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Malawi, December 2014: Investing in the future at Taiza Community-Based Child Care Centre

UNICEF Malawi/2014/Ganesh
© UNICEF Malawi/2014/Ganesh
103 children from 7 surrounding villages are officially enrolled at Taiza CBCC.

December 2014 – Women sing to welcome guests while some scared children run away. It’s the first time they’ve seen a big bus like this, escorted by police and lots of cameras. The bus is bringing Sunbird’s Search for a Star contestants to Taiza Community-Based Child Care Centre (CBCC), where they will sing for the little kids who attend the centre. Before each show, Sunbird takes the contestants to a place where they learn the importance of giving to the community. Sunbird’s Search for a Starfollows in the footsteps on Sunbird’s strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) culture which seeks to invest in communities where the hotel operates. By incorporating a strong CSR element within the Search for a Star contest, contestants take this culture to their communities after the show. This year, Sunbird has partnered with UNICEF Malawi in order to have a more consistent approach that focusses on children, through visits to various UNICEF supported projects to encourage children and provide inspiration to give them hope for a brighter future.

This future is the main concern of the committee and caregivers at Taiza CBCC. By preparing toddlers for primary school, the CBCC is increasing their chances in succeeding in life. Children develop and learn faster in the first eight years of life, but sixty one percent of children in Malawi don’t have access to early childhood development (ECD) services and thus miss out on emotional, mental and cognitive stimulation, which would better prepare them for primary school. ECD services in Malawi are offered by communities and the private sector. The latter offers paying pre-schooling, which many people can’t afford. At community level however, there are 9,783 CBCCs providing ECD services to 1,057,705 children under-five. Most CBCCs are located in rural areas where they provide services mostly to poor and vulnerable children. For these children, such centres are their only means of accessing ECD services. However, there are even more children who never have the chance to attend ECD centres, as these services only reach 39 per cent of children in Malawi.

103 children from 7 surrounding villages are officially enrolled at Taiza CBCC. However, average attendance is lower, especially during rainy season. The young children have to get to the centre by foot, a challenging task when water is running all across your village. Consequently, absenteeism remains a problem.

UNICEF Malawi/2014/Ganesh
© UNICEF Malawi/2014/Ganesh
Children standing in the doorway at the Taiza Community-based Child Care Centre.

A typical day at Taiza CBCC starts with an assembly and opening prayers, after which the children gather together in the classroom to play with toy bricks or puzzles. The room is divided into different learning areas, which all have their own function. For instance, in the music area, the children learn to be creative and differentiate sounds, and the craft area gives them the opportunity to explore and create things using all senses. Outside, there is a playground, as well as a blackboard where the older children (4-5 years) receive pre-primary lessons for school readiness.

“I am happy to work here because I am helping the future leaders of the community” smiles Folentina Yohane, the chair of the CBCC committee. The committee consists of 10 volunteers who are responsible for overall management of the centres. This includes, preparing food for the children every day; cleaning the area and the classroom. Folentina is very motivated to work for the committee, as she has seen the positive effects of ECD with her own children. Her 8-years-old twins went to the centre when they were little and are now successfully attending primary school.

Nevertheless, there is a huge dropout of caregivers. They are recruited with help from the community chief and the committee and are doing a very valuable job in teaching the children and visiting homes within the community to encourage parents to send their children to the CBCC. However, often they are not trained for the work and with no remuneration, it is difficult to keep them motivated.

Moreover, Taiza, as many other CBCCs in the country, suffers from chronic under-funding for effective running of the centre. The government cannot do it alone, hence the importance of bringing on board partners such as Sunbird to support ECD services in the communities where they operate.

It’s Folentina Yohane’s dream to see one of the little kids at Taiza CBCC grow into a clever doctor, making most of its own future and of the future of the whole community. Indeed, early childhood development not only is crucial to lay the foundation for the children’s later lives, but also for society as a whole. 



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