A group in Malawiâ€™s capital, Lilongwe, is tricking nursery schools into paying for unapproved training in Early Childhood Development (ECD) and raking in thousands of kwachas for itself.
The group, which also comprises a Lilongwe City Council (LCC) official, principal community social welfare officer Vincent Mzembe, has allegedly been offering ECD training to nurseries at a fee of K10 000 (about $33) per teacher or childcare giver without the knowledge of Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare which approves such training in Malawi.
Investigations last week showed the group has so far trained about 40 teachers from several nursery schools at two sites in the city, with an estimated K400 000 (about $1 333) earnings.
On Tuesday, The Nation crew visited one of the training sessions at Kaufulu Teachersâ€™ Development Centre at Area 22 and found about 15 childcare givers attending the lessons in anticipation of getting an ECD certificate which is only awarded by the ministry.
â€˜ECD training highly protectedâ€™
In an interview after the visit, ECD national coordinator Francis Chalamanda said the ministry neither approved the training nor certified some of the resource persons.
Said Chalamanda: â€œTraining of childcare givers is the responsibility of Ministry of Gender which has trained five ECD trainers in every district. ECD training is highly protected such that before any training is started, the ministry is supposed to be informed to check whether the people to deliver the training qualify to do the job so that people are not ripped off.â€
The Nation investigations also showed the â€˜illegalâ€™ training sessions are being done for less than two weeks, which Chalamanda said is contrary to requirements of the programme.
Chalamanda also disclosed government has used part of the $2 million (about K580 million) support from the World Bank to upgrade ECD training to six months, comprising theory and practical work.
At Kaufulu TDC, The Nation investigative crew, posing as potential clients, found Mzembe coordinating the training assisted by two facilitators, Leonard Mkandawire and Samson Chaziya.
During the undercover inquiry, Mzembe said although government requires that ECD training should run for at least two weeks, they are training nursery school teachers for about seven days.
A certificate issued to one of the participants signed by Mzembe and Mkandawire reads: â€œ[Name withheld] has successfully attended a 14-day training in Early Childhood Development for Caregivers from 7th to 24th August 2012 that is based on The ECD Basic Training Manual accredited by the Ministry of Gender, Women and Child Development in Malawi. Having gone through the training course, the bearer is qualified as an ECD caregiver.â€
Mzembe said they started the training last month and have already given certificates to about 28 child caregivers from Area 23 and Chilinde townships.
He said last weekâ€™s round targeted about 15 people from nurseries in Area 22 and Kaliyeka townships.
When The Nation later asked the trainers in a formal interview on Thursday why the group was delivering ECD training without government approval, Mkandawire and Chaziya said they did not know that the Ministry of Gender was not involved, claiming Mzembe only asked them to help him train the caregivers. Mzembe, they claimed, was paying them K3 000 (about $10) a day for their services.
The two, however, claimed they qualify to train child caregivers because they underwent ECD training in 2009 and 2010.
When The Nation tried to contact Mzembe for a formal interview, he did not answer his phone and later switched it off.
LCC director of parks, recreation and environment Martin Kazembe said he was not aware of any ECD training in the city sanctioned by the council.
Kazembe also disclosed his office received a query from the Gender Ministry on the same.
The councilâ€™s spokesperson Tamara Chafunya said they have instituted an investigation into the matter.
Chalamanda said the ministry recently stopped another illegal ECD training in the northern Malawi district of Nkhata Bay by an organisation he said was not accredited to deliver such training. He said in 2009, police also arrested a group of people in Lilongwe for conducting illegal ECD training.
A letter dated August 23, 2012 from the council and signed by Mzembe inviting nursery schools to participate in the training reads: â€œThe training will be conducted within your area in the morning or afternoon depending on agreement. You can visit our office at town hall, but you need to call before you come and be advised accordingly on nursery school registration procedures and terms
of reference of the training.â€