The CHINANSI Foundation, with support from the Firelight Foundation, implements the Mwanawanga ECD project in the T/A Msamala, Balaka District. Since the inception of the project, CHINANSI has built the Sawali and Pilitu Community Based Care Centers (CBCC). Currently, the two CBCCs register 257 learners (165 female and 92 male). For children 3- 5 years old, the program takes an integrated approach to ECD programming by addressing issues of livelihood and child protection. For instance, CHINANSI Foundation engages CBCC learners' parents in VSL and irrigation agriculture to provide the CBCC with food and other necessary materials to maintain the center. Additionally, the CHINANSI Foundation is also building capacity for Community Child Protection Committees and Community Victim Support Units (VSU) surrounding the Pilitu and Sawali CBCCs so that the program can respond to and prevent child abuse.
Other activities at the CBCC include: furnishing of modern ECD centers, training of caregivers and ECD center management committees, provision of farm inputs to ECD centers for food security, provision of nutritious foods, formation and training of Self Help Groups (SHGs) for female learners' guardians, and construction and establishment of children's corners.
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CEI approaches in action
Formation of and training and strengthening activities for different community and district structures.
The CHINANSI Foundation implements the Mwanawanga Project (ECD), funded by Firelight Foundation. The project started in 2013 and aims to improve Early Childhood Development. The main project activities include the provision of ECD services and the construction of two ECD centres at Pilitu and Sawali in T/A Sawali in Balaka District. CHINANSI completed the construction of two centers in the same year. Before the construction of the two ECD centers, Pilitu ECD center used a church for its classes while Sawali ECD center used a dilapidated building donated by one of the community members. At that time, the two centers could only register 50 students each. However, since the construction of the two ECD center, over 150 students are registered at each center. Additionally, CHINANSI Foundation has built the capacity of ECD caregiver and CBCC committees through trainings. Currently, both centers own land for agricultural activities and are able to produce teaching and learning materials from local resources. By the end of 2016, CHINANSI Foundation is expecting to provide ECD services to T/A Kachenga in Balaka District, where it will construct another center.
Chinansi Foundation is planning to scale up its ECD project to 4 T/As in Balaka District by 2018. Four T/As are targeted due to their low quality and inaquate CBCC services.
Monitoring & Evaluation
When externally evaluated, the following conclusions were drawn:
Child Protection Awareness:
Child protection awareness and formation and strengthening of community and district structures, and the referal system and collaboration among the structures are on track. Child protection at the centers is good, but all community members need to guard against violatons of children's rights together.
Many SHGs have been formed and are collecting savings and providing loans to members. Some beneficiaries have started small business and can support their families. While more SHGs are being formed, Cluster Level Associations (a second stage of the SHG approach) are also in place and making good progress, acting as forums for social and economic discusions.
ECD Center buildings:
Two ECD centers have been established, but the buildings are small and need to expand. This will enable the centers to accommodate more children and allow caregivers to divide children into different learning areas according to age.
The centers do not have a center of their own in their premises or close by. The use a communal borehole at a considerable distance. This compromises the aspect of sanitation and hygiene.
National ECD Syllabus Awareness:
Caregivers know either little or nothing about the Malawi government's ECD syllabus. They need to be oriented on the syllabus regularly to improve performance.
The caregivers' lack of motivation may negatively affect their performance. They either need to be paid or given rewards for their services to encourage them.
Data collection process:
The project officer and the M&E collect data monthly from the ECD centers and communities surrounding the centers. The data collected includes the number of children registrerd at ECD centers and their gender and age segregation, family background, weight and health status of children, number of community structure formed and their training and training content, number of items ditributed, number of reports of child rights violations made, number of children at risk, number of awareness raising campaigns done, community project satisfaction, project challenges faced by different stakeholders etc. The information is analyzed to track, assess, and demonstrate project effectiveness in achieving objectives and/or impacts on communities, to improve project staff learning and decision-making about project design, operation, and implementation, empower and motivate volunteers and community strucutres, ensure accountability to communities and donors through reports, influence government policy through lobbying and advocacy, and contribute to the evidence base about effectiveness and limits of projects in a community.
Teachers assess children on a daily basis by recording children's abilities in different areas such as: limb movement, running, sociability, speech, language competence improvement etc. The recorded data then makes up the final school report for every child.
Over 90% of the children are from families that cannot afford to pay for ECD services at private institutions, which are mostly based in urban areas. These communities are the ones that suffer the most from effects of drought and erratic rainfall, inflation, floods, and other natural disasters - which are common in Balaka district. These natural disasters mean children are separated from their family members, losing lives or loved ones, missing school or dropping out completely, facing sexual abuse, being forced into early marriages, child labour etc. Establishment of these community-based ECD centers in rural areas ensures these children access services for free, and that the above cited challenges are mitigated.
Using the the scorecard approach, the project team assesses community satisfaction and receives suggestions for improvement from the community members. This informs future project design and implementation.
Every year, at least 15 children out of the over 100 registred children graduate from the centers to primary schools. However, when primary schools are very far away from the ECD center (such as Pilitu), 6 year old children do not graduate and are retained for their own safety since they cannot walk long distances to and fro the primary school. These trips to and from primary schools become dangerous for these children particularly in the rainy season.
Although each center registers over 100 children annually, only 80% of the children attend school regularly. School attendance is affected by many factors, such as food availability at the center and in the homes.
There are five caregievers at every center and ten committee mebers. The caregivers attend school together with at least two committee members who help the caregivers with food preparation and attending to children's needs at the centers.
Since the construction of the modern ECD structutres at both Pilitu and Sawali, the number of children registered has increased to over 100 annually. Before the construction, poor teaching/learning environments dissuaded parents frm sending children to the center. But the newly constructed structures and frequent training of caregivers have attracted more children.