Malawi Unlocking Talent project
VSO/Amos Gumulira

Malawi

We've worked in Malawi since 1958, building healthy communities, improving inclusive education, and supporting people to develop secure and resilient livelihoods. We are currently active in all three regions.

150,000

We've reached 150,000 learners with innovative educational technology.

99%

99% of young prisoners we supported voluntarily accessed counselling and testing services.

4,768

Our rural solar electrification projects have brought low-cost, sustainable power to 4,768 people.

Healthy communities

We work to engage young people in sexual and reproductive health issues, encouraging them to access services and empowering them to realise their rights. We work to strengthen the capacity of youth clubs and networks, and encourage young people to become involved in decision-making processes, holding those in authority to account.

Prison health

We work to improve access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services in prisons, supporting young inmates to make informed decisions about their health, and building their resilience for life post-release. By training fellow prisoners as volunteer counsellors, we help to develop peer support networks which raise awareness of health issues, provide cell-based care, offer psychosocial support, and give advice on living with HIV and AIDS.  

This support model has led to increased demand for SRH services, with almost 99% of young prisoners engaged in our projects voluntarily seeking testing and counselling. After release, 80% of those who took part in counselling in prison were successfully reintegrated into their community.

Inclusive education

A student on the Unlocking Talent programme smiles as she works on her tablet in Mdzobwe Primary School

Young pupils learn on their Unlocking Talent tablets.

Our Unlocking Talent project uses award-winning innovative technology, created by our partner onebillion, to help learners overcome some of the challenges that can hold them back – including classroom overcrowding, limited resources, and a lack of trained teachers.

We provide schools with solar-powered tablet technology, pre-programmed with bespoke education apps that support students to develop essential literacy and numeracy skills. We train teachers to use this technology in their classes, supporting them to deliver engaging and effective lessons, whilst also providing them with an invaluable tool to monitor their pupils’ progress.

So far we’ve established 110 learning centres across 15 districts, reaching over 150,000 learners and bringing about huge gains in learning outcomes: reading scores in participating schools have doubled and girls are no longer falling behind boys in their learning.

Using innovative technology to improve learning outcomes

Resilient livelihoods

A woman's smiling face is illuminated by the solar lantern she holds up as she stands outside at nighttime
VSO/Peter Caton

A 'Solar Mama' helps bring electricity to her rural village.

In the Lilongwe and Salima districts, our rural energy projects are increasing access to sustainable sources of power, reducing deforestation, enhancing women’s economic empowerment, and supporting more children to access education by improving school facilities.

We’ve trained previously-underemployed women as ‘solar mamas’, equipping them with the technical skills and confidence to become engineers, installing and maintaining solar lighting and generators in their communities. As well as bringing low-cost, sustainable power to their villages, the solar mamas are benefiting from a reliable extra source of income, plus increased self-esteem – and the new-found respect of their community.

We’re also building biogas chambers in five schools, which will transform both human and cow waste into methane for use in cooking school meals – in turn, improving both the health and educational attainment of schoolchildren. Alongside reducing the use of wood for fuel and producing compost for school gardens, the biogas generators are also providing a new source of income for the local artisans trained in their construction. 

Empowering women and powering communities

[Unlocking Talent has] contributed to increasing access to education and deepening basic knowledge and skills in our learners
Peter Mutharika, President of Malawi

Contact us

We work with a number of partners in Malawi including the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology; the Ministry of Youth and Sports; onebillion; the University of Malawi; the University of Nottingham; Mzuzu University; and the Malawi Prison Service.

If you are interested in supporting our work, or if you have another query, get in touch:

Address: VSO Malawi, Private Bag B 300, Capital City, Lilongwe 3, Malawi
Telephone: (+265) 1 795 499, (+265) 1 795 492, (+265) 1 795 494
Email: vsomalawi@vsoint.org

Volunteer with us

We are always looking for more skilled specialists.

Find out more about volunteering with us in Malawi


Find out more about our work in:

A student at Umutara School for the Deaf

Inclusive sexual and reproductive health and rights

Supporting the most vulnerable people to realise their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

A nurse stands in the Chikurubi prison clinic with a trolley of medicines in front of her
VSO/Cynthia Matonhodze

Prison health

Improving the health and wellbeing of marginalised and neglected prison populations.

A student watches intently as her instructor demonstrates machinery in a welding and metal workshop

Employment and entrepreneurship

Ensuring that everyone has access to decent employment and market opportunities.