The Roger Federer Foundation (RFF), the charity of second seed tennis Icon Roger Federer, says it is impressed with the progress of the early childhood development programme it funds via ActionAid Malawi which will see 80 schools built across Malawi.
RFF Chief Executive Officer Janine Handel said this at the conclusion of her tour of the school building project which took her to Mchinji, Rumphi and Ntchisi.
“it was a pleasure to be here after two years since the beginning of the initiative when I visited Rumphi and there is so much progress you can see here, there are four structures (in Rumphi) almost finished, we have a very committed community…” said Handel.
|One of the schools, this one is in Rumphi, Bumba|
ActionAid Malawi Country Director, Martha Khonje, said the RFF funded and engaged her organisation which will see 80 early childhood development centres erected in the next eight years and will benefit about 54,0000 children below the age of six.
“The programme is comprehensive in nature and will construct 80 model community based child care centres, strengthen the capacity of parents, caregivers and management committees and support the creation of a smooth transition for children from the ECD centre into primary school,” said Khonje.
Khonje revealed that so far 20 of the said schools have been constructed and a number of caregivers to match trained. She called on government and Non-governmental organisations to join the programme to ensure that the 62 percent of children that are legible but not being reached by ECD initiatives.
Roger Federer injected an initial $3.3 million which has since swelled to $7 million. The model schools come with about 5 rooms an independent kitchen and a set of child friendly pit latrines and a house for a caregiver.
Handel said Federer has a keen interest in children of Africa because he has his children in the same level and said his South African roots make him feel connected to the children of the continent.
Handel however warned that impressive infrastructure should not be the end but rather the beginning of the early childhood development efforts, a message she spelt to chiefs, parents and officials in the districts she visited.
|Handel (obvious) jives with Malawian women at Bumba, Rumphi|
“Now that our structures are at the stage of having opening ceremonies, our work has just started. There is a long way ahead of us. Now comes the questions: how can we train caregivers? How can we keep them on board and motivate them? How can we make sure that the children are performing better?
I have seen today that there is still some work to do there, but the next phase we will need to concentrate on that issue in particular we need to concentrate on the whole structure , the whole care giver training, the resources so that they have a sustainable way to be maintained,” said Handel.
She called on communities to seriously look into sustainability of the programme and called on government to dig deeper to fully roll out the programme so that every Malawian child goes to preschool.
Traditional Authority Kasakula of Ntchisi and Senior Acting Principal Kawazamawe of Chirambo in Rumphi whose areas have benefited from the programme all said they are committed to seeing the programme in the future and they said their commitment is evident in the fact they provided sand, bricks and labour for the construction of the centres.
Minister of Gender, Children and Social Welfare, Anita Kalinde ,speaking on the sidelines of the launch of the ECD Programme by ActionAid in Ntchisi, hailed the initiative and said government is also racing to renovate existing ECD centres to broaden its reach.
ActionAid board chair person, Gillian Kambwiri said the 80 schools under the ECD programme will be distributed in 6 districts in Malawi some being Chitipa, Nsanje Ntchisi and Mchinji.
“We at ActionAid believe that education is the key to ending poverty and if we start offering education to children, Malawi’s future might be brighter,” she said.