KUDZIUA PROJECT REDFINES PRESCHOOL EDUCATION IN ZAMBÉZIA
Milange and Morrumbala districts can be considered pioneer districts when it comes to investing in pre-school education in Zambézia, Mozambique, after having received, in September 2021, twelve (12) community schools, equipped with school gardens in an equal number of communities (six to each district).
These are schools (local kindergartens) built by Save the Children, with the financial support from the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), as part of the implementation of the KUDZIUA Project “Inclusive pre-school education and integrated health, nutrition, education, and protection services in Zambezia Province, Mozambique - AID 011462”.
The project, which began in 2018, aims, first and foremost, to improve the physical, socio-emotional, linguistic and cognitive development of children attending the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) centers in the 12 communities from the 2 covered districts.
The delivering events of the schools were witnessed by the local administrators and the beneficiary communities took the prize as they can now dream of a bright future, considering they have the necessary means to continue promoting an inclusive and integrated education, health, nutrition and protection services for their children.
In addition to simply providing pre-school education schools for children aged 3 to 5 years old, the Kudziua project also created and left conditions for the communities to take care of issues related to children's health, with the creation and training of 12 Health Committees (one in each community).
These committees work on epidemiological surveillance and provide integrated care for childhood illnesses to ensure prompt responses. Furthermore, they ensure that all children receive the mandatory vaccinations in line with the National Vaccination Calendar and take care of the nutrition component: the project actually worked to contribute to reducing the rate of acute malnutrition.
Kudziua project also helped the communities to establish Child Protection Community Committees, through training programs to improve their capacity to identify, resolve or expose cases of violations of children's rights, in close collaboration with the competent authorities.
Globally, 1,500 children from these communities were enrolled in the preschool education program, with 660 having already graduated to primary education, an important milestone for disadvantaged and remote communities whose children had been struggling to access a learning environment at an earlier age as 3. By the time they are enrolled into formal education in first grade, at 6, are more than prepared for the new challenges.
For the Government of Mozambique, the intervention of the Kudziua project is more than opportune as it complements and goes a step further in relation to its early childhood education approaches, and callw for this type of initiative to be multiplied. The administrators of the two districts presided, accompanied by representatives of the Provincial Directorates of Gender, Children and Social Action and Education and other elements of the government at district level, the inauguration ceremonies of four schools (two in each district) in representation of the 12 built by the project.
In recognition of the value of the projects, the Administrator of Milange, Santiago dos Santos Marques, urged the communities to take care of the schools and to continue with pre-school education activities, supporting school activists and animators trained by the Kudziua project. Santiago also suggested to Save the Children to strengthen the water and sanitation component in order to sustainably and continuously comply with the rules on hand washing, hygiene and cleaning of toilets, also in reference to the challenges imposed by COVID-19.
Speaking with the community members of Chifungo, one of the beneficiaries in his district, the Administrator of Morrumbala disrict, João Nhabessa, said that the schools represent a great victory in the fight to promote the rights of children, especially with regard to their protection.
“It is a peculiar way of participating in the development of Mozambique and of the world, generally speaking, because the beneficiary children will be able to interact with anyone, promote development, peace and harmony”, he said. Nhabessa, underlined that “this is a rare opportunity to help shape little souls, but that this should be an extension of the task of educating children that starts within the family, so parents must continue to play their role inside their homes".
"OUR COMMUNITY WILL DEVELOP"
For community members, the Kudziua project opens a window of hope for a bright future. Rosa Fernando, a member of the Chifungo Community and a children's animator, looks forward to the enjoyment of the initiative's legacy. For her, “a lot has changed since the Kudziua project began to be implemented in 2018. Children already know how to greet people, speaking correctly and when they enter primary school they already have something on their minds”. For Rosa Fernando, the schools will only improve the quality of her work, considering that the activity was already being carried out in improvised spaces in the community and through door-to-door work with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Adelina Manuel Ernesto, also a children's animator in Morrumbala, is delighted with the schools, so much that, like it happened in all other communities, a fund was created to help manage running costs of the schools, such as the purchase of some materials. "We are involved and committed to ensuring that this fund remains active because we believe that educating our children will help improve their lives and ours in the future."
CHILDREN IN THE PROJECT MANAGEMENT
The Child Protection Committees, established throughout the project as an integral part of the Kudziua project, include children and they welcome the initiative and ensure that all learned lessons so far will be continued. Rosinha Dinis, 11, is a member of the Child Protection Committee and, together with other children, with assistance of adult members, helps to sensitize parents of preschool-age children to enroll their children, as well as raising awareness against violence of children. She says she is proud to be able to help mobilize parents and guardians in her community to enroll their children in pre-schools.
Simão José, 12 years old, is also a member of the Child Protection Committee and within the Kudziua project he interacted with other children, parents and guardians on pre-school education issues. He says he feels satisfied with the opening of the school because his new brothers and sisters and other children in the community are going to learn new things.
The project manager, Ilenia Guasti, says that “Kudziua”, despite all the challenges that the COVID 19 pandemic brought, came to an end with a feeling of mission accomplished, not only because of the goals achieved during its term, but, and above all, because through the community experience, the presence in the field, the relationship between people, it was possible to implant seeds of knowledge that leave activists and partners on the development path.
A National Conference on Preschool Education in Mozambique took place in September 29, and marked the end of the Kudziua Project, but Save the Children continues assisting existing Committees to capitalize on the gains made throughout of the three years of the contract.