Early learning centre provides springboard for education

Early moments matter - Mmera mpoyamba

Arnold Munthali
Lucy Damazio with Alice outside a church which is used as an ECD centre during the week
UNICEF Malawi/2022/Munthali
18 August 2022

On Sundays, Kachezi Church is a place of worship, where sermons are delivered to an attentive congregation. However, from Monday to Friday, the building houses angels of a different kind — children from 2 to 5 years old.

That’s because the church, located in Dedza, in central Malawi, becomes a community-based childcare centre, focused on developing young minds.

The Tadala Community-Based Childcare Centre (CBCC) began operations in 2020 after local parents and traditional leaders decided to place more emphasis on early childhood development (ECD) in their community.

“It’s all about providing the children with an early start to life,” says Lucy Damazio, treasurer of the committee that runs the centre who has a daughter, Alice, that attends it.

Damazio says her elder three children, who went to a private nursery school, performed well in school, convincing her to put Alice through the CBCC, which has 60 children enrolled.

“My older children are doing well in class. Enrolling children in early learning centres lessens the burden on primary school teachers because the children’s eyes are already opened.”

“The CBCC encourages children to understand the purpose of education at an early age.”

Damazio says the CBCC plans to provide children with meals, encouraging more parents to send their children to the centre.

Mary is one of the volunteer caregivers at Tadala CBCC
UNICEF Malawi/2022/Munthali
Mary is one of the volunteer caregivers at Tadala CBCC

Mary Andrew has been a volunteer caregiver at the CBCC since last year.

She was motivated to work at the centre after she noticed that most children in the area did not receive ECD.

“There’s a huge difference between a child who has gone through a nursery school and one who goes straight to primary. Kids who have gone through a nursery school are more responsive to lessons,” says Andrew.

“On the other hand, children who have just gone straight to primary school struggle to catch up,” she says.

While the CBCC is currently housed in the church, the centre has acquired land next door where the community plans to build structures for the centre.

Only 48.7 per cent of children in Malawi have access to ECD centres (MOGCDSW Report 2018)

UNICEF is working closely with Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, and the Ministry of Health to achieve an integrated Early Childhood Development agenda. The aim is to have more than three million children aged zero to five in Malawi benefitting from nurturing, care, early stimulation, positive parenting, and responsive caregiving services.