31 October 2018:
Behind the Bwananyambi mountains in southern Malawi, stands a proud building filled with children. It is a cold morning but the warmth from the children’s care-givers comforts and surrounds them.
In one of the rooms, the chants of adult and children voices are saying, “Well done. Well done. We are proud of you. You are great at this!” as children are being congratulated for correctly reciting their vowels.
It’s another normal, albeit, exciting day at Tigwirizane early childhood development (ECD) center. ECD is an educational technique that uses stimulation to help the brains of young children develop. In poor communities such as this one, many young children are left idle as parents go out to work and don’t have books or toys to engage them.
The name of the center, “Tigwirizane” means “let’s unite” and reflects the spirit of the people of nearby Kuluwe village in ensuring a bright future for their children through education.
The chief of the village, Danger Maulidi, known as Village Headman Kuruwe, said when the school first opened in 2008 children were taking lessons sitting under a tree as they didn’t have any classrooms.
Maulidi said village elders decided to construct a grass thatched building to provide shade. He said the thatched structure was not adequate when it was cold or during the rainy season.
“We had been asking for support to build a school from the village development committee, and other communitybased organizations,” says Maulidi.
He says he wanted to build a classroom block to serve as an ECD center. Then one day he got a call from an organization called the Namwera AIDS Coordinating Committee (NACC).
“They told us to start making bricks for a building. We moulded 140,000 bricks in two months.” The NACC is a local organization which works to promote people’s wellbeing and economic empowerment.
Through its work on ECD, it partnered with UNICEF in 2017 to promote services in the district. One of the focus areas under the partnership is supporting communities build ECD centres.
Jasiya Alick, ECD project officer from NAC, said they selected Kuluwe village for the project because it needed a center and because people seemed ready to help.
“The local people had already molded bricks and were determined to improve ECD education by building a new structure and provide a better learning space,” says Alick. UNICEF supported the project with cement, wood, iron sheets, sand, bricks and paint and the building was completed last May.
To ensure the building is maintained properly, NAC has established a technical working group to oversee the management of the school and bring together all the necessary services.
“I am so happy because what I was looking for has now been found. Children can now learn in a good structure. I urge other villages to take after us,” says the chief.
Agness Maida, a mother of two children at the school, said the new structure was helping children get an education and could eventually help them find jobs.
“This school can help us build our community as our children will go to primary school having learned almost everything they need to know,” says Maida.