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Nhaka Foundation: Transforming Education and Improving Basic Health Care in Zimbabwe

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In this interview, Patrick Makokoro, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Nhaka Foundation, discusses the organisation’s efforts at supporting education and health care in rural regions in Zimbabwe, a landlocked country located in southern Africa. According official information, Zimbabwe’s total population stands at 12.97 million. Due to large investments in education since independence, Zimbabwe has the highest adult literacy rate, in 2013 was 90.70%, in Africa, but much still remains to be done in the sector.

Makokoro founded the Nhaka Foundation in 2008 as a charitable organisation that provides education, health care and counseling, and other essential services to orphaned and vulnerable children throughout Zimbabwe. In 2012, he founded the Zimbabwe Network of Early Childhood Development Actors (ZINECDA). In addition, Makokoro is a Founding member of the African Early Childhood Network headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, which works to champion the development needs of young children in Africa.

As Patrick Makokoro discussed at length with Kester Kenn Klomegah in Harare, Nhaka Foundation plans to consolidate its relationship with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and other Government departments at the local level and leading civic society organisations working in Education and Primary Health Care issues in Zimbabwe. Here are the interview excerpts:

Q: What would you say are the achievements and/or success stories since the establishment of the Harare based NGO, Nhaka Foundation?

PM: Nhaka Foundation is a Zimbabwe-based non-governmental organisation, it has developed and implemented a series of interventions designed to bridge the gap between the government’s capabilities and policies mandating the requirement for Early Childhood Development (ECD) programming in primary schools and its ability to fully realise the implementation of such programmes. Along with its partners, Nhaka Foundation provides access to education, basic health care and daily sustenance for the orphaned and vulnerable children in the communities it serves. It further provides aid and support to ensure the creation of a physical environment conducive to learning, growth and the optimal development of all children.

Classroom and Playground Renovation

Nhaka Foundation has managed to partner with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to work with rural area primary schools, parents and caregivers to create Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centers through the renovation of over 32 dilapidated classrooms. The classroom floors, windows, doors and roofs are repaired or replaced, and a fresh coat of paint is applied inside and outside. Each Center has its own unique personality as the exteriors are then finished with hand-painted, age-appropriate drawings by local artists.

As a part of the renovation programmes, the organisation has worked with the families and members of the community to plan and build, expand or repair the playgrounds and equipment using readily available and safe materials, hence fostering a sense of community ownership and building sustainability into the initiative. Once restored to a like-new condition, the Centers would then be officially incorporated into the primary school system and sustained by the community through elected Pre-School Management Committees. This helps to ensure that the children continue to have clean and safe spaces to work and play.

Parenting Education

With the support of school and community leaders, Nhaka Foundation has facilitated meetings with the over 5000 parents and caregivers of children enrolled in the ECD Centers it serves. These meetings have been designed to educate, support and engage stakeholders in finding solutions to building a better future for the children. A lot of emphasis has been placed on building capacity and instilling a sense of community ownership and responsibility through this initiative.

The meetings have covered various topics including the importance of birth registration, immunisations, health record maintenance, HIV&AIDS education and screenings, early childhood development enrolment as well as parental involvement in the education of children. Indeed, the initiative has been successful in providing caregivers with the information and tools needed to better look after the children in their communities. It makes available a platform for voicing concerns and obtaining support from the school, the community, and the government.

Teacher Training

Nhaka Foundation has also managed to forge a cordial working relationship with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) to facilitate the on-going training and development of the ECD teachers working in the Centers it serves. Nhaka Foundation has successfully trained over 350 early childhood development teachers in the past 5 years. On a rotating basis, the organisation accompanies District Trainers to the field to monitor and evaluate teacher performance.

Each teacher would be observed at work, given an opportunity to ask questions and express concerns, and provided feedback for improvement. Through this initiative, the organisation has managed to provide teachers with increased skills and at the same time promote a cooperative environment to share information and resources that have inevitably resulted in quality education for marginalised children.

Feeding Programme

In response to the needs of the rural communities and the children it serves, Nhaka Foundation developed an in-school feeding programme to address one of the biggest challenges faced each day in, and out, of the classroom-hunger. Many children would come to school on empty stomachs making it impossible for them to concentrate or fully participate in classroom and outdoor activities. While the organisation’s work has been focused on children enrolled in ECD Centers, it simply could not ignore the remaining primary school students as the concern was pervasive.

As a consequence, the programme has provided food once each day in the form of a protein drink for all of the students in all of the primary schools it serves. The programme has benefitted well over 5,000 children a day across 15 primary schools in collaboration with the schools and communities, with food preparation and service is managed on-site by community volunteers while Nhaka Foundation manages the logistics, training and programme oversight.

