Skip to content

The Home of Africa’s Adult Education Community

Back to magazine

After Cyclone Freddy: Conclusions to be drawn for our Adult Learning and Education (ALE) work in Southern Africa

30 March 2023 | Dyson Mthawanji & Gerhard Quincke | DVV International Ecological crisis


After Cyclone Freddy: Conclusions to be drawn for our Adult Learning and Education (ALE) work in Southern Africa

After severe floods that affected seven provinces in South Africa in February 2023, Cyclone Freddy, the longest-lasting and highest-energy tropical cyclone ever recorded worldwide, made landfall in Madagascar, Mozambique, and Malawi late the same month and continued to cause havoc into March for almost two weeks. At the time of writing, apart from the damage caused to homes, businesses, crops, livestock and infrastructure such as roads and bridges, more than 150 people have died in Mozambique and over 500 in Malawi, while many are still missing. The number of displaced people in the 12 affected Malawian districts has reached more than half a million.

Many public buildings, especially educational institutions are serving as emergency shelters, and all efforts are now focused on locating the missing, feeding the victims, and mitigating the spread of water borne diseases. Malawi was already facing the deadliest cholera outbreak in its history with over 45,000 cases recorded. The outbreak had already claimed the lives of more than 1,400 people in the weeks before Freddy struck the country.

While rescue and emergency relief is ongoing, intense debates are underway nationwide as everyone strives for answers to the key questions that Freddy has posed. Why is Malawi so vulnerable to these extreme weather events? What can be done to limit the impact of these events, which are increasingly frequent? How can the country improve its disaster preparedness so that its communities can prepare and respond adequately? Here, Adult Learning and Education (ALE) can play a critical role.

In areas frequently affected by natural disasters, such as Blantyre City, many people construct their houses on mountainsides and along riverbanks, where they are highly vulnerable to extreme weather. Many of the victims of Freddy lived in such locations. ALE has a key role to play in raising awareness about the risks and impact of natural disasters such as cyclones on people living in these locations. It can support and inform community dialogue geared towards finding solutions in relation to areas such as settlement schemes and access to basic services and potable water. ALE focusing on citizenship education is important in preparing learners to advocate with government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders for policies and practices that support disaster preparedness and response.

ALE encompasses multiple facets of learning and education that integrate all sectors of life, including environmental protection and climate justice and preventive measures such as reforestation. ALE curricula can equip communities and individuals with the necessary skills and knowledge on how to better prepare for disasters, become familiar with early warning systems, learn about evacuation procedures, and make the most of disaster kits. Through ALE, communities can acquire knowledge and skills that will help them to better respond to extreme weather events, which are becoming increasingly frequent in countries like Malawi. Last but not least, ALE can support people who are coping with the trauma and stress that these disasters inevitably bring in their wake.

This is what DVV International can contribute in its partner countries, such as Malawi. In Mozambique, some community learning facilities of DVV’s partner organizations were directly hit by Freddy. DVV International can also help to link these partners to others who can support in the renovation of these centres. In Africa, many countries are facing frequent floods, while others are experiencing extreme droughts. However, on a global level efforts to limit the emissions that are exacerbating global warming and extreme weather are inadequate. ALE can help to raise awareness on these essential themes, as well as contribute to the development of practical solutions worldwide.

Catastrophes such as the one we have just witnessed in Southern Africa will happen again. They will be more frequent, and their impact will be more devastating. All signs indicate that they will begin spreading to parts of the world that have so far been spared and where not enough people have yet begun to sit up and take notice. With targeted and concerted efforts ALE can help to ensure that we are not completely helpless in the face of these developments.