The Impact Of Poverty On Education
Problems in our society are interconnected in one way or the other, just like poverty and personal family problems affect a student’s capability to learn. Improving education entails improving the living conditions of students. Having in mind that education is basically responsible for the development of many countries including Malawi, as the back ground suggests, we cannot afford to bypass such a vital element without a mention. Considering also the fact that poverty is one of the forces that come in the way; blocking the success of education, we feel it rational to look at how the two realities, education and poverty, affect each other both positively and negatively. That is also why we are convinced that this topic is worth studying. Our awareness of this source, poverty, and its impact on education will enable us devise some proper measures of intervention with the hope of minimizing the negative impact of poverty on education. This point, in short, explains the purpose of our investigation and why we are so passionate in getting into this research. During the whole discussion we are being guided by two questions thus, ‘does poverty really affect education? And if it does, what points do we have on the positive and negative impacts of poverty on education? ’ In addition, these funds and donations help more people to get educated. This is so because people can use funds as school fees, pocket money and buy stationery. The donations may include library books, chairs and writing materials. These can make a conducive environment for one to learn since there will be enough facilities at the school. For instance, with funding from the “United States Agency for International Development” (USAID) ,3,300 needy Malawian primary school girls are being funded. They are being provided with food, clothing, school supplies and hygienic products like soap and body lotion (Muhaliwa,2005) . Likewise,500 pupils at Katoto primary school in Mzuzu no longer sit on the floors during lessons courtesy of Southern Bottlers Limited and Lions Club of Limbe. Before these funds and donations, pupils used to sit on the floor due to scarcity of desks. These donations improved the pupils’ school attendance in such a way that pupils have started going to school regularly. Just as a coin has got two sides, a head and a tail, poverty also, apart from having positive impacts on education, it does have negative impacts on the same. We have talked much about the positive face of poverty on education. We shall surely do ourselves injustice if we do not look at the negative part. In spite of the fact that poverty has an impact on education that is worth complimenting, we cannot afford in this discussion to overlook the point that so many students have been forced to leave the corridors of learning institutions due to the same poverty. One of the reasons that force some students leave the learning institutions prematurely is pregnancy, which in most cases, come because of poverty. It is almost common knowledge that a good number of students who come from poor families wish they could be sailing in the same boat with those who come from well to do families as far as luxurious life is concerned. The poor students constantly feel that there is something missing at the core psychologically. With this feeling in their minds, they tend to regard themselves as incomplete and not accepted socially. Consequently, they envy the rich students and squarely want to posses the things that are associated with the rich students. Very unfortunate that the poor students’ parents cannot afford to fulfill their children’s desires like what the rich parents would provide. Because the pull towards recognition is too strong for the poor students to resist, they end up in indulging themselves into prostitution in their search for money. Pity indeed that instead of recreating, as anticipated, their promiscuous behavior sees most of them getting pregnant and for some very unfortunate ones get even HIV and other STIs. From this discussion, commonsense convinces us that this school dropp out due to pregnancy is one of the negative impacts of poverty on education. Adding more flesh to this discussion, we can also appreciate that hunger has been so instrumental in bringing down the standards of education world wide, in general, and Malawi, in particular. Frankly speaking, there are very few students if not none, who concentrate on their studies on empty stomachs. Food is one of the basic needs that every person is obliged to have if he/she is to survive. It is not surprising, therefore, to see some students performing miserably in class simply because they have not taken enough food or they have taken none altogether. The question of hunger finds its way into the education system because the government has failed to provide adequate food in most of its boarding schools. This is poverty at governmental level. There are also some students who are not boarders but still endure the hostile reality of hunger right in their homes. This is due to poverty at household level. It is sad that poverty, both at governmental and household level, has helped in engineering the deteriorating of education standards in Malawi. As we go further with this discussion, we also appreciate the fact that the problem that mostly hinders a student’s success is inadequate resources that include; few teachers and learning materials. It must be highlighted that these problems are not only in developing countries but they may also find their way in reasonably developed countries like South Africa. In a developing country like Malawi, the education system encounters these problems because of the government’s failure to look into problems of infrastructure, capacity and availability of teaching and learning materials (Nkawike,2005) . The Muluzi government did a little if any; in as far as infrastructure is concerned. Lack of school blocks facilitated by a large number of pupils due to the introduction of the free primary education in 1994, forced pupils to have lessons under trees. In 2003, for example, lack of school blocks resulted in a tragedy at Nkomachi in Lilongwe when a tree fell onto an outdoor class, resulting in injury and deaths of pupils (Mvula & Chanika,2004) . This problem of learning materials continues till date, in all levels of the education system. According to Abraham (2009) , the school has always had shortage of learning blocks to an extent that the Physical Science and Biology laboratories are used as classrooms. There is also great shortage of books in all departments, and some departments like the technical department needs new equipment and current books which are very expensive. With this unfortunate situation we cannot anticipate good performance from Masongola secondary school. In order to deal with these issues, the Muluzi government thought it wise to disregard the provision of learning materials in schools. Instead the Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) pass mark was reduced to ensure the success of students in their examinations. Even the director of Basic Education, Nelson Kaperemera admitted that funds intended for learning materials were servicing the debts of government at the expense of improving quality education. Instead of reducing the pass mark, the government and other stake holders should strive to improve quality of education, improve teacher salaries, and provide adequate materials and train teachers properly (Malawi News,2006) .
