Driven to help out in the community
Early moments matter - Mmera mpoyamba
“What’s the weather today?” exclaims the caregiver.
“It’s chilly,” says one child in a shrill voice.
“Correct!” says the caregiver.
“It’s sunny!” shouts another child.
“You’re also right!” says the caregiver.
The caregiver, Alice Mlanga, 23, then calls on two other children to go out, check the weather, and report back further.
Shortly, the two return to the class here at Tadala, a community-based childcare Centre (CBCC) in Chimbiya village, and Alice asks them what they’d seen.
One of them responds that “It’s sunny,” while the other says “It’s windy.” The caregiver probes the second child on how he concluded it was windy.
“Because the trees were swaying in the wind,” he says.
Alice asks the class to applaud their two friends.
It has been a lively, engaging session between caregiver and the children, who are as young as 2 years old.
Alice , who has been a volunteer caregiver at the CBCC since last year, is driven by a desire to help her community and apply herself.
“While I was living in Lilongwe, I used to visit the village often. I would usually find a lot of children roaming all over the village,” says Alice
“When I asked them why they were not in school, they said they didn’t want to. It pained me.”
The experience drove Alice to become involved with the CBCC and encourage local parents to send their children to the centre.
“We encourage parents to send their children to the CBCC. The kids learn something that helps their future. It removes fear when they enroll in primary school. It’s important to teach them while they are young because they grasp concepts easier.”
Alice should know. She was orphaned when she was 6 and raised by her elder sister, and only managed to complete primary school.
“I had a lot of stress that affected my preparations for the exams.”
She says she has learned about the importance of education because of her own experience and hopes the children at the CBCC receive the help they need to complete their schooling.
“If I had an opportunity, I would go back to school, but I wouldn't stop helping out here at Tadala.”
Only 17 per cent of children aged three to four years are developmentally on track in literacy and numeracy.
With funding from UNICEF Finland, The Government of Malawi and UNICEF Malawi launched a year-long advocacy campaign in June 2021 to create greater awareness of the importance of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) and promote positive parenting and responsive caregiving. Investing in early childhood health, nutrition, care, and learning programmes, including parenting support programmes, community-based childcare, center-based provision, and formal pre-primary education, yields high economic returns and offsets disadvantage and inequality, especially for children from poor families.