Monday, November 14, 2016

My first trip to Africa!

Dear Nhaka Friends,

I had the pleasure of meeting Patrick Makokoro, Founder of Nhaka, at a conference in the Washington D.C. area during the spring of 2015 and I was very impressed by the work Nhaka Foundation does for children.  Long story short, I decided to volunteer with the Nhaka Team to provide training this past winter. During the months of June and July (summer in the US) I had the amazing opportunity of being a part of the Nhaka Team that delivered training to approximately 120 teachers and Headmasters in Mashonaland East province of Zimbabwe. The Early Childhood Development (ECD) Teacher training program is one of the programs being implemented by Nhaka Foundation in the communities they are serving. Prior to my visit, between January and June 2016 Charity Bafana, Glenda Takavadii and I met monthly via Skype to plan the ECD teacher training.  They provided me as much information as they could about the children, teachers, schools and communities we would be serving.  The day finally arrived, June 25th, when I made the long flight from the Washington D.C. area to Harare, first trip to Africa!!

I spent my first week traveling with Nhaka Team to the schools where the trainings were to be conducted. By seeing the children, teachers and schools first hand I was able to tailor the training to their specific needs.  My second week was spent conducting the trainings with the team and the District Early Childhood Development (ECD) Trainer. Since the trainings were for experienced teachers we started with a review of the learning theory and developmentally appropriate practice for young children.  We then covered second language acquisition theory, how to serve children with special needs, and literacy and maths instructional strategies. Each  training day ended with time for teachers to create lesson plans to put what they had learned into action.

A survey was given to all participants at the end of each  training day. The feedback was very positive and most participants wanted additional training.  My final week in Zimbabwe was spent visiting the schools once again to observe the teachers in action with their newly acquired techniques.  I could not believe how fast my three weeks in Zimbabwe went.  The highlight of my trip was working with all of the fantastic teachers, meeting all of the beautiful children and the beautiful landscape of rural Zimbabwe.

Charity, Glenda and I have continued our meetings via Skype since my return to the U.S.  We are working plans for future Teacher Trainings.  Literally everyday since my visit I think of my experience in Zimbabwe and all of the wonderful people I met. I am proud and humble to be a part of the Nhaka team!!!!

Best wishes,

Dr Lea Ann Christenson

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Promoting well being of children in communities

Dear Friends,

Occupational therapy (OT) focuses on promoting and enabling people with physical, sensory, or cognitive limitations to be as independent as possible in all areas of their lives. O.T. helps children and adults with various needs to boost their cognitive, physical, sensory, motor skills, increase their self-esteem as well as helping them have a sense of accomplishment. Most people think occupational therapy is meant for adults and not for children, after all, children’s occupations are taken for granted.. Contrary to this belief, a child's main job is playing and learning therefore occupational therapists can evaluate children’s skills for playing, school performance, and daily activities then work with the children to design an intervention that promotes participation and engagement in these meaningful occupations. 

At Nhaka Foundation we have been fortunate to partner with the Zimbabwe Association of Occupational Therapists (ZAOT) for our Health Assessment Program and Parenting Meetings this term. We are excited to be working alongside some of the country’s best Occupational Therapists in addressing some of the developmental, physical, psychological, social, and environmental factors that can affect the functioning of pupils in different ways. This approach makes O.T. a vital part of health care for most children and children in the communities we are serving who might otherwise not have access to this type of interventions. Occupational therapists apply their specific knowledge to enable people to engage in activities of daily living that have personal meaning and value to them. They also consult with the person and the family or care givers through evaluation and treatment to promote the client’s capacity to participate in satisfying daily activities. The occupational therapist's goal is to provide the client with skills for the job of living, those necessary to function in the community or in the client's chosen environment.

The 27th of October was dedicated as a day to commemorate Occupational Therapy Profession in 2010 and since then it has become an important date on the O.T. calendar to promote and celebrate the profession internationally. This year, Nhaka Foundation in partnership with ZAOT joins the world to celebrate World Occupational Therapy Day by bringing Occupational Therapy to grassroots level at Munyawiri Primary School in Domboshava. The team has a number of events lined up including Individual Assessments and screening for disabilities of Early Childhood Development (ECD) pupils. A career guidance talk with pupils from Munyawiri Secondary School, and who better to talk to them than recent graduates of OT from the University of Zimbabwe. The program has Classroom and Teaching Strategies for teachers as well as child stimulation guide for parents. It is promising to be a day full of activities for the community at Munyawiri village.  

