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Title: A district level study on the deployment, allocation and utilisation of teachers between and within Malawi's primary schools : an accountability and political settlement approach
Author: Zubairi, Asma
ISNI:       0000 0004 9360 0290
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2020
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A district level study on the deployment, allocation and utilisation of teachers between and within Malawi’s primary schools: an accountability and political settlement approach By Asma Zubairi Despite Malawian government policies being aimed at reforming the persistent unequal distribution of teachers, teachers continue to be concentrated in urban areas and in later standards of primary schools. Why these policies have failed remain underexplored in empirical research. The aim of this thesis is to identify what contributes to this persistent inequitable distribution of teachers between and within schools in Malawi. The thesis highlights the need to understand relationships of accountability related to teacher management and the effect of power and politics on these relationships. In doing so, this thesis contributes to an emerging field in international education that explores the influence of politics on service delivery. The study utilised the Levy-Walton framework which seeks an understanding of the impact of politics on service delivery. Additionally it focuses on the the multiple levels of governance within a sector such as education, starting at the top level where policies are made through to the bottom level of front-line service delivery. Guided by this framework, the thesis adopted an explanatory mixed methods design to explore the patterns relating to the deployment, allocation and utilisation of teachers. The focus of study was Zomba Rural district, one of the worst performing districts in Malawi with respect to unequal distribution of teachers between schools. Within this district, purposive sampling utilising a deviant approach was adopted in order to select two primary education zones and four primary schools. This enabled comparability across different cases of schools/ zones which were experiencing either a shortage or surplus of teachers. I collected administrative quantitative data from government sources for all primary schools in the country. These data were used to illustrate trends concerning the equitability of teacher distribution between schools. I also administered a school survey in the 26 primary schools falling under the two primary education zones selected for study. The purpose of this survey was to quantify how teachers were being allocated between different classes in each school, and the time each teacher utilised for teaching. Lastly, I collected qualitative data from semi-structured interviews conducted with central, district and zonal government officials, together with headteachers and teachers in the four schools I chose. The interview data were intended to gain different stakeholder perspectives on the main reasons for the persistence of the inequitable and inefficient teacher deployment, allocation and utilisation. Through analysis of the administrative data, I found that approximately half of Zomba Rural district’s teachers were deployed to schools for reasons other than enrolment. This appears to be partly related to political interference resulting in a skew in teachers towards certain constituencies. During the Presidency of Joyce Banda (2012-14), whose home area is within Zomba Rural district, I found that the total number of teachers working in the district rose significantly. In addition with respect to the distribution of teachers within schools, my analysis of the survey data revealed a clear preference by headteachers to allocate teachers to Standard 8 – the last and only standard of the primary school cycle where national examinations take place. Moreover the practice of “team-teaching” – where two or more teachers share teaching responsibilities for a class officially meant to be taught by one teacher – resulted in actual time spent by teachers teaching being well below that officially mandated. From the semi-structured interviews, I found evidence of interference from the national and local political elite in matters pertaining to teacher deployment and utilisation. Additionally, several factors contributing to the perceived lack of hierarchy between headteachers, local/ district government officials and teachers led to the poor enforcement of official government policy. Poor inspection and monitoring by government officials was also found to be a contributory factor in the weak implementation of policies relating to effective teacher management. Lastly, absent, poorly defined or contradictory policies led to greater discretionary decision-making powers at the district and local levels of government. The findings illustrate ways in which formal accountability relationships between teachers and education officials responsible for managing them were weakened through the informal relationships supplanting them. While previous studies relating to teacher management in Malawi have broadly quantified the inequity and inefficiency of teacher deployment, allocation and utilisation, this thesis makes an important contribution in redressing what has overwhelmingly been an apolitical approach to understanding this long-standing problem affecting Malawi’s education system. The combination of both quantitative and qualitative data allowed for a richer interrogation of the influence of politics and power in allowing the problem to persist. Additionally, through my engagement with multiple stakeholders from different levels of the education sector, the thesis brought together the distinct perspectives on how politics and power affected different actors in fulfilling their responsibilities.
Supervisor: Rose, Pauline ; Sabates Aysa, Ricardo ; Alcott, Ben Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Malawi ; Teachers ; Distribution ; Political Economy