In a context in which HIV and AIDS is affecting many lives around the globe, education has been described as the most effective 'social vaccine' against this pandemic. Getting every child into school seems to be essential to mitigate the impact of HIV and AIDS. However, worldwide evidence suggests that HIV and AIDS have swamped education sectors with a range of challenges, especially in countries were education sectors were already weak. As a result, many children are not accessing education or are leaving school before achieving basic literacy and numeracy skills. This paper is one of the background documents developed as part of SOFIE research project funded by the Joint DFID-ESRC Scheme that explores the potential role of open, distance and flexible learning (ODFL) as a complement to conventional schooling in Malawi and Lesotho to overcome the barriers to education presented by HIV and AIDS. Drawing mostly on secondary data, the analysis of documents, reports and academic articles, as well as on primary data from interviews and discussions with key informants in Malawi, this paper reviews the way in which the education sector in Malawi is responding to support students' access to education and achievement in the context of the AIDS epidemic. It also identifies and analyses key ODFL initiatives and structures used to address challenges in the education system. Available research evidence suggests that ODFL should be supported alongside conventional schooling because it has the potential to alleviate the huge demands that the system is facing. The evidence also recommends the design of inclusive programmes that reach out to all vulnerable children, not only orphans, and particularly those from the lowest socio-economic quintiles. Some good practices are discussed.
SOFIE Opening Up Access Series No 3, SOFIE, London, ISBN 978-1-906648-02-2, 44 pp.