Health Assessments

Nhaka Foundation has partnered with the Ministry of Health and Child Care, District Medical Offices and local health clinic practitioners to facilitate health assessments of the children enrolled in the ECD Centers it serves. On a rotating basis, the Nhaka’s team members have accompanied nurses from the rural health clinics to each school to evaluate the most basic and immediate health concerns facing the children.

The assessments have captured important baseline information on height, weight, heart rate, immunisations, and personal hygiene as well as screen for common conditions such as ringworms, scabies, skin infections and cavities. Indeed this initiative has created a strong starting point to address basic medical conditions and to educate parents, caregivers and the communities on infant and child health care issues and prevention reaching over 800 children in 2019 alone

Q: In the first place, tell us about the driving reasons, in other words the motivating factors, why the idea of helping rural communities in Zimbabwe?

PM: In 2019, Nhaka Foundation contributed towards the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 as recounted here as follows.

SDG 1: End poverty. The organisation contributed to SDG 1 through transferring skills in new systems of farming to parents, which has a potential to boost their economic status in the long-run. However, due to reasons beyond the organisation’s scope such as recurrent droughts, poverty was said to be the status quo for most households in the communities where Nhaka Foundation introduced these innovations, especially grandparent-headed households. 

SDG 2: Zero hunger. Nhaka Foundation’s support of nutrition gardens to strengthen the Feeding Programme and its impartation of new farming skills were meant to eliminate hunger. ECD learners indeed benefited from school-based feeding, although at the schools sampled by this evaluation the feeding had stopped and some nutrition gardens no longer functional.

SDG 3: Good health and Well-being. Nhaka Foundation invested heavily into the health and well-being of its target beneficiaries, including through its trainings in personal hygiene for parents, procurement of nutritious foods like maheu and porridge as well as its facilitation of health assessments for ECD learners.  At the time of this evaluation, these initiatives stopped because of limited funding to the organisation.

SDG 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Nhaka Foundation’s support for ECD infrastructure development made education accessible for the ECD learners while its capacity building for ECD teachers contributed towards improved education quality. ECD teachers confirmed that they learned new techniques of teaching and effectively handling ECD learners through workshops that the organisation facilitated in partnership with MoPSE trainers.

SDG 6: Clean water and sanitation. Nhaka Foundation supported the drilling of boreholes and construction of toilets in some schools that had dire need thereof, which tellingly improved access to clean water supply and sanitary ablution facilities.  The evaluation, however, revealed that with growing ECD enrolments, the need for additional boreholes and toilets remains at most intervention schools.

Q: How would you characterise the urban-rural development gap in Zimbabwe?

PM: The development gap between the urban-rural settings is still evident mostly due to unavailable funds that go towards infrastructure development. This challenge is not only limited to Zimbabwe alone but to most countries in Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and sub-Saharan Africa. As African countries rise against the struggles and inequalities imposed by colonialism, there is the need to invest more resources in order to develop the rural areas. It is important for financial resources be directed towards creating economic hubs in the various rural areas so that there is enough investment that supports and boosts the rural economies.

Q: Under-development, diseases, illiteracy and abject poverty have something do with the Government. Could you please give your views and analysis here?

PM: Over the 20 years after independence, the government in Zimbabwe invested heavily in education, and by the end of this period, Zimbabwe had one of the finest education system (and its highest literacy rate) in Africa. The success of this programme was reinforced by the importance Zimbabweans place on education and the considerable sacrifices families are prepared to make to ensure their children are well educated.

Unfortunately, the financial and political crisis that engulfed Zimbabwe in the first decade of this century resulted in a dramatic decline in the educational sector. The impact of this decline was especially marked in rural schools. In light of these challenges, the investment in early childhood development and education programmes was minimal if any, as the government and other civil society organisations focused more on the delivery of primary and secondary level education.

Early education thus was not given the appropriate attention and action. More importantly, parents have little or no understanding of the substantial long-term benefits that early childhood development programmes have on their children’s educational and social outcomes. Parents and caregivers have limited knowledge of other important child development, protection and welfare issues.

Q: Judging from the above discussion, is it correct to conclude that Nhaka’s activities are closely related to the politics and policies of the Zimbabwean Government?