In our work with the OTs  it is amazing how they minimise their skills as only attending to activities of daily living, functionality and activity management yet they do so much more. It is one of those broad professions covering but not limited to the study of psychology, sociology, physiology, biological, disease processes, cognitive behavioral therapy, kinesiology and even, carpentry. 

So we are glad to partner with these professionals to ensure the promotion of children's optimal growth and development.

Charity Bafana
Associate Director
Nhaka Foundation

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A day with Team Nhaka in the field

A day well spent with Team Nhaka!

On Tuesday the 20th of September, Nhaka Foundation visited Rusike Primary school in Goromonzi, where a follow up workshop was held to train ECD level teachers the importance of Arts and Crafts in the development of children. The workshop was a great success as seven schools attended with over 15 teachers present. 

It was inspiring to see all the teachers participating and acknowledging the importance of such a workshop. Some of the teachers were tasked with creating their own crafts from recycled material and it was great to see rag dolls, Zimbabwe’s very own famous wire cars, drums made from plastic and containers, tambourines made from wire and bottle tops and castanets made from wooden planks. Glenda from Nhaka Foundation shared ideas on how to make homemade play doe, homemade glue and homemade paint all made from items found in the kitchen, which is brilliant because it makes all these items safe, even if the children try to taste them as we know how curious children can be. In addition a beautiful Zimbabwean homestead was also made from old toilet rolls, sand and grass (all recycled materials). 

It was great to hear the teachers share their recipes for paint using different coloured soils in the area, and recipes for glue using trees in the area. The teachers were very much aware of the importance of Arts and Crafts in the development of a well rounded student. They also shared their own understanding of arts and crafts through a lovely discussion on why we need arts and crafts in schools. I particularly enjoyed sharing my ideas on making jewellery out of straws, magazines and ribbon and sharing the importance of music at ECD level. 

After a lovely workshop it was a great pleasure to distribute all the stationary Nhaka Foundation managed to gather for all seven schools. What an amazing initiative by Nhaka Foundation not only have we empowered seven schools with the resources and the knowledge but we have also inspired hundreds of children in the Goromonzi area.

Lets do what we can to support those living in our communities and Nhaka Foundation is walking the talk by being active in the communities. 


Vera Chisvo

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Rehabilitating classrooms

Dear Friends,

School is a place where children can call home. They spend almost 70% of their time at there, learning different life skills for the future. The impact school has on children is so great, and cannot be overlooked. Children learn how the world operates and acquire knowledge and information that enlightens their young minds about the future. School is also a place where children learn to make relationships and various life decisions. In other words, school is another world separate from the homes they come from; a place where their dreams have the possibility of coming true.

On Wednesday the 7th of September 2016, Team Nhaka together with a representative from a possible donor embarked on a field trip to Govera Primary School in Domboshava. Domboshava is a rural area situated in the Goromonzi District. Prior to this visit, another assessment to conduct Classroom and Playground Renovations had been carried out. This marked the 2nd visit for the same purpose. The dusty roads and the African-designed homesteads welcomed us as we further drove towards the school. For those of us visiting the school for the very first time, great anticipation gripped us as we could only imagine what lay ahead. Upon arrival, I was greatly reminded of my father. He grew up in Govera and even attended the same primary school. Since it was founded in 1927, no renovations of any kind had been undertaken at the school. 8 decades later, this new generation of children have to call the same school their own, and adopt it as a second home. 

As we started assessing the entire school, my heart was deeply overwhelmed with sadness at the great dilapidation that has taken place over the past 89 years. 2classroom blocks had to be condemned by the local council authorities and the Ministry of Education, as they were a possible endangerment to the children’s safety. Harsh winds left some rooftops blown off, weak roof beams that are gradually being harvested by ant termites support the dilapidated rusty roofs; meaning when it rains children cannot conduct their lessons in these classes. Now that summer is here, it would mean the children are exposed to the sun throughout their learning slots, a situation that could expose them to excessive sun burns leading to serious skin damage and/or skin cancer. The structures that are considered to be in good condition have broken windows, and chipped floors. Bricks are wearing off from the corners of some blocks, leaving them extremely imbalanced. This situation could create a bigger threat to the children’s safety once the rainy season starts. However, because the number of children enrolled at the school requires more than just the 3classroom blocks that are currently functional; teachers have taken the risks and still conduct lessons in the condemned classroom blocks. Despite the current situation, children still attend school, neatly dressed and engage in the day-to-day school activities with positivity.

