Low funding is watering down quality of early childhood development (ECD) programmes, Mzimba district social welfare officer Jim Wotchi has said.
In 2010, government adopted an ECD policy that backs establishment of community-based childcare centres (CBCCs) to ensure every child has a solid start in life.
But 90 percent of these centres in Mzimba are not permanent, inclusive and child-friendly, said Wotchi.
When we visited some CBCCs, children were seen learning in dilapidated and congested huts with no toys and trained caregivers.
The pre-school children are also at risk of contracting waterborne diseases due to lack of kitchens, toilets and personal hygiene facilities.
“Out of 1929 caregivers in these centres, 1166 are not trained and many have dropped out due to lack of incentives,” said Wotchi.
He said: “Mzimba is not winning the battle to give children quality care in the first 1 000 days of their life.
“The district receives K600 million for 541 CBCCs which serve 24 534 children, including 2 163 orphans and 574 living with disabilities. This is not enough. We are failing to train caregivers. Training 30 of them costs K 1 million daily and we mostly rely on partners.”
Grace Phiri, a caregiver at Mtenthe CBCC in T/A M’mbelwa, said she and her three workmates have not received any training.
“We do this for the sake of our children,” she said.
Word Alive Commission for Relief and Development (Wacrad) project manager Harvey Munthali asked government to increase investment in ECD.
The non-governmental organisation supports ECD in Mzimba. n