The power of partnerships for early childhood education

A decade of social impact towards financial inclusion with the Roger Federer Foundation

For the past ten years, Credit Suisse has partnered with the Roger Federer Foundation as part of our commitment to building trust and deep relationships for social impact. Based on the belief that education is a great equalizer and a powerful force for social and economic change, and in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal 4, Credit Suisse supports the provision of education and pathways to financial inclusion. In 2010, the Roger Federer Foundation identified rural communities most in need in Malawi. Together, we committed to a long-term partnership for change. From a starting point of a shared purpose, the comprehensive and systemic Early Childhood Development Initiative was designed to support local innovation of sustainable solutions, trust and relationships to offer quality early childhood development and nutrition to children aged 3 to 6 years.


Partnerships with shared goals make carefully considered contributions for enduring societal impact. Working together over a sustained period has meant that young children are being offered a better start on their journey to being included as the future custodians of our planet.

The Problem


Complex and long-standing systems have often denied an early education to children between the ages of 3 and 6, in developing countries, perpetuating socio economic inequalities in society by arresting child development. In rural Malawi, the pursuit of quality education is hindered by poverty. Children have compromised basic nutrition and limited or no access to necessary resources and infrastructure, e.g., grass-thatched structures made of unburnt bricks with mud floors, often without access to water. Ten years ago, only 32% of eligible children were accessing early childhood development services.


The Solution


Dependable financial support from Credit Suisse over an extended timeframe has enabled the Roger Federer Foundation to roll out a Comprehensive Early Childhood Development Initiative (ECDI) in Malawi. With the ambition of systemic change at community and national level, The Roger Federer Foundation found a strong, accountable partner to nurture partnerships between families, caregivers, communities, traditional and government leaders to use existing resources creatively, provide training and mentoring, to combine commitment to develop primary school readiness. 

“Working in partnership means having the courage to learn, break boundaries and innovate together.” 

Janine Händel CEO Roger Federer Foundation


The power of partnerships for early childhood education

How it works


A baseline study in 2010 identified the challenges affecting access to quality childhood development services. The planned longevity of the partnership between the Roger Federer Foundation and Credit Suisse assured financial and staff stability for the implementing partner in Malawi; ActionAid, and allowed the program to evolve and incorporate the changing context and respond to emerging needs. The initiative has supported the establishment of the appropriate governance structures and helped develop sustainable relationships with civil society organizations, traditional leaders and government ministries, all fueled by the enthusiasm and energy of empowered communities who want to own and manage their learning centers.


The Impact


480 childcare centers have been renovated, enlarged or fully constructed by communities receiving external support, and are equipped with a kitchen, child friendly toilets, an outdoor play area and many have a communal garden and new access to safe water. More than 4800 caregivers have been trained and mentored on an on-going basis. 4775 committee members have been capacitated and supervised to manage a childcare center and involve parents and the community to sustain the quality of operation.


To date, the program has surpassed targets, with more than 154,000 children receiving quality education services. The provision of food and locally made play materials has increased the attendance of eligible children to 50%, and also substantially lowered malnutrition rates in this group. 85% of children who transitioned to primary school from the school readiness program have been measured as performing ‘good’ or ‘excellent’, compared to a figure of 15% in children arriving at primary school from a home environment.


Due to the strength of the Early Childhood Development Initiative, the government of Malawi has partnered with the World Bank, which provided funding to further scale the program. The Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare committed, in person, to guarantee the stability of the rural Community Based Childcare Centers in ten districts, and they have added an initiative to make an honorarium payment to volunteer caregivers and educators from a revolving fund which also offers affordable loans. The ECDI has built trust and in doing so, revived governmental networks to channel advocacy issues and share plans and budgets, and record management systems at community, district and national level to further influence policy. 


Universal ECD in Malawi: A cost-benefit approach