Written by  McDonald Chiwayula

In line with the Government’s agenda of enhancing the quality of education in the country, Stephanos Foundation has opened two Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres in Namitalala Village in Blantyre Rural.

Ham officially  opening the ECD centers Ham officially opening the ECD centers

The village located to the west of Blantyre over 25 kilometres from Chileka Airport and lying on the peripherals with Chikwawa District has for decades been neglected as it is hard to reach area with its rugged terrain facilitating a big disconnect from several social amenities such as better learning infrastructures for the children.


Evelyn Magalasi a pre-schooler in Namitalala, dreams of becoming a doctor but for her dreams to come true she needs a good academic foundation that ECD centres offer.


Until June 10, 2021, in her village, there were no ECD centres thanks to an intervention by the Foundation.


Namitalala children play near the newly opened ECD centre


The World Health Organisation advocates that ECD centres are crucial for the development of children. It is quoted on its website saying: “To grow up healthy, children need to sit less and play more. This will help them to achieve their optimal physical growth and psycho-emotional development.”


To support the aspiration of Magalasi in line with the dreams of other children across the globe, the United Nations put ECD as a foundation for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as it is included in Goal 4: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”


It comes out clear in target 4:2 which says: “By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.”


In the words of former United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon: “The Sustainable Development Goals recognise that early childhood development can help drive the transformation we hope to achieve over the next 15 years.”


According to the Foundation’s international executive director, Johan Van Der Ham, the NGO is eager to reset Namitalala with the development of key infrastructures and provision of essential services starting with early childhood development.


One of the newly built ECD centres in Namitalala


“We target hard to reach areas such as Namitalala, Khoko and Khombwe in Chikwawa. Our focus is to make sure we are leaving no one behind. We are all witnesses that this is quite a remote area but children in this area also deserve better structures like these ECD learning centres.


”Our efforts are to complement Government’s efforts and after five years we will be happy to see the people in this area sustaining themselves through improved household income earnings, we would also love to see the children here attaining quality pre-school education and on overall seeing the lives of Namitalala people lifted,” said Ham.


But how does this development sync with plans Blantyre District Council has on the shelves? I caught up with Tamanya Harawa, Director of Planning and Development (DPD) for the Council.


“This augurs well with our development plans. The project is touching on children’s lives. If these children have a solid academic background they will excel in their further studies. This is a good foundation for the sustainability of other projects in this area. We have also witnessed peanut production, when the community embraces these skills we are assured of sustainable development,” said Harawa.


Development researchers have often argued that the sustainability of many projects is always at risk if the projects are imposed on the people.


Group Village Headman Chalamanda stressing a point


One of the traditional leaders in the area, Group Village Headman Chalamanda said the community is in support of the project and actively participated in the construction of the two learning centres.


He said: “On behalf of the Namitalala community and indeed on my behalf let me express our profound gratitude for this timely intervention. Children from this area will now access quality pre-school education. I have also heard that the foundation will upgrade our Junior Primary school to a full primary school with extra classroom blocks, we are thankful.”


Minister of Education, Agness Nyalonje, is also double sure that ECD is key to building a better Malawi. She has been vocal in Parliament, lobbying for more funding to ECD.


“There’s a lot of evidence to show that children’s future behaviour and academic performance are dependent on the type of support and environment provided to them in these early years. How we treat these children will determine the country we’ll have in 15-20 years, whether they will be pushed into a life of dependency and alcoholism, violence and crime and creating a drain on society. Before that, let’s make significant investments in Early Childhood Development,” said Nyalonje.


According to Thea Mawaya, Programmes Manager for Stephanos Outreach Adoption Programme, the two learning centres will have an impact on the village.


Mawaya (L) speaking during the function


“We noticed a very big challenge in this village. Learners were taking their lessons under trees. It became problematic in the rainy season. Worse still, some of the learners though attending classes could not read and write as expected, we want to close that gap,” said Mawaya.


She further outlined a five-year master plan for the area that will see:


·        Adult literacy enhanced.


·        Full primary school built.


·        Boreholes sank to end water woes.


·        Child rights councils established.


·        Lead farmers from all participating villages trained.


·        Health surveillance assistants allocated to the village.


·        Over 100 students from ultra-poor households get full primary school education.


The foundation’s executive director, Clifford Kuyokwa was earlier quoted saying, “every project Stephanos Foundation implements puts  the child at a centre stage.”


According to the National Statistical Office (NSO) as of 2018, 2.6 million people in the country were aged under five years which represents over 14 percent of the entire population of Malawi.


MBC understands that the Foundation has committed K350 million for various initiatives under Namitalala Project and it has plans to build eight more ECD centres in the area to cement their objective of building a better society with quality education as the resetting of Namitalala continues.



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