Tetra Tech was selected by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to expand access to secondary schools and bring schools closer to where youth live—especially young women and girls—thereby improving health and educational outcomes for youth in Malawi.

In Malawi, more than 60 percent of students are unable to attend secondary schools because there is not enough classroom space to accommodate the growing youth population. These constraints disproportionally impact girls, who are less likely to continue attending, especially as schools become more congested. In partnership with the Ministry of Education Science and Technology (MoEST), the Secondary Education Expansion for Development (SEED) Project, funded by USAID  and the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), strives to increase access to public, Community Day Secondary Schools (CDSS) for boys and girls with a specific goal to  improve girls attendance rates in an effort to reduce early marriage, pregnancy, and new HIV infections. As the Contract Management Consultant to USAID, Tetra Tech supports school site selection, develops school designs, provides construction oversight and quality assurance services, and integrates capacity building into all project activities.

The project is implemented in two parts, SEED Urban and SEED Rural. First, SEED Urban will reduce congestion in 30 existing urban schools by adding a total of 48 prefabricated classroom blocks with 96 classrooms and pit latrines with female changing rooms. This project will add 5,760 new seats in total. With additional space in urban schools, students will experience a more enjoyable learning environment and experience less congestion, a critical element to reducing the rampant spread of COVID-19. Additionally, new latrines and changing rooms will improve sanitation and hygiene, eliminating absenteeism due to the lack of a clean latrine.

Then, SEED Rural will deliver up to 200 new rural schools in Districts across Malawi, prioritizing locations where currently there are no secondary schools. Increasing access to secondary schools in remote areas will make education attainable and more accessible, reducing the security risks associated with traveling long distances. Consequently, as girls stay in school, they are less likely to marry or become pregnant at a young age and will acquire healthy behaviors that reduce their risk of contracting new HIV infections and be equipped with a secondary education and new opportunities in life.

Site Selection

Tetra Tech engages with communities once they have been selected to receive a school. Community engagement is done early through a consultative process that is critical to assessing potential land ownership conflicts and analyzing the physical land condition suitability for a school campus. Managing expectations is key because the community’s plot of land may not always meet the technical requirements. Or, in other circumstances, landowners might refuse to volunteer the land requiring USAID to look elsewhere.

Design and Construction Oversight

Tetra Tech completed a detailed design package that included a facilities package with architectural and structural building design and a site package with site-specific site layout and civil drawings for the first group of 38 SEED Rural schools. Design constraints and opportunities are dictated by the school locations that include: zero net energy, zero net water, emphasis on regional materials and local labor, and community ownership.  The classroom design integrates passive lighting, ventilation, sound attenuation from the tin roof, and heat considerations, making improvements on the current secondary school learning environment. The designs have standard structural components for any site and adaptable components that can be modified according to specific site conditions, creating an ease of construction, repetition, and scaling. Each school will have four standard classrooms with administrative space, one science classroom room, two teacher houses, student and staff pit latrines, and a borehole with handpump for water supply.

Tetra Tech supports USAID in monitoring and managing the construction contract to ensure the schools are built correctly according to the specified quality standards, within the time frame, and withing the contract budget. We lead pre-solicitation activities to identify and assess local construction capacity and capabilities and conducted pre-bid meeting to familiarize bidders on the solicitation documents and construction expectations. During the construction phase, we provide on-site quality assurance, monitor contractor performance, review progress payments, and support contract administration and warranty phase activities.

Capacity Building

Tetra Tech conducts trainings and provides mentorship to local staff and interns on construction supervision, quality assurance, design preparation, construction procurement, management, and child and environmental safeguarding. Tetra Tech partnered with the University of Malawi to grant internships to women engineering students, an initiative that is on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Part of the SEED’s community engagement includes developing and training Community Management Committees (CMC) to support project objectives and act as the point of contact for the community during the construction phase. Tetra Tech prioritizes social inclusion in these committees by actively engaging women’s groups and local organizations in leadership roles. Before handing over a school to the community, the CMCs will transition into School Management Committees (SMC) and become responsible for overseeing school operations, maintenance, and finances and ensuring the facilities stay clean and run as intended. Tetra Tech will prepare operations and maintenance manuals and training materials to build the capacity of the SMCs to assume management responsibility and maintain the rural schools.

SEED bridges the gap between students and secondary schools and will kickstart a new generation of educated leaders. By increasing the number schools, the distances students travel to and from school will be drastically reduced and safe conditions will improve attendance. Access to secondary school will not only improve learning conditions, but it will enable more children to grow into active contributors to society and advance Malawi on its journey towards self-reliance.