Every child has a right to a safe learning environment! Partner with us in order to make this a reality for children at this and many other schools in the District.

Until next time,

Roshnee Musonza
Media Intern

Monday, September 12, 2016

Final lap of the year

Dear Friends,

We welcome the third and final term of the year, and embrace the bright blue skies and bright African sunshine of the summer season! With parents and teachers undergoing last minute back-to-school preparations, for children everywhere, the atmosphere is often charged up with a great level of anticipation for what is to come. Going to a new term usually means a lot of homework awaits, and whilst this can be a ‘not-so-interesting’ subject for some children, school remains the one place children should be allowed to be who they are and whoever they can be; as well as an open environment for them to be heard.

At Nhaka Foundation, we believe in the education of all children and our sole mission is to educate, feed and improve the health of orphans and vulnerable children in Zimbabwe; with the help of our partners and supporters. This term team Nhaka is faced with the daunting task of mobilising the communities in preparation for the construction of outdoor playgrounds for E.C.D children. 

As we all know, “children learn through play”. Children at E.C.D level are stimulated by colours, open spaces filled with toys, sporting activities and play! Play is the best way for young children to learn the concepts, skills, and tasks needed to set a solid foundation for later school and life success. In order to successfully create environments that are conducive for effective play, at Nhaka Foundation we believe in creating spaces that are stimulating and urge spontaneous creativity from children.

Team Nhaka joins in the excitement of 3rd term with a number of outlined projects, some of which include the Arts and Craft ECD Teacher workshop, Outdoor playground and equipment construction, commemoration of the International Day of the girl child and many more! 

Children are the future and we must all play our part in making sure their early childhood foundations are established on strong grounds! I hope you can join us as we embark on this term’s initiatives. 

Happy new term!!

Until next time,

Nhaka Intern

Monday, August 1, 2016

Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities!

Dear Friends, 

The health and well being of every child is important for children to lead an innovative and successful life. However, research from the Zimbabwe Demographic Survey shows that 84 out of every 1,000 children are likely to pass away before they reach five years old. Most of these deaths are due to infectious diseases that could be treated with the right primary health care. These deaths do not allow Zimbabwean children to live the full and prosperous lives they deserve. Most of these diseases go untreated because of the lack of doctors in the clinics and inability for parents to pay for a visit to the doctor. 

In 2010 the World Health Organization reported that Zimbabwe had less than two doctors for every 10,000 people. The price to visit a general practitioner in Zimbabwe is now at $35 with further visits for the same illness is another $30 per visit. Then, if someone needed to see a doctor during the weekend it would cost $60, and $70 for night visits. These prices do not even include medication costs. With an unemployment rate of 92 percent in Zimbabwe, and wages as low as $382 per month and a familial living cost of about $655 per month, many Zimbabweans do not have the financial stability to pay for doctor’s visits. 

In order to try and bridge this gap, the Nhaka Foundation has worked with local clinics and their nurses to carry out health assessments for ECD students in the schools they sponsor. The Nhaka team, along with a nurse goes to the schools and assesses the children’s health. Each child’s height and weight are recorded, and then the nurse tests the child’s heart rate, eyesight, and hearing. The nurse also inspects them for ringworm, which is becoming an overwhelming problem in rural schools, and other skin conditions. 

Once all the evaluations are done, the nurse and the team evaluate the results to see if there are any overwhelming problems with the children at the school, which, if any, children are facing malnutrition, and what medications are needed in order to improve the children’s health. The team then tries to come up with innovative ways to help the children be as healthy as possible. 

The Nhaka Foundation strives to “leave a lasting legacy” for the children of Zimbabwe. In order for a legacy to be made, children’s health and well being needs to be looked after. With the help from local clinics and nurses, the Nhaka Foundation strives to make sure the children are happy and healthy so each and every child can leave their own legacy. 

