless of their circumstances, has the opportunity to complete their education is crucial. The call to action is clear: communities, policymakers, and stakeholders must work together to remove barriers to education and create a brighter future for all.

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