Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Increasing access to food during the drought season

Hello Friends,

The continuous dry spells the country is experiencing has led to an emergency predicament on household food security. In recent meetings, non-governmental organisations have been coming together to find solutions to mitigate the effects of the drought exacerbated by the El Nino phenomenon. In light of this, Nhaka Foundation has to answer a lot of questions internally as we work towards identifying immediate solutions to the hunger faced by children and caregivers alike. The most recurring question in our team conversations has been; how do we as an organisation continue to provide access to education, food and health services for the children in light of the funding challenges faced by many organisations in the country?

According to the Lean Season Monitoring Report released in January 2016, the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) assess that the effects of the drought are far reaching and are extremely visible in the rural areas. Grain prices have gone up by 35% nationally meaning people will have to pay more for very little.  Livestock prices have plummeted as farmers seek ways to get income in order to buy basic necessities for their families. Previously, cattle could be sold for at least US$380 on the market, now sales have gone down to as little as US$80, a necessary give away as farmers feel they would rather sell their cattle for very little instead of watching them starve to death (ZimVAC, January 2016, pp. 50-51). 

Social behavioural change is also a result stemming from the current situation. An article published by Her Zimbabwe in September 2015 refers to the increase in child marriages being attributed to by poverty as opposed cultural reasons and makes mention of surveys conducted by UNFPA. This is further corroborated by the surveys carried out in the ZimVAC report (ZimVAC, January 2016, p. 42) which attests to an increase in child marriages as parents are marrying off their daughters as a way to firstly ensure that their child will be taken care of and secondly earn some income in order to support the remaining family. As misguided as this is, the bride price creates a source of income for the families. The same report also states; issues of gender based violence, physical or sexual are more frequent with an increasing number of reported cases of domestic violence. Suicide rates have also increased.

One of the interventions Nhaka Foundation undertakes is a primary schools feeding program. The program ensures that each child in the schools that we support goes into the classroom and has the opportunity to maximise their potential and participates in classroom activities. Teachers at the different schools we support attest to the fact that absenteeism is decreasing, participation is improving and evident health conditions that spread quickly such as skin infections have improved. In order to increase a child’s potential to succeed through ECD enrolment we address issues of child protection and other pertinent social issues through continuous engagement with parents, community leaders and other stakeholders. However, these parenting programs need to be worth their while as parents are under increased pressure to find food for their families. This is a challenge Nhaka Foundation is seeking creative solutions to address. 

With the continued assistance of our donors, friends and supporters, we will continue offering support programs that continue to push our vision to create a nation with young children living a life full of possibilities even amidst the current challenges facing our nation.

Until next time,


Monday, February 15, 2016

Joy of being in the field daily...

Hello Nhaka Friends,

My name is Glenda Takavadii and I work as a Senior Program Officer at Nhaka Foundation. My work is to primarily ensure that our programs are all being implemented according to the agreed plans and timelines.This means that I get to spend a lot of time in the field and I absolutely love it! I am one of those people who easily get bored with monotonous work, so I am thankful that in my work, every day is different from the one before. I plan my work a week in advance and am always guided by the overall Nhaka Program Implementation plan. I mostly enjoy being in the field because the team and I get to implement the programs, converse with communities and see the impact the programs we deliver are making on the ground.

The programs we implement at Nhaka Foundation bring in a lot of value into the meaning of life. Being in the field working alongside poor communities is not for the faint hearted because anything and everything can happen anytime and you have to be proactive, responsive and be sensitive to communities. The roads we use to reach the communities are nothing short of prominent gullies and craters that are on dirt roads. A journey that is supposed to take 30 minutes can easily take twice or thrice as much time due to the effects of gully erosion, non maintenance and the like. The scenery however compensates for the bad roads.  The views are breath taking and sometimes you can temporarily forget about the troubles of the world. 

I remember that on my first field visit at Nhaka Foundation our truck decided to sever the power steering cable just after we had left the city and turning back was not an option for the determined duo. Truth be told I also didn’t want my boss to think I had failed on my first field visit ;). My job also involves field research which entails assessments of the schools and communities we serve, looking at their current needs, their ability to respond and areas in which the team may come in to assist. Some of the schools we work with are in the most vulnerable and poor rural communities. The difficult part about my job, I would say, is keeping my emotions in-check, even when the situation on the ground is dire and you have no idea where the funding will come from to assist or be part of creating a solution together with the communities.

