12th April 2014
In October 2013 building work started on a small piece of land on the outskirts of Shinyanga, in the community of Ndala. The project was to provide classrooms, an office, cooking facilities and sanitation block for a community based childcare centre, specialising in providing pre-school education for local 3 – 6 year olds. Funded by Lara’s Foundation, the project would be run in partnership with Save the Children. Four expedition phases later saw the completion of the project and opening ceremony.
In Tanzania compulsory free education starts at 7. Below this age it is estimated that only 35% of children attend pre-primary school centres; the majority of which are based in urban or suburban areas, where education facilities are often more extensive. These centres are important – they provide essential development opportunities for children, allowing them to integrate socially with peers, to learn through play and discovery, to be provided with pastoral and to develop language skills that are vital for their transition into primary school.
The Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre worked on by Raleigh groups provides this facility to some of the most marginalised children in the suburb of Ndala. A large proportion of them are vulnerable children affected by HIV/AIDs, cared for by guardians in the community. Augustino Mwashiga, Save the Children programme manager, gave me an idea of why we worked in the region of Shinyanga in particular: “The district of Shinyanga is one of the least developed of Tanzanian regions and as such it is characterised by the high prevalence of mistreatment of children, low school enrolment rates and low literacy rates amongst adults. Despite large diamond and gold mines, the area’s infrastructure remains undeveloped and it has a low per capita income compared to other Tanzanian regions.”
The centre sits within the heart of the community. It is a social institution run by community members, who manage all fundraising and resources for the centre. Building the centre has provided employment opportunities for local fundi (workmen) and on a longer term, provides employment for teachers and cooks. The ECD also provides respite to guardians of the children attending, allowing time for them to work whilst the children are at the centre, and providing a hot meal for each child attending.
So how were we involved? Well, largely through construction! Before the venturers of expedition 13J started work last year, the ECD was held in a banda in the local area. There were no sanitation facilities, no running water, no safe play area, and nowhere permanent to store resources and furniture. Over three expedition phases last autumn foundations were laid, walls were built, plumbing was installed, fences were started and the buildings were finished. And during phase 1 of our expedition fences were finished, the playground was levelled, the sanitation block was completed and murals were painted. And we had an opening ceremony!
Working in partnership on both micro and macro levels has been vital for the completion of the project. Expertise and macro project management from Save the Children, funding support from Lara’s Foundation, buy-in from the Village Executive Officer, community cooperation, fundi expertise, VM’s leadership and Venturer’s teamwork and enthusiasm have all contributed to a community resource that will have positive impact in the Ndala area for years to come.
At the opening ceremony, the ECD was dedicated to Lara Jones with these words:
"Lara's Foundation is proud and happy to have played a part in the provision of this ECD. Our funding of the centre has been made possible by the outstanding fundraising efforts of Lara's family and friends. We owe our commitment to continue our efforts, to Lara. She is our eternal source of energy and inspiration. She is the reason we funded this centre. We hope that it will provide the necessary education to the children of Ndala to enable them to progress to further education without disadvantage."
I’d like to leave you with this from Dixon, the Village Executive Officer in Ndala:
“Thank you very much. We appreciate what Lara’s Foundation, Save the Children and Raleigh International have done for us. We face many challenges when it comes to education, especially in early childhood development. We can now take a step ahead into providing better futures for our children through education. So we thank you, all the organisations, our donors and all the volunteers who have contributed from the start until today. You are most welcome here in Ndala.”
Here are the ECD blogs:
Here are some of our favourite pictures from the project: