Seventy nine percent of children aged between five and 10 in Malawi are illiterate, Minister of Education, Science and Technology Mrs. Eunice Kazembe said on Wednesday in Lilongwe.

Speaking when she opened a National Literacy Conference the Minister said her government is employing aggressive efforts to reverse the trend.

“Countries that have increased literacy levels by 20 to 30 percent have seen simultaneous increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of eight to 16 percent,” said Kazembe.

The Minister however admitted that lack of teaching materials is one of the major factors contributing to high illiteracy levels in the southern African country.

“I must admit that as a country Malawi is lagging behind. One of the challenges that we are facing as a ministry is of lack of teaching materials,” said Kazembe.

In his remarks Save the Children’s Country Director Mathew Pichard said his organization believes reading is one of the fundamental life skills that can bring change to a child.

“The levels of illiteracy in Malawi are shocking and they are no way near attainable. This is because of poor infrastructures, a teacher to pupil ratio is also a big challenge,” said a visibly touched Pichard.

According to an assessment on primary school learning outcomes, shows that over 70 percent of the children who are in standard 6 in the country do not have basic reading skills to sustain their literacy in life.

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