At the end of the day knowing that our programs and collective work with the help from our partners and the high involvement and participation of the guardians and caregivers of children, makes it all worth it. 

Best wishes,


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Education in Zimbabwe

Dear Friends,

The long term impact of the neglect of the education system cannot be under-estimated and will impede Zimbabwe's ability to revive and develop. Adult literacy rates are still estimated at over 90%, but this may plummet to 70% by 2020 if completion rate and quality do not rise or 2nd chance education programmes be offered to youth who have left the school system. Due to the macro economic pressures that are currently obtaining in the country, parents are struggling to pay fees/levies for their children in schools.  According to a new report, http://www.theafricareport.com/Southern-Africa/zimbabwes-education-sector-in-crisis.html,  the dropout rate was 43 percent higher than the previous year. Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM), meant to assist children from poor families with school fees, is failing to cope with the increasing demand. The report gives the dropout figures as 2,289 for secondary and 2,784 for primary of which 52% at secondary and 40% at primary level were females.

Currently the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has been working on a new curriculum whose zero draft has been now a centre of discussion. Besides the discussions on the new curriculum there are also various issues that have been discussed within the Education sector which include the construction of over 2,500 new schools in newly resettled areas so as to increase access to education for all children, training and deployment of qualified early childhood development teachers to schools that have established the required early childhood development classes and increasing awareness and knowledge on the importance of inclusive education and ensuring that children with special education needs are catered for at all times. Organisations that work to promote the education of girls have also been advocating for strategies that promote the retention of students in school especially girls. 

Early Childhood Development

Early childhood education was introduced after independence in 1980 through the National Early Childhood Development (NECD) program which was aimed primarily at pre-school children in rural areas who had never had access to these services. A community development approach underpinned the roll out of the ECD centres. With limited focus on minimum criteria, and lack of capacity at community level to make significant contributions, the standard of facilities and activities varied substantially. There now has been a great improvement in the provision of ECD services in the country through the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education that has made it a priority for resource provision such as deployment of qualified ECD teachers as well as training programs for teachers and parents through the structures.

In 2004, a national review of the education system recommended that ECD be integrated into education structures rather than running parallel to them. A national survey conducted in 2007 indicated that 95 per cent of primary schools had ECD facilities, but among 5,059 preschools surveyed, 61 per cent did not have buildings. MoESAC now estimate that most primary schools (97%) do have some kind of ECD provisions but facilities and resources, especially teachers and associated costs remains a major challenge. By 2015 Zimbabwe seeks to offer two years of ECD education in all primary schools and increase enrolment so that 90% of 5 year old children attend, currently only 48% of 5 year olds do. Concern has been raised over (i) the acute shortage of qualified ECD teachers (a play centred methodology is used which differs from the standard primary school pedagogic approach) and (ii) parental costs, given the high prevailing poverty rates and absence of free or low cost services.

Most schools have no classrooms for the ECD children. The number of children in each class was too large failing to meet the recommended teacher-pupils ratio of 1:20. In most provinces it was found that there was a critical shorted of trained teachers with ECD qualifications. Overall, the ECD A and B classes are being manned by untrained staff (para-professionals) a practice which militates against attainment of quality education. Most primary schools visited lacked age appropriate toilets, WASH facilities and furniture for the 3-5 year old children, play equipment for outdoor area, toys and indoor learning materials. On health and nutrition the analysis revealed that many ECD centres in primary schools did not give children food at school and in some cases the children had no food. Some of the children were infested with soil transmitted helminthiasis [STH) and schistosomiasis (SCH) worm-parasites which affect the growth and development of children.


More still needs to be done to revive the education sector in the country. Financial resources need to be strategically deployed to ensure that students in the country have access to great educational opportunities. At Nhaka Foundation we advocate for equal learning opportunities for all children. We strive to ensure that children have access to education facilities, great teaching as well as quality, holistic programming that supports the total development of a child.

Patrick Makokoro