October 8, 2019 – Kawale CDSS, Lilongwe
Your Excellency, President Mutharika, I am honored to join you, Minister Banda, and the education teams from the Government of Malawi and the U.S. Embassy, here at the official ground-breaking event of the Secondary Education Expansion for Development (SEED) program. We are all excited to have just witnessed the launch of the SEED program through the ground-breaking on the expansion of Kawale Community Day Secondary School, which will soon have four additional new classrooms.
Through SEED, we will construct 96 new classrooms in 30 existing overcrowded urban secondary schools in Lilongwe, Blantyre, Zomba, and Mzuzu. We will also construct up to 200 new Community Day Secondary Schools in rural areas in every district in Malawi! Together, your Excellency, we will increase access to secondary school nationwide by as much as 20 percent.
The SEED program is based on the compelling idea that improved access to secondary school significantly improves education and key health outcomes, such as delayed sexual activity and reduced rates of HIV infection. For this reason, the SEED program was designed to draw approximately 50 percent of its $90 million in United States government funding from the health sector. This is the first time the United States government has approved this innovative approach.
Too many students are unable to enroll in secondary school due to limited space. Many of those who do enroll must travel more than 20 kilometers every day to attend school. Given the trailblazing nature of our partnership, it is critical that the site selection process for the new schools achieves improved health outcomes, while also ensuring that students who do not currently have access to secondary education can go to school in their own communities.
The world will be watching as the Government of Malawi and the U.S. Government work together to test this innovative approach. We are so pleased that the transformative work of SEED is taking place in Malawi.
As some of you may know, increasing the number of adolescent girls and boys attending secondary school in Malawi has been a major undertaking by the U. S. Government for a number of years – – working with local partners we have already established 16 new Community Day Secondary Schools in eight districts.
These projects were precursors to the $90 million SEED partnership between the Government of Malawi and the U.S. Government that we celebrate today.
In addition, the SEED program builds upon, and complements, other U.S. Government health and education investments, such as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). It supports the goals of the ASPIRE program for which the First Lady of Malawi has been such an important champion. Another U.S. Government development agency, Peace Corps, will support SEED by assigning Volunteers to serve as Education Specialists in some of the new schools.
With SEED, we are bringing secondary schools closer to where girls and boys live, and the Government of Malawi is reducing school fees and providing qualified teachers for the new schools. Together, this removes major barriers that prevent students from completing their secondary education.
The reasons for investing in SEED are simple. Developing the skills and abilities of young people, especially girls, promotes economic prosperity, healthier children, and stronger families and communities.
In Malawi, adolescent girls and young women face many daunting challenges. A girl is 50 times more likely to be married by the age of 18 than attend university. Thirty percent of girls give birth by their 18th birthday and violence against women is widespread with one in five females reporting being sexually abused by age 18.
Keeping girls in school helps reduce HIV infection rates by over 36 percent. It prevents child marriage and early pregnancy. It increases economic self-sufficiency and prosperity. SEED will serve as a powerful partner to the U.S. Government’s DREAMS initiative, which is designed to reduce HIV infections among the most vulnerable girls and young women.
Malawi’s results are some of the best globally among the fifteen DREAMS countries. Young Malawian women between the ages of 15 and 19 have achieved a 34 percent reduction in HIV infections.
I want to take a moment to honor the vision and commitment of the Government of Malawi on these issues.
Last year, our two governments signed a memorandum of understanding. This MOU commits the Government of Malawi to provide qualified and trained teachers, public land to construct new secondary schools, and maintenance of the new schools. We are so pleased by this sign of commitment and partnership.
Given this, I would like to share a few words with the students gathered here today.
Atsikana, limbikilani maphunziro.
(Girls, work hard at school.)
Anyamata, limbikilani maphunziro.
(Boys, work hard at school.)
Pewani matenda a AIDS. (Avoid AIDS.)
Konzani tsogolo lanu labwino. (Create a bright future.)
During my tenure as the U.S. Ambassador to Malawi, I would like to see all the girls and boys in this country healthy and HIV-free, successfully completing primary school, and then entering and completing secondary school.
Finally, I also ask families to take advantage of the SEED program by helping all boys and girls to succeed in primary school. This will prepare them for secondary school – to enter the 200 plus new schools that this project will provide.
What a bright future we are launching today!
Thank you! Zikomo kwambiri!