Sunday, July 23, 2017

Improving infrastructure critical in education

Improving school infrastructure in rural Zimbabwe
It was with great honour and sense of commitment that Nhaka Foundation participated in the official handover ceremony of newly built classrooms at Govera Primary School a week ago. Nhaka Foundation has always sought for opportunities that ensure that children attending primary school in Zimbabwe are provided with a clean learning environment that also stimulates their cognitive and motor abilities during their growth phase.

Nhaka Foundations’ approach to ECD recognises that interventions are cumulative and synergistic, that the maximum benefit in one age group is derived from experiences in earlier age groups, and that interventions in one generation bring benefits to successive generations. The evidence is clear: it is in the early years of human life that the fundamentals of a child’s emotional, intellectual, social and physical development are laid, establishing the building blocks for a pathway into the future. Without good parenting, health, nutrition and education, developmental delays can occur that are difficult to correct later in life. Early childhood development (ECD) takes place in a range of settings: homes, schools, health facilities, early learning playgroups and community-based programmes.

Since establishment, ten years ago, Nhaka Foundation has continued to look for ways to improve access to education for our young children in Zimbabwe especially those that fall into the early childhood development space. Whilst we celebrated an entire school that has been constructed, Nhaka Foundation also wants to pay particular focus to early childhood development or what is known as ECD. ECD provides a strong foundation for entering school with the social, emotional, and pre-academic skills needed for learning.

We cannot afford not to invest in ECD. Not investing means a loss of opportunities but also contributes to the accumulation of inequalities and condemns generations to deprivation and under performance.

Here are some links to some articles on the work carried out at Govera Primary school;

Until next time,

Patrick Makokoro

Executive Director

Nhaka Foundation

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Investing in ECD is way to go

Dear Friends,
In this submission, I am reproducing an article that we submitted to a local newspaper earlier in the year where we highlighted the importance of investing in early childhood development. You can also view the original newspaper article here

In a response to "The socio-economic dangers of sending children to school at too young an age" as an early childhood development (ECD) practitioner, I want to provide an informed perspective on the benefits of investing in early education for our children. International evidence attests to the life-long benefits of appropriate early childhood interventions. The evidence is clear: it is in the early years of human life that the fundamentals of a child’s emotional, intellectual, social and physical development are laid, establishing the building blocks for a pathway into the future. Without good parenting, health, nutrition and education, developmental delays can occur that are difficult to correct later in life.

We have to know that ECD takes place in a range of settings: homes, schools, health facilities, early learning play groups and community-based programmes. It includes activities such as childcare, nutrition support, parenting and early stimulation interventions. Additionally, these services can be provided through private, public and non-governmental agencies. Hence, you see the sprouting of ECD centres at almost every corner in the country. The brain develops most rapidly in the first few years of a child’s life. The ongoing interchange between genes and different environments – within which children are born, grow, learn and live – shapes the developing brain.

During these critical years, the foundation is laid for a child’s physical and mental health, affecting everything from longevity to the lifelong capacity to learn, from the ability to adapt to change to the capacity for resilience against adverse circumstances. Therefore, it is important that the continuum of ECD begins at conception and goes through to the primary school stage. Within this continuum, there are four stages of development, each of which presents specific needs. Interventions at appropriate stages in early development can play a protective role and ensure the wellbeing of young children in the long term. 

That the government has developed a “new” policy is not a true fact. This has already been there dating back to 1980. But, off course, with new developments, there has been need to modify our existing practices in line with global trends.In fact, statistics gleaned from the ministry show that 95-97% of our public schools have designated facilities for ECD. Functionality of these facilities is then another matter for debate.

I absolutely see no commercial basis for the ministry to push for ECD at all public schools.Entrepreneurs have been quick to commercialise this, possibly because they now understand the rationale behind ECD. Would it not be good if the same good standards and resources such as play centres, information communication technology equipment for these children are found in our public institutions? 
We have to have public/private partnerships that support the public ECD centres. The more equipped and resourced these centres are, the greater opportunity for our nation’s children to benefit from great public school based ECD facilities. I am by no means a spokesperson for the ministry, but I am trying to assist the writer to gain an understanding on why investment in ECD is critical for our nation.

Patrick Makokoro
Executive Director

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Young African Leaders Rise to the challenge

Hello Friends,

The past two weeks, I have met some amazing brothers and sisters from the continent of Africa doing great work in their respective countries. I had barely returned from the US on a two week working visit when I received a phone call from our local US Embassy Public Affairs section. I was asked to join the current Mandela Washington Fellowship for the 2017 cohort. Due to the fact that I had just returned home after some time away I felt as if I could not take this up as I needed to be at home to attend to some pressing issues. In fact I had a project for my studies due for presentation and the notice I had been given was short. I immediately began discussing this opportunity with my mentors and made the decision to accept this after only 24 hours. I did not make a bad decision and here is why..

Since my arrival back in the US, I have met 24 selfless and humble individuals who are all working hard to contribute to the development of their countries. My new found friend Tolulope Songosanya is the Founder and CEO of LOTS Charity Foundation in Nigeria. She is working to improve the lives of young children in Dustbin Estate which resembles a slum that has inadequate water and sanitation facilities, proper schools, access to food or health services provision. She has become the self acclaimed mayoress of this community as she works to provide essential services for young children in her country. 

Anastacia De Klerk is a Mathematics and English teacher from Nambia working with young children. She also works for a charity that she co-founded which seeks to improve educational outcomes for young children. In a conversation with her she tells me, she wants to work on building a community centre that will be a one stop shop which will provide support to young children in her particular community.

I have just finished reading a book titled "The Girl Who Found Water" a collection of memoirs written by yet another colleague, Chibuzo Mirian Azubuike from Nigeria. A powerful narration of how focus and determination led to her providing the first safe water source in Bauchi, northern Nigeria, where fighting between rebels and government forces had taken root. I have now got an autographed copy of her book!

In South Africa, my new found friend, Molefi Nyofane is working to provide access to tertiary education for young children coming very poor and disadvantaged communities. His own life story is again a testament of hard work and sheer determination to succeed. To date over 3000 young adults have been supported by the Macro Informative Youth Agency (MIYA) an organization he founded 10 years ago. 

These are some of the inspiring stories I have been picking up and will be sharing more in the coming weeks. I am excited at the fact that I am with other leaders who are not sitting on their laurels doing nothing, leaders who want to serve and not be served, leaders who want to get their hands dirty in order to set the compass right and ensure that they lead in the areas of their passion.

Reflecting on these stories and more, makes me happy that I am part of a generation of young leaders who are determined to leave a lasting legacy.

Patrick Makokoro
Founder and Executive Director
Nhaka Foundation
Mandela Washington Fellow 2017