Stimulating Children and Supporting Caregivers in Malawi Through Early Childhood Development Programs
Caregivers of young children in vulnerable households face the stress of juggling parenting demands while making ends meet. Women and girls often curtail farming or business activities to care for infants and toddlers, which consequently leads to diminished food and income for the extended family. In Malawi, volunteer-run community -based child care centers, or CBCCs, offer taxed caregivers a place to take their children for educational activities and constructive play. Caregivers are then free to work in the fields, care for sick family members, or dedicate time to income-generating activities.
CRS Malawi has a long history of supporting Early Childhood Development, or ECD, programs. More than 16,000 children attend 256 CRS-sponsored CBCCs in six Malawian districts. Working within ECD guidelines established by the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, CRS improves the educational quality children receive by investing in school construction and educational materials, establishing parent–teacher associations, and providing teacher training.
Recreation and playing fosters a child’s social growth, skills development, and stress relief. Vulnerable children frequently do not have the ability or time to play because of household responsibilities. Volunteer teachers learn best practices for engaging students through music, dance, and play versus more traditional rote memorization. Unconstrained by caregiving household chores, children can play, learn, and socialize in an environment that provides access to toys and tools they may not have at home. Giving children a head start in learning, ECD is a proven, solid investment that yields lifetime dividends, including better social and emotional functioning, and improved educational and overall economic success.
CBCCs also serve as information hubs on health care and other ECD support programs that caregivers can access in their communities. Meals are often provided and lead to the students’ improved nutritional status. In addition, the centers also help stimulate young minds.