three-hour drive from Mangochi Boma takes one to a beautiful structure resembling a lucky primary school head teacher’s house, but it is Ntonda Community Based Childcare Centre (CBCC).
Traditional Authority Ntonda says the structure, which has transformed the face of the village and children’s chances in life, hosts wedding photoshoots during weekends.
There are similar centres at Kalira near Mitundu and Chilowa near Kasiya in Lilongwe District as well as Kapandajuba near Ekwendeni in Mzimba.
The facilities comprise two classrooms and an office for caregivers, which contrast sharply with dilapidated structures used by the children aged three to six.
The four centres are part of the K100 million Yamba Malawi Early Childhood Development (ECD) projects funded by National Bank of Malawi (NBM) plc.
Caregiver Christina Izeki says Ntonda CBCC enrolled 103 children last year. This year, she expects the number to surpass that count.
“The grass-thatched structure we were using leaks and has no cement floor like the new one. When it rained, we would suspend classes for up to two weeks until it stopped raining,” she narrates.
In Kasiya, Chilowa CBCC chairperson Henry Mponda says they have realised the importance of early childhood development since they started working with Yamba Malawi in 2020.
“The new building has ignited children’s interest to learn and we expect that this will improve their performance at primary school level,” he says.
Kapandajuba CBCC caregiver Martha Silumbu said she expects enrolment to increase from 42 as the new structure can take more children.
She explains: “The old structure wasn’t suitable for children to learn and play. It had cracks and parents feared it would collapse and crush their children.
“The new structure gives them confidence to send their children children to learn as we prepare them for primary studies. A child who has attended ECD classes performs better than those who haven’t.”
ECD prepares children not only to memorise songs, alphabets, colours and shapes, but also to socialise with others.
“Once they go to Standard One, they are already used to school set up,” explains Silumbu.
Kalira is located at Luzi Community-Based Organisation (CBO). It is a model childcare centre for 114 other CBCCs in Mitundu.
CBO director Herbert Chikumbe says: “We expect children from other villages to enroll at our model CBCC once the new facility is opened. We demolished the old sub-standard structure.
“Other CBCCs have started mobilising materials with the hope of finding funders for better facilities as Yamba Malawi constructed at Kalira CBCC,” says.
Yamba Malawi grants manager Sothini Ziba commends NBM for supporting the ECD project.
The organisation supports 96 CBCCs and just about eight have improved structures.
“We support an average of 65 children per CBCC varying around school calendar, community, incentives programmes and high interest by the children in more organised facilities,” he says.
Last week was the National ECD Week declared by the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare. The commemoration was held under the theme Nurturing Bright Futures: Promoting Access to Integrated Early Childhood Development Services.
The ministry’s spokesperson Pauline Kaude commends NBM’s commitment to promoting early childhood care and education from the grass roots.
“What National Bank of Malawi has done is exactly what the ministry expects from the corporate world. The private sector has to support early childhood education in this country,” she states.
The National ECD policy says everyone, including individuals and companies, has a role to support and promote quality 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,” says Kaude.
NBM and Yamba Malawi signed the agreement last December for the benefit of more than 300 children per intake.
NBM marketing and corporate affairs manager Akossa Hiwa says the bank’s commitment to aid ECD is one of its initiatives to develop the nation and giving back to communities that help ‘the bank of the nation’ grow.
She believes that the bank’s support to Yamba Malawi will improve service delivery for the development of children in need.
Hiwa states: “Since ECD 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.”