Until next time, 

Katie Shields 
Volunteer Intern

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

All about teacher training!

Hello Friends, 

Since you last heard from us, Nhaka Foundation had many great days out in the field, conducting teacher training. Everyone from Head Masters, to Teachers in Charge, to Early Childhood Development (ECD) teachers have gone through training workshops with Dr Lea Ann Christenson and the Nhaka team. These educators are already amazing at their job, and the purpose of Dr Lea Ann’s training was to re-emphasize the foundations of teaching ECD. She went over everything from how children learn, the importance of speaking two languages, Universal Design for Learning, Literacy, Pre-math, and tying it all together by having the teachers write a lesson plan with the information they learned during the training. 

In order to do so Dr Lea Ann had the teachers get creative by basing a lesson on a children’s edition of the Scholastic magazine that she handed out to every person at the training. Scholastic magazines are simple to read, non-fiction magazines that aid in children’s oral language development, and literacy. Each magazine is focused around a certain topic such as ants, classroom rules, and different holidays, like Valentine’s Day. While some of the magazines were the same, the teachers’ creative energies steered them in different ways to orchestrate a lesson they would teach. While every idea was different, each and every teacher made sure his or her lesson touched upon literacy, building academic language through specific vocabulary words, pre-math, and of course play! 

Dr Lea Ann and the teachers then also discussed how the lesson could be adapted through Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL is a framework to guide educators about the best ways to educate all children in the classroom, to make sure all children; even children with special needs understand the lesson taught in order to broaden each and every child’s horizon of knowledge. The fun of ECD training did not stop there! Dr Lea Ann also implemented teaching strategies that teachers could use in their classroom into the training. Tactics such as “turn and talk” where a question is asked, and then you turn to the person next to you to discuss possible answers. Switching the people you are working with in order to meet new friends to discuss possible answers with. 

And finally, what I think was the most fun was Dr Lee Ann drawing every name randomly out of a bowl to have the teachers come up and share a rhyme they sing in their classroom. Everyone at the training had a good laugh, while participating in singing and dancing to the rhymes, and most importantly, all the teachers learned new rhymes to bring back to their own classrooms.  Today’s children are tomorrow’s future. Teachers take up the outstanding duty to teach and train children in order to make sure their futures are bright and filled with knowledge. This teacher training reinforced skills that Zimbabwe’s teachers already know and use in order to motivate them to keep up the great work they are doing in educating our children. 

Until next time, 

Katie Shields 

Nhaka Volunteer 

Monday, July 4, 2016

Equipping Teachers

Dear Friends,

The Team at Nhaka Foundation has been busy with preparations for our training workshops with Heads, Teachers in Charge (TICs) and ECD teachers and will be held on the 1st,5th 6th and 7th of  July respectively. The training workshops shall be facilitated by Dr Lee Ann Christenson, an Associate Professor in the Early Childhood Development Department, at Townson University, in the United States of America and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary’s Goromonzi District Trainer Mrs Mushawatu. We anticipate that teachers, Heads and TICs from the fourteen schools we work with will be in attendance. 

Our aim for the ECD teacher training workshops is to increase the capacity of teachers to enable them to meet the developmental needs of their students, to facilitate dialogue between teachers concerning teaching techniques as well as to aid teachers to develop their ability to innovate with media. In addition, our aim with the Heads and TICs workshops are to conscientise these individuals on the importance of Early Childhood Development (ECD) and to develop their ability spread awareness about the benefits of ECD to parents and caregivers. 

When ECD was implemented in 2005 under the recommendations of the Presidential Commission Inquiry on Education and Training or better known as the Nziramasanga Commission, there was very little understanding about its importance. Although many have begun to understand the importance of ECD there still remain many misconceptions about ECD and misunderstanding among some community stakeholders and parents. It is essential that key stakeholders, parents and caregivers understand that ECD is more than just about children playing. 

Children at very young ages learn through play. Play develops their physical and cognitive abilities. Many naysayers of ECD argue that it is merely an extra cost for schools and serves no purpose as children just play all day. However, ECD is the foundation of all future learning and for future academic success of any child. Our teacher training is part of efforts to campion the importance of ECD and to ensure that teachers and educators can spread the word about the pivotal role of ECD.   

