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The Earlier the Better

Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Vanessa Chimutu

My whole life, I have been thankful for the blessings God has given me, from having the most supportive parents who encourage me to pursue my dreams, to going to good schools on Malawian standards is truly a privilege, to be honest being here has made me realize this a lot more.

Sometimes I feel like I am in a different world, I flash back to my childhood memories of kindergarten where I used to play musical chairs with my friends, getting excited for tea break and nap time without realizing that everything we did was part of a well thought out plan set by my teacher. Now why am I talking about all this, well it’s because at this stage, I have so much empathy for everything happening around me, it makes me tear up sometimes when I think about it.

Here is a village, who want their children to also get the best upstart education as possible, yes, they also want the same kindergarten educational experience most of us had for their children. I was very curious to see the school for myself because within all the talks I have had with the chiefs and some community members, they all pointed out about their Early Childhood Development program (ECD) which is known as a “Nkomba Phala” in Chichewa the local language. Once I made my way to the school, I was surprised to see the condition of the school, unfinished windows, no doors, no cemented floors, but nevertheless I was assured I would find people by the sound of music that I was hearing, the excitement in the children’s faces gave me enough motivation as I joined them as we sat and sang their nursery songs. I really learned a lot through the interactions I had with the children, teacher and a committee member who looks after the schools welfare. The school was built in 2013 and the community contributed for its whole construction to date, the only support they got was for the roofing which was provided by save the children. The school has an intake of about 85-100 children from the ages of 3-5 who are officially registered and these come from four of the surrounding villages named Thamagiwa, Galu, Selemani and Lambulira.

The most prominent problems they face at the school is lack of security as the school had no doors or windows, and due to this they are forced to remove the materials they use for learning. Lack of access to clean water, as they don’t have enough materials to store water, I noticed this when they clean the children  they use one cup to wash hands of a number of children, which is not ideal. Aside from this, lack of food has led to the increase in dropout rates from the school, this is because the community used to contribute towards the food that was being cooked at the school, but because a lot of families did not harvest enough during the growing season, no contributions were made.

Early childhood development is an important component in human development, the science of early brain development can inform investments in early childhood. These basic concepts, established over decades of neuroscience and behavioral research, help illustrate why child development—particularly from birth to five years—is a foundation for a prosperous and sustainable society. This can be seen through research that different institutions have undertaken interest in the science, for example the center on the developing child Harvard University. (http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/inbrief-science-of-ecd/) You can read more about it through the link, this really shows that children who have an early start on education are able to really go further with education and become productive citizens of the nation.

I truly was touched with the efforts that the community has done towards the establishment of the nursery, my hope is that by end of my service my community and I will have worked hand in hand to find solutions the problems they face now.

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