The Bloomsbury Colleges | PhD Studentships | Studentships 2014 | School Absenteeism In Northern Malawi: Trends, Influences And The Impact Of Highly Efficient Cooking Stoves. Analysis Of A Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial.
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School Absenteeism In Northern Malawi:  Trends, Influences And The Impact Of Highly Efficient Cooking Stoves. Analysis Of A Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial.

Principal Supervisor: Judith Glynn (LSHTM)

Co- Supervisors: Elaine Unterhalter (IoE); Deborah Johnston (SOAS)

In Africa levels of school drop-out and absenteeism can be high. This study will look at causes of absenteeism in northern Malawi and assess whether a novel intervention can reduce it. The data are all being collected as part of other studies. The student would be based in London with short visits to the site.

This study is linked to a demographic surveillance site in northern Malawi covering ~35000 individuals which collects detailed data on schooling annually. We have previously explored relationships with school drop-out but have not yet explored the data on school absenteeism.  In preliminary analyses, 25% of children had missed ≥1 day in the previous 4 weeks, and 7% had missed ≥1 week. The proportions were similar in different age groups and in boys and girls. 60% of absences were due to ill health, and 10% for family related activities. With increasing age, illness became less important and family activities more important.

A large (MRC-DfID-Wellcome-funded) cluster-randomized trial of highly fuel-efficient cookstoves (  is about to start within the demographic surveillance area.   It is hoped that the much lower pollution levels from the stoves than from traditional open fires will reduce childhood pneumonia.  Households in intervention clusters will receive the cookstoves and a solar charger (needed for the fan battery in the stove).

We hypothesise that the intervention could reduce school absenteeism through: lower rates of respiratory illness; fewer days off to look after sick relatives; greatly reduced time required for firewood gathering; improved socio-economic conditions for the household.

For the PhD, the student would analyse:

  • The effect of the intervention (cluster-randomized trial)
  • Dose-response relationship with air pollution
  • Individual/family/community/peer factors influencing school absenteeism

The trial also has funding for qualitative and health economics studies, which the PhD student could capitalise on depending on their direction of interest.

Candidate Requirements


  • An MSc in Epidemiology , Medical Statistics, Demography, or equivalent experience. 
  • Ability to handle large and complex datasets and do quantitative analyses.
  • Very good levels of spoken and written English


  • Knowledge of education
  • Knowledge of sub-Saharan Africa

Key References

  1. Chisamya, G, et al. Gender and Education for All: Progress and problems in achieving gender equity. International Journal of Educational Development 2012; 32.6: 743-755.
  2. Grant M, Lloyd C, Mensch B. Menstruation and school absenteeism: evidence from rural Malawi. Comparative Education Review 2013,57:260-284.
  3. Glynn JR, Kayuni N, Floyd S, Banda E, Francis-Chizororo M, Tanton C, et al. Age at menarche, schooling, and sexual debut in northern Malawi. PLoS ONE 2010,2010 ;5(12):e15334.
  4. Po JY, FitzGerald JM, Carlsten C. Respiratory disease associated with solid biomass fuel exposure in rural women and children: systematic review and meta-analysis. Thorax 2011,66:232-239.
  5. Crampin AC, Dube A, Mboma S, Price A, Mwinuka V, Mwaiyeghele E, Chihana M, Branson K, Floyd S, Jahn A, Baschieri A, Molesworth A, McGrath N, Fine PEM, French N, Glynn JR, Zaba B. Profile: The Karonga Health and Demographic Surveillance System. International Journal of Epidemiology 2012; doi: 10.1093/ije/dys088

Principal Supervisor:

Judith Glynn,,

Co- Supervisors:

Elaine Unterhalter,,

Deborah Johnston,,

Further information about PhDs at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine  is available from:

Application forms and details about how to apply are available from:

LSHTM uses on-line applications. Please see:

Research Degrees Administrator: Jenny Fleming,, Tel: +44 (0) 20 7927 2491

Those interested in being considered for this studentship should:

1. Indicate on the LSHTM application form that you wish to be considered for this award

2. Submit all of the following documents by the application deadline:

  • Completed application for LSHTM Research degree study
  • Covering letter explaining why you are interested in this PhD
  • CV
  • Academic transcripts
  • Contact details of two referees

If you are not entitled to the lower Home/EU fees, please state how you plan to fund the balance of the fees.

Closing date for applications is 17 February 2014.