Some three-hour drive from Mangochi Boma to Ntonda, there lies a beautiful structure one would think is a house of the head teacher for some primary school. But it is a Community Based Childcare Centre (CBCC).
Traditional Authority Ntonda calls the structure ‘Ku tauni’ (Town) and discloses that people around the village patronize the structure for wedding photoshoots during weekends because it has transformed the face of the village.
Such is the case with other four centres: Kalira in Mitundu and Chilowa in Kasiya, Lilongwe, and Kapandajuba at Ekwendeni in Mzimba where new structures comprising two classes, and an office for caregivers lie some meters away from the dilapidated structures being used by the children aged between three and six.
The four centres are part of Yamba Malawi Early Childhood Development (ECD) projects funded by National Bank of Malawi (NBM) plc to the tune of K100 million.
Christina Izeki, a Caregiver at Ntonda CBCC, said last academic year they had 103 children. This year they have registered over 70 with more coming every day and expect the number to surpass last year’s figure.
“The structure we were using is thatched with grass and no cement on the floor if you compare with the new one National Bank of Malawi plc in partnership with Yamba Malawi has built. It was so inconveniencing especially when it was raining because we would suspend classes for as long as two weeks until it stopped raining,” she narrates.
At Chilowa in Kasiya, Lilongwe, chairperson of the CBCC, Henry Mponda, says they started working with Yamba Malawi in 2020 where they realized the importance of early child development.
“The new structure has ignited interest from the children to be in class and we expect this to help improve their performance at primary school level,” he says.
Martha Silumbu, a caregiver at Kapandajuba CBCC in Ekwendeni, Mzimba expects enrolment to increase from 42 children because the new structure is able to carry more pupils.
“The old structure was not suitable for a classroom because it had cracks and parents feared the room could collapse on their kids. But with this new structure, it gives confidence to the parents to send the kids to learn as we prepare them for primary studies.”
“A kid who has attended ECD classes is different from those who haven’t, because this is a preparatory stage where we train them not only to memorize things, but also to socialize with others. So, if they graduate to primary school, they are already used to school set up,” explains Silumbu.
At Kalira in Mitundu, Herbert Chikumbe, director of Luzi Community Based Organization where Kalira CBCC falls under, discloses that the structure is now a model for 114 other CBCCs under his jurisdiction.
“We expect children from other villages to enroll at this school once opened because we demolished the old sub-standard one. However, I can confirm that other CBCCs have started mobilizing materials with the hope of finding funders for their projects just as Yamba Malawi did with Kalira CBCC,” he says.
Yamba Malawi Grants Manager, Sothini Ziba commends support from NBM plc. He says the organization has 96 CBCCs in its catchment and less than eight are improved structures.
“We support an average of 65 kids per CBCC varying around school calendar, community, incentives programs and high interest by the kids in more organized facilities,” he says.
With the ECD week hosted by the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare coming early November under the theme ‘Nurturing Bright Futures: Promoting Access to Integrated Early Childhood Development Services’, the ministry’s spokesperson, Pauline Kaude also commends NBM plc for their commitment in promoting education from grassroot.
“What National Bank of Malawi plc has done is exactly what the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare is expecting from the corporate world to support early childhood education in this country.”
“If you read through our policy, it is the role of every individual, companies and government to support and promote Early Childhood Development (ECD).”
“ECD is an investment that gives back to society. To address economic challenges, there is a need to improve educational performance as a way of building vibrant human capital in Malawi,” she says.
National Bank of Malawi plc Marketing and Corporate Affairs Manager, Akossa Hiwa, says their commitment to aid Early Childhood Development is one among many of the Bank’s initiatives to develop the nation and give back to the clientele that help them grow.
“We believe that the support we have given to Yamba Malawi will improve its service delivery for the development of children in need. Because Early Childhood Development is an important component of an individual’s subsequent development and education, we felt it right and proper to commence our expansion through this avenue.”
“We value child development, because we believe that well-developed children will grow into productive citizens that will develop our country and benefit the Bank,” she explains.
NBM plc and Yamba Malawi signed the agreement in December last year and the project is expected to benefit more than 300 children per intake.