Schools in Malawi have large shortages of classrooms, desks and teachers. The quality of education is poor. Two thirds of the children leave primary education before passing the exam. In the area where Mariska works, over half of the schools are not full primary schools. This means that learners from standards 4 or 5 need to walk to another, often far school or drop-out. Only 9 percent of the children in standard 6 read at sufficient level (Malawi Education Country Status Report 2008/09). This makes Malawi the country with the lowest score in Southern Africa.
Mariska trains and coaches education advisors, head teachers, teachers, parents and learners of ten primary schools to improve the quality of education. Topics tackled are: management of the school, development and use of teaching and learning resources, teaching methodologies, infrastructure of the schools and helping learners with special educational needs. She pays a lot of attention to literacy. She works together closely with the parents of the schools. Because the government does not have sufficient funds, parents are expected to improve the school infrastructure themselves (e.g. by constructing classrooms and toilets).