In developing countries like Malawi, the schools are understaffed (teaching personnel) and they tend to be handling a large number of students for long hours. Furthermore, the teachers are subjected to meager salaries, which are even made late. The government does not seem to have the welfare of teachers at heart, for instance the education Manager for Phalombe, Enoch Ali says the district is facing a dire shortage of teachers, a situation that is contributing to low education standards. The teacher pupil ratio in Phalombe is 1: 120, whilst the recommended ratio is 1: 60 (The Nation,2006) . Due to low pay teachers resort to organizing part time classes, which demand an extra amount of money on top of the normal fees. These changes clearly affect those students who come from very poor families, as they do not receive adequate studies because of lack of money.
This does not only occur in secondary schools, but it also happens in universities. As the academic staff of the Universities go on strike because of the government’s reluctance to increase their salaries. One considers how this is supposed to retain staff in the University. As a result lecturers spend more time doing consultancies; instead of preparing lectures and doing University mandated research. If we are serious about fighting poverty, formal education is the hub of ideas to fight these problems by improving its standards (Kapasula,2008) .
Child labour is one of the major problems that contribute to school dropp out. The majority of child labour victims are children who are living in poverty. This is so because they lack basic needs, for this reason they are forced even against their will to do any kind of work in order to gain financial wealth. This, therefore, affects school attendance. Evidence of school dropp out due to child labour is found in central region where most children are being employed in estates. This region has high tobacco production. Since this crop demands a lot of work, children are at high demand because they do not claim high wages compared to adults. Research, therefore, showed that the percentage of children attending schools is lower compared to that of northern and southern region (Nyirongo,2004) . We have the case of two brothers aged between 12 and 15 who were forced to work at a tobacco farm at Mpherembe in Kasungu district, where they were receiving 150 kwacha a day due to poverty (Namangale,2005) . We can see that child labour has a great impact on education because through it, a lot of children are being deprived of their right to education as they spend most of their time working.
This discussion has addressed to a greater extent problems encountered in the education sector due to poverty. While the elucidation pays more attention to the negative impacts of poverty on education, at some points it also highlights some of the positive impacts which are greatly outweighed in our discussion. Firstly, we discussed the positive impacts on education whereby; Poverty forces one to get educated by working hard, it helped in the introduction of free primary education system (in Malawi) , developed countries give funds to poor countries and poverty gets a person away from destructive ‘social pleasures’ of the world. Afterwards, we discussed the negative impacts whereby; poverty affects a person psychologically, poor people get limited resources (food and materials) , as a result, there is an increase in dropouts and lastly the personnel in the education systems are not fully equiped by the government. These findings are very vital to secondary schools as they enable us approach the problems in those schools squarely and well prepared. After the research we also look at poverty from a perspective that would not be taken by many. Thus, after reflecting on the positive impacts of poverty on education, we tend to look at poverty as a blessing in disguise. Our awareness of whatever findings we have on the table after the investigation, will help us see where things are not well and how or what should be done to address the problems. It is only from the findings that a way for our intervention is paved to minimize the negative impact of poverty on education. Gausi, C. (September 12,2007) US NGOs refurbishes toilets for schools. The Nation. p4.
Muhaliwa, M. (August 9,2005) CRECCOM in new girl’s education program. Daily Times. p4.
Sobo. (May 22,2006) Coca-Cola serves katoto FP school. The Nation.p12.
Namangale, f. child labor shifts to small farms (Ecam) . CFSC press review.
October 2005, p.56
Nyirongo, E.H.K. poor education is by religion. CFSC press review. January 2005, p.52
Weinstein, G.1986. The disadvantaged: challenge to education. Harper & row: London
Nwomonoh, J. (1998) Education and development in Africa. London: I.S.P. Publications.
Sonani, B. (2002, Sept.21-27) .Temporary teachers’ programme collapses.Malawi News, p.3
Kadzamira, E.& Rose, P.(2001, January) .Education policy choice and policy practice in Malawi: Dilemmas and disjunctures. Institute of Development Studies working paper,124.