What were the main aims of the initiative?

One of the Malawi Early Grade Reading Activity’s key goals is to improve the quality of literacy instruction available to learners with disabilities and increase their access to instructional and supportive materials. EGRA ensures, through its existing in-service training, that regular teachers have the skills and knowledge to effectively support learners with different learning needs in their classrooms.

Through EGRA organised Continuous Professional Development activities, regular and special needs certified teachers are given an opportunity to share skills and knowledge on how to effectively support learners with different needs in the classroom. SNE teachers are engaged as co-facilitators during teacher trainings as the skills and perspectives they use to serve learners with special educational needs are precisely the same skills and perspectives that regular teachers in Malawi must deploy to successfully improve reading performance in their classrooms.


Our approach aims to prepare teachers to be confident and skilled at supporting learners with different learning needs.


Location, setting, Scope, key events etc.

The Malawi Early Grade Reading Activity (EGRA) is a three-year, four-month United States Agency for International Development (USAID) project designed to provide technical assistance to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) in improving the reading performance of Malawian students in standards 1 - 3. EGRA's goals include improving the quality and availability of pedagogical materials in the area of early grade reading; providing training to teacher trainers, teachers, and school administrators in the effective use of those materials; equipping parents and communities nationwide with the knowledge and tools to support school-based reading programming; and supporting efforts to build a policy environment conducive to improving early grade reading.

Malawi is a signatory to the Salamanca World Declaration of 1994 and the Millennium Development Goals in 2000. Following this, Malawi committed itself to develop policies and programs that provide increased educational opportunities for children with disabilities within regular education settings. EGRA has since supported Malawi’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology to promote inclusive practices in the development and delivery of literacy instruction. To achieve the objective above, EGRA is implementing the following key activities:

  • Developing disability-related modules, to be included as standard components of in-service professional development initiatives for teachers, Primary Education Advisors (PEAs) and other education professionals. These modules include early identification and intervention programming, research-based effective teaching strategies, inclusive education and disability awareness.
  • Providing high and low tech assistive devices for children with disabilities in order to enhance their independence
  • Adapting EGRA developed teaching and learning materials in order to make them user-friendly among children with different learning needs
  • Facilitating the inclusion of learners with disabilities in community organised reading fairs.
  • Raising awareness among community members on the need to support learners
  • Mobilising parents and the community to support learners with disabilities


What issues/challenges does the example address?

Regular teachers have voiced their concern regarding a lack of knowledge and skills on how to effectively support children with different learning needs in the classroom. The teachers rarely consider that they possess the confidence, knowledge and skills to effectively support learners with different needs and abilities. While regular teachers focus their efforts on supporting typical learners, SNE teachers focus their attention on assisting children with special needs. As a result, neither group of teachers truly attempts to respond to the needs of all learners.



How was the Initiative implemented?

The EGRA CPDs are delivered through a cascade model. EGRA works with expert trainers, who in turn train facilitators (mostly the Ministry of Education’s Primary Education Advisors [PEAs], Key Teachers, and SNE Teachers), who in turn facilitate teacher-training workshops at the zone or cluster level. EGRA works in close collaboration with Perkins International, to ensure that both regular and SNE teachers are better prepared to respond to the diverse needs of all learners. Perkins ensures that CPD training manuals address some of the following themes: introduction to theories behind inclusive education; classroom management; education assessments to identify individual child needs; developing Individualised Education Plans (IEPs); monitoring and assessing the progress of individual children; and making and using appropriate teaching and learning materials.


What where the key Outcomes? What impact/added value did they prove? What were the biggest challenges?

The key outcomes of EGRA’s activities are as follows:

  • There are an increased number of children identified as having special learning needs. This is a result of the knowledge and skills that the teachers have acquired through the CPDs.
  • Some regular teachers are becoming sensitive to the challenges faced by children with disabilities and thereby showing an attempt to respond to the learners’ needs.


Has the initiative been evaluated or are there plans for this in the future?

The activity has not yet been evaluated.


Have any plans been made for future direction of the initiative?

Building upon the success of EGRA, there is a new initiative called Malawi Early Grade Reading Improvement Activity (MERIT). This is a 5-year USAID project that will support the Government of Malawi’s scale up and implementation of the National Reading Programme (NRP) to improve early grade reading instruction and educational outcomes.

During the implementation of the NRP, RTI International (a nonprofit organisation based in USA that provides research and technical services) and Perkins International have been contracted by USAID to provide further technical assistance and training to the Ministry of Education (MoE) and local organizations. These organizations together will support the effective implementation of a sustainable, nationwide effort to increase educational opportunities and literacy among students with disabilities, including those who are blind or have low vision with additional disabilities.

Building upon Perkins and RTI’s successful collaboration through the USAID/Malawi EGRA project, Perkins will work with its longstanding partners namely Montfort College and the Malawi Union of the Blind to expand educational opportunities for learners with disabilities nationwide through the NRP. Perkins will ensure a cross-cutting approach to disability with a focus on its core capacity to provide educational support for children with multiple disabilities throughout all aspects of the project.


What are the main learning points?

  • The involvement of all stakeholders ensures increased support for inclusive education which ultimately benefits children with disabilities and their families.
  • Successful inclusion does not happen instantaneously. It is an educational process that requires ongoing questions, interrogating personal assumptions, and genuine engagement with various stakeholders.


Are there further information about supporting materials?

No materials provided


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Send a message

Augustine Kanyendula

Disability Gender and Vulnerable Populations Specialist

Contact details:

Early Grade Reading Activity, P/Bag 481, Lilongwe 3, Malawi

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