This is why at Nhaka Foundation we are partnering with ECD experts in order to provide the neccesary tools to equip the teachers working with young children in communities.

Until next time,

Shona Musimbe

Media/Programs Intern

Friday, June 17, 2016

International Day of the African Child 2016

The day of the African Child 

The 16th of June commemorated the International Day of the African Child across the globe. This day was designated by the African Union in 1991 to reemphasise the importance of the rights of African children and to bring awareness to the problems facing children across the continent. African children across our continent are presented by severe danger now more than ever. In Nigeria Boko Haram continues to attack villages within the North East of Nigeria. In Libya civil war continues to rage on and in neighbouring Egypt continued instability threatens the lives of young children. The East of Africa does not fare much better than their West and North African counterparts with continued civil war in Northern Uganda and increased instability at the Ethiopian and Eritrean borders. 

Although currently less conflict prone Southern Africa is also faced by numerous crises. Since 2014 Southern African countries including Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Malawi have suffered prolonged periods of drought and crop failure due to the effects of El Nino. El Nino refers to the abnormal warming of water temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean that result in extreme changes in climate around the globe. The El Nino phenomenon has been worsened by climate change.  According to the Food Aid Organization (FAO), Southern Africa has been hit by the worst El Nino event in the last 50 years. Lesotho, Malawi and Zimbabwe have all declared national disasters due to the severe drought, consequent crop failure and food shortages. With this is mind it is important to remember that in every conflict and crisis that currently faces African countries it is the children that suffer the most. Children are our most valuable assets but also our most vulnerable. Conflict and crisis have made it difficult to ensure that children’s rights as stipulated by the legal frameworks of the African Charter of Children’s Rights (ACCR) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCR) are respected. The purpose of reflecting on the condition of our continent is not to champion the narrative of the doomed African continent but to emphasize the plight of children across our entire continent.  

 At Nhaka Foundation we have witnessed the effects of El Nino and climate change on children’s rights to adequate and culturally appropriate food in our own country Zimbabwe first hand. During our interactions with teachers within the Goromonzi district many recount how students walk long distances of about 8 kilometers to and from school having had nothing to eat. The situation is so bad that some pupils arrive at school so hungry that they faint. The responsibility to protect and to ensure that children are protected in crisis is not just up to the government and organizations but to society at large. As the old African saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child”. Many repeat the age old statement “children are the future”. However, we forget that the quality of life children enjoy will influence the type of future they have and the leaders they become. A child’s situation today shapes their tomorrow.  

The IDAC is not only designated to bring awareness to the importance of protecting the rights of African children but also to celebrate their achievements and dignity. The majority of images that are disseminated by the media often misrepresent the African child. The images the world sees of African children are usually those of dirty, naked vulnerable or starving children, though true, this is not the only one side of the African Child’s story. African children are also strong, valuable members of the global community with so much more to contribute to the world if given the chance and opportunity. 

At Nhaka Foundation we believe that African children are just as important as any other children in the various parts of the world and they also deserve to be treated as such. On this day as we celebrate African children’s lives, their resilience and their achievements. Let us also honour and remember the memory of those African children whose lives were cut short whilst the world watched and those that endeavour to uphold the rights of all children.

Until next time,

Shona Musimbe
Media and Programs Intern

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A birth certificate: the Right to Identity

Dear Friends,

Under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCR), of which Zimbabwe is a signatory, every child has the right to a name and a nationality. Under the birth and death Registration Act [5:02] of Zimbabwe it is mandatory to register the birth of a child within six weeks of their birth. The responsibility of registering the birth of a child is placed on the parents however society places this duty more on the mother. Under this law the occupier of the house the child is born in, headman in the village, caregiver, hospital officials, and any other person above 18 present at the birth can register the birth of a child.  Although a birth certificate may seem insignificant particularly to individuals who have them they serve many purposes and are essential to a child’s survival. 

