Republic of Malawi

  • Total Population

    21 million

  • Deaf Population


  • Nation's Official Language


  • Other Languages

    The number of established languages listed in Ethnologue is 17. Some of these are:

    • Afrikaans
    • Chichew
    • Kacchi
    • Kokola
    • Lambya
    • Lomwe
    • Nyakyusa-Ngonde
    • Sena, Malawi
    • Tonga
    • Tumbuka
    • Yao
  • Name of Sign Language

    Malawi Sign Language (MSL)

  • Overview Of Deaf Community And Education

    Deaf education in Malawi was initiated by Christian missionaries. In 1968, the first deaf school, the Maryview School for the Deaf, was established in Blantyre. Prior to this, there is a record that deaf students from Malawi went to study in the first deaf school in Zambia when it was established in 1955. Two more schools were eventually established in the central and northern regions of Malawi: the Mua school for the deaf was established in 1984 in Mtakataka area, and the Embangweni School for the Hard of Hearing was established in Embangweni in 1994. 

    Total Communication seems to be common. The use of signs is not prohibited, but speech is preferred. Deaf children who can use spoken language are often moved to a school for hearing school, but without an interpreter. Teachers only use spoken language.

    The Malawi government recognizes the educational rights of deaf children but no legislation or policies have been established.

  • Sign Language Overview

    Despite the official recognition of Malawi Sign Language in 2006, very little information or material is available on Malawi Sign Language. MANAD published a DVD picture dictionary in 2015. Some churches have produced the translation of the Bible in Malawi Sign Language. 

    There does not appear to be any research on Malawi Sign Language. Universities do not teach Malawi Sign Language. Some informal courses are run by specific societies. In the Department of Education there is a unit to support Malawi Sign Language, but this is only for schools in the cities.

    Variation exists apparently according to region and ethnic group but this has not been researched. Malawi Sign Language does not appear to be mutually comprehensible to other groups of signers. There is apparently a considerable amount of borrowing from ASL, but this has not been researched.

  • Deaf Organizations In Country

    • Malawi National Association of the Deaf (MANAD)

  • Overview of Interpreting Services

    There are very few trained interpreters and no accreditation. Eleven interpreters for the population of 52,000 deaf people was mentioned, and these interpreters are not remunerated. In early 2000s, Deaf Action (Scotland) offered training to interpreters in Swaziland and Malawi. Informal training may be offered locally. There is occasionally interpreting for the news but no deaf TV program.

  • Resources

    Clark, Menthia P. (1999) Children's Sign Language at Maryview School for the Deaf in Malawi. Chancellor College Publications  

    Itimu, A. N., & Kopetz, P. B., (2008) Malawi’s special needs education (SNE): perspectives and comparisons of practice and progress, Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 8 (3),153-160.  

    Meeuws, Brother Hortensius. 1989. The Development of Education for the Deaf in Malawi. Montford Press.  

  • List of Contributors

    Malonje Phiri , Razaq Fakir , Michiko Kaneko

Name Sign of Malawi
Name Sign of Malawi