A lot of children in Malawi start primary schools unprepared. They in turn fail to perform well in class. Most of them start primary school between the ages of five and eight.
According to a 2014 report on Education Sector Performance, children under the age of eight learn best when they receive quality care. It said this is where Early Childhood Education (ECE) comes in.
ECE includes pre-school training which involves preparing young children through teaching before they start basic education.
The report further said that over 50 percent of children below the age of eight do not attend pre-schools.
While more children are enrolled in public Early Childhood Education (ECE) programmes called Community-Based Child Care Centres (CBCC) than in private ECE programme, it said there are still a lot of children who start primary education without undergoing pre-school training.
The education review report, however, noted that there is a growing number of Community -Based Child Care Centres (CBCCs), with 9 783 between 2012 to 2013 and 10 209 to date.
“The growing number of CBCCs means people are now realising the importance of early ECE on the performance of children in primary and secondary education,” reads the report.
One of the areas where ECE is registering improvements is Traditional Authority (T/A) Mwazama in Nkhotakota.
“We have realised that children are making good progress in primary schools because of the CBCCs. However there is need for more care givers to be trained because these children cannot learn anything without them,” said the GVH Chilupila.
Irene Ngonamo, a specialist in early childhood development agreed with Chilupila on the shortage of caregivers.
“Children under the age of eight need extra care when attending the ECE programmes. They also need to eat healthily, play and learn. The caregiver makes sure this is possible,” said Ngonamo.
She added that the programmes help children to adjust to the demands of primary education.
“It also reduces dropout rates and early pregnancy since the children are attentive and well-behaved as they start their primary schools,” said Ngonamo.