Without a birth certificate children are vulnerable and susceptible to human trafficking by people who target vulnerable groups. Furthermore, without a birth certificate a child grows up stateless; meaning they do not belong to a nation and cannot vote, obtain any other national documents, be a beneficiary of certain state benefits, enrol into school or enter a civil marriage. To secure employment formally in Zimbabwe one requires an identity card and without a birth certificate as adults these children will not be able to take identity cards. Thus, without a birth certificate a child can never be formally employed as an adult. If a child under 18 without a birth certificate commits a serious crime and is liable to serve jail time the child will serve a sentence in a prison with adults as they cannot prove their age. Furthermore, there are certain sentences such as the death penalty that cannot be given to a child under 18. However, without a birth certificate to prove they are a child they can be sentenced to death. This document is therefore, an important tool in ensuring that children’s rights are respected in a court of law. Despite the importance of this document, according to UNICEF, one- in- three children under the age of five in the world are denied this right and do not have birth certificates.  According to a 1998 study done by UNICEF globally, rural populations have less access to legal registration and rural children are among the highest numbers without birth certificates. 

Recently, the Nhaka Foundation programs team held a parenting meeting at Mwanza Primary School in conjunction with the Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) to discuss the issue of birth certificates affecting the community. During this meeting parents themselves also expressed how a birth certificate secures rights to a lot of other documents such as a passport. In addition, many children without birth certificates in the Goromonzi area have had to drop out of school when they reach Grade 7 or are sent back to lower grades because they cannot register for the ZIMSEC examination.  A representative of the Legal Resources Foundation pointed out that, often parents realise the importance of this document too late such as when it is required for the child to register for the national final primary examination at grade 7 or when a child is meant to travel abroad. LRF also explained to parents that a birth certificate allows children to participate in national sports activities and when they are older they may be able to participate in global events. Without a birth certificate young children are vulnerable not only today but also in future. An education is a valuable asset but without a birth certificate many opportunities will be closed off. 

One issue that must not be overlooked is the role of parents and families. Children‘s development and their future successes are integrally linked to their families and parents. Speaking to parents at Mwanza revealed that parents wanted to secure this right for their children but there were several obstacles that prevented them. Each situation was unique and often complicated. Some parents explained that they did not have birth certificates themselves, and had no living relatives to attest to the fact that they knew of their birth parents and birthplace. Others were guardians of children whose living relatives had abandoned them or whose parents had died. 

In situations where a child does not have a birth certificate the role of the parent is paramount as they must not give up in order to secure their child’s future. Parents must attempt to pursue all avenues in order to ensure that their children have this right although processes may often be complicated and long. Parents must look ahead and at the end goal that a birth certificate will give their children an opportunity to succeed. At Nhaka Foundation we believe in leaving an inheritance for the next generation that will help them in their own endeavours and aid them in reaching their full potential long after their parents and guardians are long gone. A birth certificate is part of leaving a lasting legacy for the next generation. 

Until next time,

Shona Musimbe,
Programs/Media Intern

Nhaka Foundation 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Team Nhaka loves to play!

Dear Friends,

On Saturday 28 May 2016, children across the globe will celebrate World Play Day. World Play Day is a day set aside on the International Children’s Calendar to celebrate play by the United Nations. With the help of various partners and well- wishers Nhaka Foundation is commemorating World Play Day by having a sports day for the Early Childhood Development (ECD) pupils at St Dominic’s Nora Primary School (26 May 2016), Mwanza Primary School (27 May 2016) and Dudzu Primary School (1 June 2016) in Mashonaland East, in the Goromonzi District.  

Nhaka Foundation as an organisation driven by child education, we are excited for the upcoming World Play Day as this day commemorates the importance of incorporating play in ECD education. Play is crucial in a child’s development and to promote every child’s right to play it is set out in Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the child. On the event children will be given a chance to play while they learn skills like fine motor skills, hand and eye coordination through the activities of the day. Our main goal is to encourage play as a way of learning and leave this as an ongoing sustainable exercise to be done by the schools and communities independently. 
Play is the child's language and play is a fun, enjoyable activity that elevates children’s spirits and brightens their outlook on life. It expands self-expression, self-knowledge, self-actualization and self-efficacy, it stimulates creative thinking and exploration, regulating their emotions, and boosts their confidence and ego. (Landreth, 2002). Play therefore provides us with a bridge or universal language and a common forum for interacting with children. 

