Africa at Noon on February 18, 2015

Restructuring Youth’s ‘Bright Futures’ in Malawi: Families, Land, and Schools 30 Years into the AIDS Epidemic

Nancy Kendall
Associate Professor, Education Policy Studies
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Time and Location

12:00pm, 206 Ingra­ham Hall, 1155 Obser­va­tory Drive, Madi­son, WI

Download Poster (pdf)


This presentation will examine how a constellation of forces that has been developing over the last 30 years is restructuring youth’s well being and perceived opportunities for “bright futures” in three communities in rural Malawi. The paper outlines the consequences of AIDS, the “liberation” of tobacco farming, political democratization, and climate change on rural Malawians’ livelihoods and social relations over the past twenty years. In so doing, the paper explores the effects of twenty years of international development engagement in Malawi, and argues that current development practices are not likely to positively affect youth futures. It then examines what roles grandmothers, schools, and village heads are and might instead play in improving youth opportunities.


Nancy Kendall is associate professor of educational policy studies, with specialization in ethnographic studies of comparative, international, and global education policy. Kendall conducts comparative ethnographic research on the life experiences of girls, boys, families, and communities in Southern Africa. Her research has examined children’s sense-making and experiences with gender and education, political democratization, sexuality and HIV/AIDS education, and orphan-focused international programming. Kendall has conducted extended research in Malawi, Mozambique, and the U.S.. She is involved in current programs aimed at improving community participation in schooling and increasing girls’ education, and is conducting research on adolescent girls’ economic, social, and communal survival strategies.