Written By John Saukira

 

It is 9:00a.m in Malawi local time at Chimdeka Child Development Centre in the area of the Traditional Authority Simphasi in Mchinji.

 

One is greeted at the centre with loud voice of learners playing with different playing materials, as part of Early Development Centre Curriculum. (ECD).

 

 

However just few meters from the Headmaster’s office one bumps into an overcrowded classroom, manned by only two teachers. One said to be qualified and the other one non-qualified.

 

The class houses 156 young eager minds ready to learn. Ida Robert Phiri, is the class teacher.

 

“We are just used to that, the class is overcrowding because of shortage of classroom blocks,” laments Phiri.

 

But how do the two teachers manage a class of so many energetic young pupils?

 

Francis Kamunde is the Coordinator of the Chimdeka CBCC.

 

“It’s not easy to manage the class of such numbers, however as an institution we have not just stayed, we have engaged the community to build the additional school blocks,” Said Kamunde.

 

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report on Malawi’s ECD Program indicates that early years of life (usually 0-8) are critical and play an important role in determining the survival and development of a child.

 

According to the report, it is during the first years of a child’s life for example that many important organs including the brain develop.

 

“Realising the critical role that early years play in a child’s development, UNICEF in the 2010-2016 Country Programme intends to support initiatives aimed at providing children with an enabling, safe and nurturing environment to develop to their full potential.” Reads the Report in part.

 

In the report, it is also indicated that UNICEF currently supports Government institutions to develop adequate policies, standards, curricula, monitoring and evaluation of research for evidence-based decision making and to address the challenge of delivering quality early childhood development in communities across the country.

 

According to the UNICEF Report the goal of the early childhood development sub component is to ensure evidence-informed early childhood policy, legislation, plans and budgets are in place and that implementation of interventions that target the most vulnerable children are supported.

 

“In Malawi, over one million children benefit from Early Childhood Development (ECD) services. ECD services are provided through Community Based Care Centres (CBCC) supported by UNICEF through the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare throughout the country. Usually, the CBCC’s are run by caregivers who are trained to manage children.”

 

According to the report, currently, there are 14, 800 caregivers in Malawi.

 

However, despite the above effort by the donors, it looks Malawi Government has left the overall ECD work in the hands of donors.

 

Aerahnive Jamali is the ECD Project Officer at Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC).

 

Jamali says with funding from OSISA, SCEC is implementing a project aimed at enhancing ECD education with special focus on disability children.

 

The project has already benefited people in Mchinji, Ntcheu and Blantyre.

 

Malawi ECD policy identifies challenges for ECD Services in Malawi.

 

The policy indicates that while strides have been made in the past ten years, it is clear that huge challenges still remain in the delivery of ECD services in Malawi.

 

The policy identifies gap in the area of capacity at all levels for caregivers, supervisors, managers, service providers, and policy makers.

 

Apart from low education levels of caregivers, the policy identifies poor infrastructure for ECD centers as well as lack of incentives for caregivers and providers.

 

“There is insufficient services for children with special needs and inadequate ECD standardized instructional materials as well as weak monitoring and evaluation system for ECD services.” Reads the policy in part.

 

Jim Watch is the Assistant Social Development Officer in the Ministry of Gender, disability and social Welfare in Mchinji.  He admitted that the ECD Programme is experiencing a lot of challenges in the districts.

 

Watch says “The ECD centres have no good infrastructure such as classrooms, the centres have no desks, as well as books.”

 

Watch thanked SCEC, World Vision, and UNICEF for helping in running the ECD centres by among other things training care givers.

 

Speaking during the State of Union United States of America President once said “In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own. We know this works. So let’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.” President Barack Obama, State of the Union, February 12, 2013

 

During this State of the Union address, President Obama was lobbying Congress to expand access to high-quality preschool to every child in America.

 

Malawi can borrow a leaf from USA President Barack Obama that it is time to make things happen by promoting ECD without necessarily waiting for external forces.

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