Link Community Development

Improving the quality of education in Africa

The Complementary Basic Education (CBE) Project

Complementary Basic Education (CBE) is a Malawi Government programme which aims to provide educational opportunities for out-of-school children between the ages of 9 and 14. CBE is an accelerated learning programme with an emphasis on literacy and numeracy, healthy living, citizenship, livelihoods and agriculture, and the environment. Link Malawi runs 120 CBE Centres in Dedza district.


Funder: Ministry of Education, Science and Technology

Total Funding:

Date: 2012-2015

The challenge

In Malawi although the vast majority of children enrol in primary school, only 38% will complete a full 8 year cycle. Dropout and repetition rates stand at 25% for Standards 7 and 8 (Education Sector Improvement Plan II pp.20-23). Many families rely on children to help on the farm, sell goods in the market or care for younger siblings while their parents are at work. These responsibilities mean that children regularly miss classes and fall behind with their studies. When this happens, even if their parents support them to go back to school, it is difficult for young people to catch up with the work they have missed and many will drop out of school altogether.  

Project Aims

CBE gives primary school dropouts and those who have never attended school the opportunity to complete five years of primary education in just three years. The curriculum focuses on literacy and numeracy, but also covers health and agriculture-related topics. In addition to traditional subjects, CBE emphasizes soft skills and values that promote self-reliance, lifelong learning, community engagement, and citizenship. Centres are run by local high school graduates and open for a few hours each day at times which suit the community - so if children have dropped out of school due to early morning farming duties, CBE classes will take place in the afternoon. The ultimate aim is to help children who have dropped out of school to catch up on lessons so that they can re-enrol in mainstream education. The project also aims to improve awareness of the importance of education and build support for learning within rural communities.

Project Activities

1.       Establish CBE centres or ‘community schools’ in collaboration with local community leaders

2.       Recruit and train facilitators from the local community to run these schools

3.       Procure and distribute learning materials and resources to the centres

4.       Mobilise community support for the centres and encourage the attendance of out-of-school learners

5.       Provide ongoing mentoring and training to CBE facilitators

Headline achievements

·         Established 120 CBE Centres in collaboration with communities who provide space for the learning centres e.g. local churches. Equipped centres with chalkboards, teaching guides and the necessary teaching and learning materials needed to run the classes.

·         Selected and trained 120 CBE facilitators and 8 cluster supervisors. Many of the facilitators are local young people who have volunteered to help the children in their communities to gain basic literacy, numeracy and life skills.

·         Set up 120 Learning Centre Management Committees. Committee members are taking up their roles in managing learning centres. Where some learning centres were lacking toilets and learning structures, these have now been constructed and they are in good condition.

·         A special kind of assistance from some community quarters has been observed when some community members have assisted Facilitators to understand how to use primary school books. This has not only been done by teachers at the primary schools but even some able citizens in the community. This is a very good example of community ownership of the project.

·         Learners are beginning to understand the regular primary school work: they are able to follow and do activities for Standard 5 in all subjects including English; they are able to construct sentences using provided vocabulary; and do Mathematics with fractions and factors.

·         In areas which experience high levels of absenteeism on market days, communities around the centres have been advised to change meeting times on market days to start earlier or a little later so that classes are not caught in the peak marketing times. Parents have also been advised to let their children help with carrying merchandise to the market in the afternoon of the day before to avoid being late for classes.

·         Gender awareness impact is observed and emphasized by Facilitators during lesson delivery when they ensure that equity and equality are observed by directing equal numbers of questions to boys as to girls. All centre activities ensure and encourage equal participation and mutual respect between girls and boys.

NGOsource equivalency determination on file Registered with Fundraising Regulator OSCR Scottish Charity Registrar