SRH services and GBV in Technical and Vocational Colleges in Malawi – What is the current situation?

UNESCO through Skills and Technical Education Programme (STEP) has released a report on the Status of Sexual and Reproductive Health of Students and Gender-Based Violence in Technical and Vocational Colleges in Malawi.

What is the situation for the provision of sexual and reproductive health services (SRH) and the extent of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in technical colleges?  This is the main research question in a recently released UNESCO report in Malawi.  Considerable attention in the education sector is given to understanding GBV in secondary schools and in universities.  However, no studies have been conducted that look specifically at GBV in technical colleges.  Studies have shown that women often drop out of technical college because of unplanned pregnancies.  Yet, no study has looked at the provision of sexual and reproductive health services in the colleges.

The study found that male and female students in technical colleges are sexually active yet the use of contraceptives is limited.  Female students are particularly vulnerable to transactional sex due to financial and social vulnerabilities that they face.  Of great concern is the finding that there are cases of male instructors having sexual relations with female students with no disciplinary action taken against the instructor.  The common types of violence experienced by students were sexual and emotional violence perpetrated by male students towards female students, among male students, and between instructors and female and male students. None of the colleges offer GBV prevention services or information.  There were neither written policies, reporting mechanisms nor systems in place to respond to GBV victims.

The study found that technical and vocational colleges do not offer SRH services or training on comprehensive sexuality and availability of condoms is either inconsistent or non-existent.  Staff and students have limited understanding of SRH and GBV which contributes to low risk perception and inconsistent health seeking behaviours.   To effectively address these issues, the researchers provide key recommendations in the area of policy development and implementation, curriculum, advocacy, and college inspection and monitoring.

The research was commissioned by UNESCO’s HIV and Health Education Unit in collaboration with the Skills and Technical Education Programme (STEP), an initiative implemented by UNESCO with funding from European Union.  The research is part of a Southern Africa Development Community regional study on the status of SRH for students in higher and tertiary education institutions.

The full report can be accessed here