A case study of challenges facing the implementation of life skills education in primary schools in the Zomba District, Malawi.

Chirwa, G. W.
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The Ministry of Education in Malawi introduced Life skills Education program with the intention to empower children with appropriate information and skills to deal with social and health problems affecting the nation including the fight against HIV infections. This study investigates factors affecting the implementation of the Life skills programme in four schools in the Zomba District, Malawi. A curriculum is not implemented within a contextual vacuum. I draw on Cornbleth‟s (1990) notions of the structural and social contexts to study the contexts of the school organisation, classroom environment and social-economic-political context in which the curriculum is implemented. Within this framework, I use Whitaker‟s(1993) identification of key role players in curriculum implementation, to consider the specific ways in which teachers, learners, principals, district officials and the community affect the implementation of this curriculum within the schools I chose to study. Findings suggest that the implementation of Life skills is constrained by a variety of social and structural contextual factors. Some of the crucial factors hampering the teaching of Life skills are the poor conditions under which teachers are working. Teachers are paid very little salaries and this affects their motivation to teaching making some of these teachers giving most attention to what they perceive as priority subjects only such as Maths and Languages at the expense of Life skills. The cascade model of training leaves the responsibility of training Life skills teachers to school principals who are not subject specialists. This adds to their already highly pressured roles in terms of managing their schools, resources and learners. The training of teachers in life skills curriculum involves two days of training. This short duration of the training is not sufficient to develop understanding of content and empower teachers to mediate sensitive topics with 3 confidence. This model of training also undermines professional responsibility of each teacher to empower themselves to become subject experts in the subjects they teach. The inaccessible language used within the Teachers‟ Guide contributes to the omission of areas of the curriculum by teachers who struggle to understand and teach certain topics. The case study shows that hunger experienced by learners affects their concentration in class and leads to frequent absences. It has been found that the Life skills curriculum is not supported by all sectors of the community. Certain teachers and their principals found a clash between rural communities‟ cultural beliefs and the Life skills programme. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS affects both the teachers of Life skills and their learners resulting in teachers feeling uncomfortable and reluctant to teach that which affect them and their learners. Some teachers believe that it is inappropriate to teach sexual matters to children of this age. This results in the teachers omitting the very issues that the Life skills curriculum has sought to address. Given these issues, the research finds significant challenges facing the implementation of the Life skills curriculum in Malawi and based on the findings, recommendations are made for improvement of the implementation of the Life skills program.
Life skills Education program, curriculum implementation, factors influencing curriculum implementation