Friday, January 3, 2020

Marking the beginning of a new decade

Happy New Year! We are excited to be welcoming you back to our Nhaka Blog in this New Year! The past decade had so much success for the organization and we also met with our fair share of failures and disappointments.

In July 2019, to celebrate our 11th year anniversary, Nhaka Foundation commissioned an Impact Evaluation consultancy which found among other things that the impact the organization was making in communities was indelible. The evaluation found that the programs that Nhaka Foundation implemented in Zimbabwe were significant to the ECD learners, parents/guardians, communities, ECD teachers and SDC committee members, gauging by the sustainability of some of the organization’s programs and the impact realized.  This is mostly based on local communities’ high demand for the organization’s interventions inherent in statements like: “We need Nhaka Foundation to continue supporting our school to further improve ECD services” (FGD participant, St. Francis Primary School); “We will always need Nhaka Foundation because it helps us see things with a different eye and it always challenges us to raise our standards” (SDC member, Kadyamadare Primary School). I share in summation through this Blog, some of the impact made over the past decade.

Organizational impact

This evaluation defined organizational impact as the long—term changes in the lives of beneficiaries that the organization’s interventions contributed towards or caused.  These changes could be in the form of new positive developments caused or potentially catastrophic consequences averted.  The following are the major impacts that the evaluation identified:
1.   Cementing the relations between communities and schools
    Nhaka Foundation did not implement its projects in isolation rather it engaged different partners and stakeholders as well as the beneficiaries. The organisation in all its projects engaged the traditional leaders notably the headmen and councillors. SDC committee members and the parents were largely involved in implementation of all programs. The success of the organization’s projects were largely due to the involvement of the local people. Schools and the parents were working hand in hand in all programs that were implemented by Nhaka Foundation, this cemented the relations between the community at large and the schools. The parents were motivated by the organisation to take ownership of the programs that were being implemented.  Most schools’ nutrition gardens and playing centers are being monitored and taken care of by volunteers (parents to be specific). The awareness campaigns that targeted the parents made them realize that that they were owners of the schools. School heads used to have a problem of parents isolating themselves from school developmental work however the intervention of Nhaka Foundation reduced this challenge, “Nhaka Foundation has not come back for a long time but we are still volunteering to clean the classrooms, maintain the playing grounds and take care of the nutrition garden because we were reminded that it is our school”, (one of the parents at St Francis Udebwe Primary school). The construction of new blocks at some of the schools restored trust and hope for the parents, this can be noticed by the increment of enrollments after and during the intervention of Nhaka Foundation.
2.   Health improvements and prevention of potential water borne diseases
Health awareness campaigns, construction of toilets, feeding programs, boreholes drilling and health assessments visits were some of the intervention programs that were implemented by the organisation. Health awareness campaigns raised awareness of parents on some of the preventative measures towards certain diseases. The introduction of the feeding programme towards ECD learners targeted to reduce hunger and improve health of the ECD learners, food insecurity was one of the serious challenges that was being faced by most parents therefore the introduction of the feeding program  had a positive impact towards the health of  the ECD learners. Maheu was one of the beverages that the organisation provided which was deemed nutritious preventing them from malnutrition. Construction of toilets partially solved the problem of open defecation. Borehole drilling improved access to clean and safe water preventing the potential outbreak of water-borne diseases like cholera and typhoid. The organisation with the help of local clinics and nurses did regular health assessments mostly on ECD learners, the organisation would provide medication to learners in need which was so important as most clinics were incapacitated towards medication provision. However for the health impacts to be fully realised a lot still needs to be done for example there is need for construction of toilets suitable for the ECD learners in most schools to solve the problem of open defecation, some of the ECD learners fear to use adult toilets ending up contaminating forests and open fields around those toilets. Most schools are still in need of clean and safe water sources.
3.   Economic empowerment
One of the problems that were being faced by all schools was failure by parents to pay school fees due to poverty. The organisation to avert the challenge introduced new ways of farming (for example farmers were encouraged to use organic fertilizers in place of chemical fertilizers which is deemed cheap and yet effective. The organisation introduced new types of plants like carrots and onions and taught the parents how to grow them, “I am now a genius when it comes to farming, because of the new knowledge that was imparted by Nhaka Foundation, l am now able to provide food for my family and sell surplus for money”, (one of the parents at Kachuta Primary). The organisation also taught the parents agro business especially market linkages. To some extent the initiatives boosted the economic status of the parents, however most parents are still living in poverty as they realise small profits from farming mostly due to continuous droughts they experience.
4.   Complementing government ministries and departments towards fulfillment of their mandates
The projects complemented and supported some of the government’s programs and plans. Government policy has made ECD learning compulsory therefore the construction of ECD blocks, training of ECD teachers and parents about the importance of ECD made it possible for the government to partially fulfil its mandate towards social development. The organisation also tellingly complemented the government in some of the projects it was implementing for example the feeding program and furniture provision. One of the schools nearly closed due to poor infrastructure, however the government alone could not resuscitate the buildings which led to the intervention of Nhaka Foundation to construct new buildings. RDC, MoPSE (Ministry of Primary and Secondary schools) and MoHCC (Ministry of Health and Child Welfare) were all complemented with organization’s projects.
5.   Quality enhancement at schools
The organization managed to bridge the gaps between schools in Goromonzi district, some schools were far much behind others in terms of infrastructure and service delivery which was problematic in some instances. Teacher retention for schools who had poor environments was nearly impossible, however the intervention of Nhaka Foundation in infrastructure development especially classroom blocks and borehole drilling and teacher training partially solved the problem. However a lot still needs to be done in order to fully improve the quality of these schools in Goromonzi district for example cottage construction is a priority in many schools, “The school is not able to accommodate all the teachers, we have 28 teachers with 12 houses, in 2017 l lost 9 teachers who transferred to better schools without any replacement” (headmaster of Rusike Primary school).
6.   Quality education enhancement
The intervention of Nhaka Foundation enhanced quality education, ECD learners benefited from equipment they require for their learning. ECD learners learn through play therefore Outdoor play centers and toys are important towards their learning. The organisation provided the ECD learners with charts (ECD learners understands concepts more effectively through visuals than lectures). ECD teacher training by the organisation in partnership with the government also enhanced quality education. According to Grade 1 teachers, Grade 1 learners who have passed through ECD A and B are easy to teach and they understand new concepts better than those who did not attend ECD. There is a great possibility of increased pass rates in the long run as ECD is the proper foundation for every child’s development. However quality education to be fully realised a lot still needs to be done for example there is a dire need of workbooks and reading books for the ECD learners at every school, parents and schools are all failing to provide the kids with these books, “The ECD learners are required to bring 8 books which are very costly to us parents, we cannot afford to buy these book which are being sold at 16 dollars each and the schools do not want photocopies” .Enrollment increment has led to high teacher –learner ratio, therefore there is need for more ECD teachers to comply with expected teacher-student ratio thereby enhancing quality education. There is also need for the expansion of Outdoor ECD playing centers and playing equipment increment. Rural learners in most of these schools do not have access to ICT technology (an area which needs serious attention).

Looking into the next decade
We are excited about the opportunities that the new decade brings. In line with our Strategic Plan, we have various activities lined up for 2020 and beyond. Join us in various ways that are available to you, partner with us on this journey to ensure a lasting legacy for young children.

Happy 2020!
Patrick Makokoro
Nhaka Foundation