Zimbabwe has taken a step in incorporating play in its ECD curriculum. Play is particularly important in the Southern African context where most of our children below the age of 6 have limited or often no access to early childhood development opportunities. It is important to recognise that the type of play and games differ according to cultural context. These games can be form of cultural socialisation and instil in the children a form of cultural sensibility. For example I remember growing up I used to play mahumbwe with a lot of my friends and we would make mud pies and practice cooking sadza which we had seen older women doing. In addition, play allows us to practice skills and roles needed for survival. Learning and development are clearly best fostered through play (Russ, 2004).

Going along with this year’s theme for World Play Day, “Play is for all ages” meaning even for adults, play isn’t just for children it’s for adults too. Play is an opportunity to explore new ways of learning and gives adults a chance to connect with their inner child. Play relieves feelings of stress and boredom, connects us to children in a positive way. Children are not miniature adults, they have their own language which is play if we as adults want to get the best out of them, and we better learn to speak with them in a language they understand. 

Play is also one of the most used therapeutic technics when doing intervention with children in a technique called ‘play therapy’, this is whereby play tools such as anatomically correct dolls for sexual abuse victims therapy and children’s court interventions. For physical therapy instruments such as sand balls are used for rehabilitation. 

In conclusion we encourage parents, grandparents, teachers and the community at large to play with their children and stimulate their learning abilities. So let us remember 28 May 2016 we encourage you to tag @Nhakafoundation on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages on all the fun activities you have with your loved ones on World Play Day.

Millicent Katsande

Social Worker/Programs Intern

Friday, April 29, 2016

Feeding the children

Hello Friends,

Today I would like us to talk about health and nutrition. Nutrition has been called the single greatest environmental influence on babies in the womb and during infancy, and it remains essential throughout the first years of life. A proper balance of nutrients in this formative period is critical for normal brain development.  Shortages of nutrients such as iron and iodine can impair cognitive and motor development, and these effects are often irreversible. Nutrition is also an important part of academic success and physical development. In vulnerable communities children often attend school without having had anything to eat and spend the whole day at school on an empty stomach. In the rural communities we work in, teachers highlight how difficult it is for some of the pupils to concentrate during class when they are hungry. When we conduct our regular health assessments one can clearly observe stunted growth due to malnutrition in some of the pupils. To mitigate this challenge, Nhaka Foundation with the help of its partners and the rural communities in the Mashonaland East Province is currently implementing a Health Assessment Program and a wet School Feeding Program in primary schools. 

Each day pupils receive a traditional, highly nutritious drink called maheu at break time. 
Maheu consist of a blend of maize meal, sorghum and water and has since time immemorial been used as a meal on the go. It has a high roughage content making it a food and a drink at the same time which can be taken at any time of the day. Maheu also have a high nutritional content with 12 vitamins and nutrients, which guarantees the health and development of the children having it on a daily basis.The kids love it and seeing them drink and enjoy the drink is enough reward for me. As Programs Officer part of my job is ensuring the food drink is delivered timeously and that it is being served according to agreed food and health standards. I am so passionate about the feeding program that the kids now call me “Mr Maheu”.

Our organisation’s mission;, “to educate, feed and improve the health of orphans and vulnerable children” is put to the test in a climate where millions are facing hunger due to political, socio-economic challenges which have been exacerbated by two consecutive drought seasons between 2015 and 2016. In order to ensure that the feeding program is sustained past the intervention period Nhaka Foundation seeks to provide a nutritional solution that will not only address the immediate need to provide food relief but also have an option that can be replicated in the communities that we serve. This is why we chose Maheu. Since maheu has been made for decades communities know how to grow the ingredients as well as make it. They can therefore come together to as a collective to feed the children on a continuous basis. 

I would like to leave you with this thought I read from the Journal of Nutrition (2010); the long-term health and vitality of entire nations depends on the wellbeing of its individual children. As an organisation with the support of local and international partners we seek to provide our children with the fair opportunity to grow and develop just as well as they privileged peers, through the use of sustainable methods that can be replicated with ease.

Best wishes,


Thursday, March 24, 2016

A view from the Finance Desk

Hello Friends,

I am happy to be blogging today, something we finance people rarely get to do. Creating child safe environments is a dynamic process that involves active participation and responsibility by everyone in the community – individuals, families, government and non-government organisations and community groups. Sharing responsibility for the care and protection of children helps to develop a stronger, more child-focused community. 

