Ending aid dependency in Malawi


Only a fifth of adults in Malenga Mzoma complete primary school and only half of those finish secondary school.

Our survey of the largest trading centre (an outdoor market at Kande) showed conclusively that people with an education are much more likely to be successful in business.

A prerequisite of receiving business and marketing training or a business loan from the Foundation is the ability to read and write in Chichewa. Numeracy is taught alongside literacy.

The Foundation therefore runs the Capacity Academy: currently 8 adult literacy and numeracy classes from which hundreds of people have graduated so far. There are currently another 165 studying.

The Academy has seven teachers (3 women, 4 men) who each take two classes on alternate days – so students attend on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons or on Tuesday, Thursday and Satirday afternoons. There is a degree of ‘doubling up’ where beginners need extra support, and the Academy Manager (David Banda) is an ex-Academy teacher who also has some teaching time.

It is known that literacy increases confidence, decreases the change of people being deceived, and affords better consultation. Some people want to become fully literate and numerate for their own pleasure or to encourage their children, but some take the literacy and numeracy classes expressly to qualify for the loans programme.

Graduation ceremony January 2024

Group photo of the 148 literacy graduates in January 2024.

At the most recent graduation, in January 2024, 148 people graduated – the largest cohort so far and a pass rate of 93%.

Each graduate had to score a minimum of 75% in both Chichewa and mathematics and received a certificate to record their achievement.

For the first time, 20% of the graduates were men – great credit to local leaders and the teachers for encouraging more men to address their literacy issues.

Group of male Capacity Foundation literacy graduates in January 2024.

Men have been shy at enrolling in the adult literacy classes because of perceived stigma. Most boys stay in school longer because the rural society’s traditions still cause girls to drop out disproportionately owing to early marriage and expectations around roles, but there is still a gap to fill.

It’s an important Capacity principle that its programmes are gender-neutral, and it can only benefit families if both sexes are educated.

Traditional Authority chief for Malenga Mzoma, Charles Nkhata, presiding at the Capacity Foundation literacy graduation ceremony on 26 January 2024.

The TA (Traditional Authority, or paramount chief) for Malenga Mzoma, Charles Nkhata, presided at the graduation ceremony on 26th January 2024.

Female literacy graduate receiving her certificate in January 2024.

One of the graduates shows her sheer pride and pleasure at receiving her certificate from the TA.

New female graduate reading at Capacity Foundation literacy graduation ceremony January 2024.

The graduation ceremony always features a few graduates demonstrating their new literacy skills.

Literacy teacher and student demonstrating the shape of the letter 'M'.

Charles Mwase is the most senior of Capacity’s seven teachers and employs novel techniques – in this case, demonstrating the letter M with a student.

Meet the teachers

Literacy teacher Fanny Banda.

Fanny Banda is the wife of one of the Trustees, Parker Banda.

Literacy teachers Elizabeth Maheman, Charles Mwase, Mevis Chirwa and Ephraim Nyirenda.

Elizabeth Maheman, Charles Mwase, Mevis Chirwa and Ephraim Nyirenda.

Group of literacy teachers: the Academy supervisor Davie Banda, with Samuel Banda and Matthews Mwase.

Davie Banda – who supervises the Academy – with Samuel Banda and Matthews Mwase.