It Takes a Village to Raise a Child
Growing Up in Malawi – Episode 11: In this episode we catch up with children, parents and teachers participating in the early childhood education initiative run by the Roger Federer Foundation (RFF) and ActionAid Malawi with the support of Credit Suisse.
With an annual contribution of more than one million dollars, the Roger Federer Foundation is the largest supporter of early education in Malawi. This was made possible thanks to Credit Suisse's collaboration on the project, which started in 2011 and will continue until 2021. The aim is to create model daycare centers across the country. The centers will not only prepare children for primary school, but also support further education for adults in some locations. A complementary initiative supports 400 existing kindergartens in the areas where the model institutions are located and raises the level of quality. The project is already showing signs of success: pupils who have attended the daycare are ahead of their classmates in later grades. "They already know how to associate with their friends; they recognize the numbers, vowels. They are very different from children who come straight from home," says Janet Kuyeli, project coordinator at ActionAid Malawi.
In this episode, Janet visits the daycare centers in Thundu and Mbwetu to check on the progress the kids, volunteer teachers and parents have made. She sees the everyday hardships that people in this area face as a result of a shortage of food, water and money firsthand.
Despite the everyday problems, the future already seems brighter for the people of Malawi. After the five remaining years of the program, the centers will demonstrate that the work that has been done is sustainable and will maintain the quality of education that has been achieved without any external support.
ActionAid Malawi has provided one thousand dollars in seed money for each center to use to provide funding to members of the community. Anyone with a good business idea can apply for a grant. The money will be available at lower interest rates for center volunteers. Lending to other community members at higher interest rates will provide the centers with additional funds. "The interest will accumulate, and this money will be used to run the center, so we'll be able to pay caregivers," Kuyeli says. "We expect the fund to grow because of the interest rate and that (…) we will be able to pass the money to the other centers as well."
ActionAid Malawi offered training for adults to help them develop their teaching, business and communication skills. Hanex Kapingasa, a volunteer at one of the daycare centers, attended a management course and is ready to start his own small business. He is planning to apply for a grant. Financial stability will allow Hanex to volunteer at the center with a clear conscience. "It's hard to volunteer when your family is hungry. I am confident that the seed money will help me start a small business. Then I will have no problem coming to the center and doing my best for the children," says Hanex.
According to an African proverb, "it takes a village to raise a child." To educate them may take even more. Initiating change in Malawi required the engagement of villagers, NGO workers, a bank and a celebrity. But such projects can be powerful enough to facilitate a deeper change and make self-sustaining communities a reality.