Tetra Tech is partnering with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to expand access to secondary schools and bring schools closer to where youth, especially young women and girls, live, 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, strives to increase access to public Community Day Secondary Schools (CDSS) with the ultimate 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 96 prefabricated classroom blocks, latrines, and changing rooms. This project will add 5,760 new seats in total for the project. With additional space in urban schools, students will experience a more enjoyable learning environment. 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 each county of Malawi, prioritizing locations where currently there are none. Increasing access to secondary schools in remote areas will make education attainable and more convenient, 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.

Design and Implementation

Tetra Tech is completing a full design package with a facilities package that includes a standard building design for all sites and site-specific drawings that include site details, layout, orientation, and civil work. The school sites are in remote locations without municipal water or power. The most common livelihoods are subsistence farming and pastoralism, and the conditions can be harsh with drastic swings between dry wet seasons that cause erosion and flooding. 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 engagement to ensure generational success.

The designs have standard structural components for any site and adaptable components that that can be modified according to specific site conditions, creating an ease of construction, repetition, and scaling. Each school will have four classrooms, including a science classroom room, administration space, two teacher houses, pit latrines, and borehole water access. Critical components in our design include:

  • Ventilation and shading for cooler interior temperatures
  • Daylight optimization for improved lighting and reduced glare
  • Native tree planting for shaded outdoor space and improved aesthetics
  • Site safety and latrine privacy for improved gender equity
  • Reinforced concrete columns in areas with higher seismic activity

Tetra Tech helps USAID manage and oversee construction phase services to ensure the schools are built safely and the design is implemented as intended. We assist in the procurement of local construction contractors, provide on-site quality assurance, monitor contractor performance, and review monthly contractor progress payments. Once construction is complete, we monitor the warranty phase by pairing up with head teachers at each school to observe each classroom block, remedy any issues, and discern whether issues are the responsibility of the contractor or general wear and tear.

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. This internship provides women with professional experience working at a global firm and positions them to succeed.

In addition, SEED establishes and trains Community Management Committees (CMC) at each project site to foster community-led development. The CMCs help obtain local documentation, solicit input on the school designs, and engage the community throughout the construction process. Tetra Tech prioritizes social inclusion in these committees by actively engaging women’s groups and local organizations in leadership roles. Once construction is substantially completed, the CMCs will transition into School Management Committees (SMC) overseeing school operations, maintenance, and finances to ensure 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 kick-start a new generation of educated leaders. By increasing the number of 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.