A community conscious of safe spaces for its children can: 
  • care for all children; 
  • identify vulnerable children; support children who have been abused and neglected; 
  • and prevent further harm to children. 
At Nhaka Foundation our programs help communities and schools to provide safe environments for children. Through our Early Childhood Development (ECD) outdoor playground equipment construction and ECD Classroom renovation we have been able to create a safe playing environment for ECD pupils. A child's environment affects their development and behavior. A well-planned, indoor and outdoor environment makes it easier for children to learn, to get along with one another and become independent. Effective environments can also make things easier for the parents, teachers and guardians. Be it a school or home setting, a positive learning environment is crucial for a child. A positive learning environment not only consists of the physical setting, but it also encompasses how the child feels or responds to the setting.

What I have learnt through the work we do at Nhaka Foundation? Young children need teachers who take time to work with them individually, in small groups, and sometimes with the entire class–to help them develop their cognitive and social skills, their language abilities, and their interest in learning new things about the world. Through our ECD para professional and teacher training program teachers receive in service training to build their capacity in line with child development trends. The focus of a child safe environment is not simply to create an environment that minimises risk or danger. Rather it is about building an environment which is both child-safe and child-friendly, where children feel respected, valued and encouraged to reach their full potential.

A lot still needs to be done in the communities we serve. Being the "number cruncher" means that I get to see how we spend our funding directly on the children we serve each and every day. We need more and you can help in your individual or collective efforts. Visit our webpage DONATE button and partner with us as we carry out this work.

Until next time,


Monday, March 7, 2016

Special needs education: Creating an inclusive learning environment

Dear Friends,

In recent weeks we have worked with a number of children that need support through special needs education. As we have interacted with communities and teachers we have noticed a few things that need to be addressed urgently. Firstly, the teachers are not adequately trained to support children with special needs especially when it comes to providing them with support. Secondly the schools are not resourced well enough to ensure that the children enjoy their right to education alongside their compatriots. According to the Constitution of Zimbabwe every child has the right to education.  All children are included in this clause regardless of the fact that they have special needs or not. Special needs education refers to children who have learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn than most children of the same age. Many children will have special needs of some kind at some time during their education. (  The UN General Assembly held in March 1994 outlined in relation to standard rules on the equalisation of opportunities for persons with disabilities: “Education in mainstream schools presupposes the provision of interpreter and other appropriate support services. Adequate accessibility and support services, designed to meet the needs of persons with different disabilities should be provided”
In order to ensure that children with special needs have access to the same level of education as a child otherwise classified as normal child inclusive education has been adopted.
UNESCO views inclusive education as implying four key terms:
  1. “It is essentially a process of looking for the most appropriate ways of responding to diversity, as well as of trying to learn from differences.
  2. It is linked to the motivation and development, through multiple strategies of students’ creativity and their capacity to address and resolve problems.
  3. It comprises the right of the child to attend school, express his/her opinion, experience quality learning and attain valuable learning outcomes.
  4. It implies the moral responsibility of prioritising those students who are at risk of being marginalised and excluded from school, and of obtaining low learning outcomes.”
Despite being more vulnerable to developmental risks, young children with disabilities are often overlooked in mainstream programmes and services designed to ensure child development. They also do not receive the specific support required to meet their rights and needs. Children with disabilities and their families are confronted by barriers including inadequate legislation and policies, negative attitudes, inadequate services, and lack of accessible environments. If children with developmental delays or disabilities and their families are not provided with timely and appropriate early intervention, support and protection, their difficulties can become more severe, often leading to lifetime consequences, increased poverty and profound exclusion. All Early Childhood Development, Education and Human Rights actors should therefore commit to advancing not only the needs of children but also give special attention to the area of inclusive education. 

As part of Nhaka Foundation’s contribution to supporting inclusive education and ensuring that children with special needs are able to achieve their full educational potential we are committed to assist this cause by facilitating the identification, assessment and documenting of children with special needs in the areas that we work in. Nhaka Foundation undertakes to support District Officers in the Department of Social Services to assist children with special needs access education. Finally, we also seek to raise awareness in communities on the right to education for all children including those with special needs and the importance of allowing these children the same opportunity to reach their full potential as their able bodied peers.

Lets all work to promote the interests of EVERY child!

Best wishes,