Duo targets disadvantaged children for early education

Helping children from poor backgrounds develop into confident, productive and independent members of society has motivated two Harare women to start a community initiative for children in the Mabvuku and Tafara high-density suburbs.

Martha Damu and Charlotte Haggie were working in the communities as volunteers when they noticed a serious lack in early childhood education (ECD) for orphaned and vulnerable children.

“We noticed that children from poor backgrounds were failing to make it for ECD because of financial constraints,” said Damu.

“It’s the policy that children who have not attended ECD are unable to progress to grade one. This prompted us to come up with a project to address this challenge,” said Damu.

The duo set up a trust called Foundations Project in 2011 and started to mobilise resources to set up an ECD centre.

“We found 92 children within a five kilometre radius of our site who weren’t attending ECD and we established that it was going to be very difficult for the children to proceed to grade one,” said Haggie.

“We started looking for space to set up our structure and we were given a piece of land on which to base our project in Caledonia Farm.”

Haggie said their main aim in setting up the ECD centre was to provide education, but as they progressed, they realised there were many issues in the community that needed to be dealt with.

“We worked with local people in the community to identify the most needy children and we carried out home visits to make sure that the information we had received was correct,” said Haggie.

“We identified a lack of skills and income generation ability on the part of caregivers,” said Haggie, “so we organised income-generating activities such as knitting and vegetable production.”

Damu said, “Currently, we have one centre in Caledonia where we have a classroom. The trust provides assistance for the caregivers and we gave jobs to four teachers who work at the school and care for the children.”

Foundations Project also provides food for the 26 children at the ECD centre. Haggie said: ”We have seen an improvement not just in their mental and emotional state but also in their physical state.”

The Mabvuku centre has one classroom on site and another structure, which the organisation aims to renovate in the near future.

“We want to use this for our feeding programme to reach 200 children a day,” said Damu.

She said the organisation was planning to build three more classrooms as well as set up parenting courses. They also intend to increase the school intake to 80 children and help the community develop skills and start businesses.

The duo said funding the projects has been a challenge, but after working in Caledonia for two years, they had gained trust and support.

“The teachers are now better qualified for early childhood development classes because they have learnt a great deal from both theoretical training and also through experience and interacting with other ECD centres,” said Damu, adding that it was a herculean of a task to construct anything in Caledonia.

“Trying to construct anything in Caledonia is difficult and expensive and we get charged a lot of money because people see us as having lots of money,” said Damu, adding that this was the reason why the organisation had failed to make any inroads towards expanding the centre.

Haggie however said the success story of the organisation far outweighed its challenges.

“Over 35 children have gone through our school so far and the organisation has been able to provide them with the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual stimulation that children at this age deserve and have a right to,” she said. “A better world for children starts with all of us.”

Post published in: Education

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