Our volunteer, Jess King, recently visited The Mlambe Project. Her time there sparked her idea to create a new initiative that could help our nursery students. Read on to find out how Jess is raising funds and why. Over to Jess…
My visit to Chikolongo…
In May 2017, I visited Chikolongo and worked with The Mlambe Project, Lucy and fellow volunteer Chelsea, at the Mlambe school. We developed an after-school programme, a sports carnival, took class photos, ran First Aid courses, CPR courses and a Mothers group.
During our time there we were lucky enough to be invited to visit the nursery school and sat it on a few classes that, Ernest, the nursery teacher taught. The children – aged 1 to 5 years – would arrive at 7:30 am and leave around 11 am. I was very, very surprised to learn that the children were able to sing the alphabet and count in Chichewa as well as in ENGLISH! A second language already being taught at such a young age; I was impressed to say the least!
As the class went on, I was more pleasantly surprised at all the knowledge these young children had and the devotion of Ernest to teach these children. It wasn’t until later I found out that Ernest was teaching these classes completely on a volunteer basis. He was simply doing this out of the kindness of his heart and from a desire to see the children be better prepared for school. He only had a crumpled up piece of paper with the Alphabet written on it as his teaching material.
I saw the dedication Ernest had to keep teaching the nursery school and wanted to help in any way I could. Sadly, I left the village and moved back to Germany, and then back to my home, Australia.
Ever since leaving Mlambe School, I have always wanted to help the nursery school and Ernest reach their full potential. Unfortunately, in Malawi, there is no emphasis on Early Childhood Learning and the government has no platform set up for nursery schools, especially in rural areas.
I decided to start researching effective ways I could help the nursery become sustainable and to provide more stimulating learning materials. I decided to start my own initiative in Australia and try to raise some funds to help the Nursery.
After a few months of research, I realised just how crucial the first 0-5 years of life are on our physical, social, cognitive and emotional wellbeing. It became clear to me that healthy child development in the first five years provides a foundation for a prosperous and sustainable society.
Unfortunately, in Malawi, there has been no improvement in children’s nutritional status since 1992 and malnutrition rates remain unacceptably high. Around 46% of children under five are stunted, 21% are underweight, and 4% are wasted. Micronutrient deficiencies are also common.
After discussions with Ernest and others around Malawi who had started nurseries, it was clear that nutrition and hunger were big factors in the development and learning abilities of the children. Some children are sent to school with no food, and during the time of drought, food can be even more scarce. This negatively impacts the children’s learning, concentration, and attendance. According to UNICEF, Malnutrition levels in Malawi remain high and account for about half of all child deaths.
Founding Macramé for Mlambe
It became undeniable to me that early childhood education and adequate nutrition is key to a more successful society….. and so was founded Macramé for Mlambe!
Macramé for Mlambe is an Australian charity in the early stages. Turns out, I’m very nifty with crafts, and have been making lots of Macramé pieces – wall hangings, plant hangers, and custom pieces like wedding arbours. Macramé, for those that don’t know, is the art of knotting string into patterns to make decorative pieces. All of the proceeds I make from selling these pieces go directly into funding the Nursery Education and Feeding Programme.
How will it help?
The Nursery Education and Feeding Programme is proposed to help with the concentration, attendance and better education of the pre-school children. In the hope of improving the overall quality of education and the desire to attend nursery, the Feeding Programme coupled with a structured curriculum and learning materials (notebooks, pens/pencils, reading books and educational posters), will be provided through this trial scheme.
A meal for up to 60 students will be cooked each day by two mothers on a volunteer rotational roster basis using the newly built Changu Changu Stove. An attendance record will be kept of the children and statistics on their growth each month.
The innovation model
Macramé for Mlambe (M4M) together with The Mlambe Project (TMP), is working together to implement this programme – firstly through the innovation model, which involves a research phase, a ‘small’ test, then lastly, through a ‘big’ test.
The innovation model involved evaluating whether the Education and Feeding programme could have a positive impact on learning, concentration, attendance and later learning. A possible limitation to the project depends on the co-operation of the mothers to cook the morning meal each day on a volunteer basis.
As of July 2018, the trial or ‘small’ test is currently in its beginning stages, with the first week of the programme having started on the 09/07/2018!!!! Regular meetings will happen between M4M, TMP, Ernest and the mothers and Chiefs of the village, to ensure the programme runs smoothly and any problems can be sorted out.
If the small test is successful, the Feeding Programme will move into the ‘big’ test phase – where we can eventually look at the rate of nursery educated children finishing school and attending high school versus those children that didn’t attend nursery. We will ultimately be able to quantitatively assess the value of the Education and Feeding Programme, and be able to watch the nursery students over time and follow their progress and achievements with this extra education!
How you can contribute
If you would like to contribute to the progress of the Nursery Education and Feeding Programme, you can either buy a piece of Macramé (if living in Australia) – please visit Instagram @macrame_for_mlambe or visit the Facebook page – Macrame for Mlambe.
If you would like to make a donation directly to the nursery to fund the daily meal and learning materials, please visit the link below and donate today!
On behalf of Ernest, the Nursery students and their Mothers, I would like to thank you endlessly for you support and any donations!