Gender parity in primary and secondary education has yet to be achieved in many
countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Malawi. The presence of female teachers
is recognised as positively impacting on girls’ enrolment and learning success, but
in many rural areas in Malawi, there are few qualifi ed female teachers working in
primary or secondary schools.
This paper contributes to the current debates on how to address this gap in qualifi ed
female teacher recruitment and retention in rural areas. One suggested solution to
breaking the cycle of low female achievement in rural areas is the use of distance
education to prepare local women to become teachers in their own communities. In
the programme reported on in this paper, aspiring female teachers are supported
to take on the role of “learning assistants” in their local community primary schools
while studying to achieve the qualifi cations necessary for application to a formal
primary teacher training course.
Using applications, interviews and workshop data from the early stages of the
programme, the backgrounds and motivations of applicants to the programme are
explored. The paper also discusses the implications for the design of this distance
learning programme, emerging constraints on the achievement of programme
intentions and areas for further study.
Proceedings of the 4th biennial International Conference on
Distance Education and Teachers’ Training in Africa (DETA) held at
the Eduardo Mondlane University, Maputo, Mozambique, 3-5 August 2011.