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Distance Education Centers (DECs) were intended to provide alternative formal secondary school education to school going age children who had passed their standard eight examinations but had failed to gain access to Conventional Secondary Schools (CSSs) due to limited places. However, despite increasing access, DECs did not offer appropriate instruction and usually produced poor results in national examinations. Among other things, there were acute shortages of teaching and learning materials in these schools. In addition, the majority of teachers in DECs were drawn from primary schools and, therefore, not qualified to teach at a secondary school.

In December 1998, the Malawi Government and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology converted a large number of DECs to CDSSs. This upgrading was meant to unify secondary education system with the aim of improving quality in DECs. In addition, it also meant that the ministry would take full control of the DECs. This would involve, among other things, purchasing and disseminating of relevant teaching and learning materials, the supply of properly trained teachers, and improving and strengthening inspection and supervision services in these schools. This study, therefore, was aimed at assessing the current situation in Community Day Secondary Schools (CDSSs) with regard to quality education.

The study used mixed methods design approach. Thus, both quantitative and qualitative data collection methods were used in order to have a comprehensive analysis and understanding of the problem understudy. Qualitative data were collected through interviews, observations, and review of school documents and records. Quantitative data were collected through questionnaire survey and observations.

Although the policy on CDSSs was a welcome development in that it was intended to improve the quality of education in these schools, the present study has found that the implementation of the policy has not made much impact due to lack of basic resources. The study has found that 92 percent of teachers in CDSSs are not qualified to teach at a secondary school. In addition, there is shortage of teaching and learning materials. Furthermore, these schools have inadequate infrastructure and classroom facilities. In some schools pupils are still learning in temporary shelters and borrowed premises. The study also foun dthat there is evidence of community participation through school management committees (SMCs), but this has little impact as seen from the unfinished development projects. The above scenario, therefore, cannot facilitate quality teaching and learning processes in CDSSs that lead to attainment of much need quality education.

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