PM: As far back in 2005, the Zimbabwean government introduced a policy (Statutory Instrument No. 106 of 2005) mandating all government primary schools to introduce two years of ECD education before primary school entry. This was in line with the Commission of Inquiry into Education and Training’s (CIET, 1999) main recommendation to democratise pre-school education, the Ministry designed a two-phased, ten-year programme to establish ECD classes at every primary school in the country. During Phase One (2005/6 to 2010), every primary school was expected to attach at least one ECD class of 4-5 year old’s referred to as ECD ‘B’, to prepare them for Grade One the following year. In Phase Two (2011 to 2015), every primary school would attach another ECD class of 3-4 year old’s to prepare them for ECD B.

Indeed, over the past 11 years, Nhaka Foundation has become a leading organisation in Zimbabwe working in partnership with the Ministries of Education, Health and Social Services to enhance Early Childhood Development (ECD) services and access to early learning opportunities reaching 15,000 beneficiaries directly through its programmes in 2019. Nhaka Foundation’s preschools programme works closely with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and has received its full endorsement through a Memorandum of Understanding signed in October 2017.

Nhaka Foundation is aligned with the established policy of integrating ECD centers into primary schools. The current Government in Zimbabwe is responsible for setting policy priorities and within the education sector that falls under the ambit of the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education. Nhaka Foundation therefore works to complement government efforts in line with the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two parties.

Q: How does Nhaka operate in terms of project financing, support from stakeholders and so forth?

PM: Nhaka Foundation promptly responds to calls for proposals as well as carries out internal fundraising activities in order to generate resources for its operations and sustainability.

Q: What are your long-term strategic plans, at least, the next half decade?

PM: Really, we have long-term plans to raise the current achievements to a higher level, especially along the lines of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These are:

Goal 1: Resource Mobilisation

The organisation will focus on the development and implementation of a comprehensive resource mobilisation and sustainability strategy that will encompass both traditional and non- traditional means of fundraising as well as incorporate key principles such as financial accountability and integrity in order to retain the confidence of funding partners

Goal 2: Enhancing Nhaka Foundations Visibility

The organisation under this focus area seeks to promote the Nhaka Foundation brand using traditional and emerging online platforms. The organisation anticipates consolidating its relationship with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and other arms of government at the local level and leading civic society organisations working in ECD programming as a means of strengthening its reputation as a growing practitioner in ECD issues in Zimbabwe.

Goal 3: Governance and Institutional Capacity Development

The organisation will focus on strengthening the role of the Board of Trustees in giving oversight to implementation of this strategy as well as operations of the organisation. Strong attention will be paid towards ensuring strong internal organisational systems, controls and procedures are taken up and implemented by all organisational members.

Goal 4: Enhancing Implementation and Management of Programmes         

The organisation plans to strengthen the framework of programme cycle management, including development of an indicator-based monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework that enables drawing of important lessons and best practices. The organisation intends to build the capacity of programming staff in order to enhance efficacy in project cycle management as well as improving responsiveness to the ever changing trends in ECD-related programming such as responding to the needs of children with special needs and addressing other issues that inhibit access to education by young children.

Goal 5: Influencing Policy, Advocacy and Evidence-based ECD Programming

The organisation anticipates engaging a lot more in thought leadership in ECD issues at national and international level, spearheading and supporting various advocacy and lobby efforts aimed at improving childrens’ access to affordable and equitable ECD services in Zimbabwe and in sub-Saharan Africa.

MD Africa Editor Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.

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SADC Summit Ends With Promises of More Meetings

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The Southern African Development Community (SADC) held an Extraordinary Double Troika meeting on 8th April in Maputo to deliberate on measures on addressing terrorism and its related impact on the current development specifically in the Mozambique and generally in southern Africa. The Cabo Delgado crisis started in 2017 with insurgents taking control of parts of northern Mozambique.

One of the two troikas consists of the current, incoming and outgoing chairs of SADC (namely Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania), while the second is formed by the current, incoming and outgoing chairs of the SADC organ for politics, defence and security cooperation (Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe).

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa and the ministers of international relations, defence and state security attended the meeting. It was also attended by Mozambique, Botswana, Malawi Zimbabwe and Tanzania.

The summit was called in the wake of the terrorist attack of 24 March against the town of Palma in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, but the leaders did not pledge any immediate practical support for Mozambique.

SADC Troika heads however said the acts of terrorism perpetrated against innocent civilians in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, could not be allowed to continue without a proportionate regional response and reported that 12 decapitated bodies have been found behind a hotel in the region.

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi has called for cooperation in cross-border surveillance as essential to stem the flow of foreign fighters fomenting terrorism in Cabo Delgado, warning of the spread of violence throughout Southern Africa.

Among the measures that the SADC countries should implement to combat terrorism is strengthening border control between Southern African countries, he said, and further added that Southern African police and judicial systems must consistently work to combat trafficking and money laundering that funds terrorism.

Nyusi stressed that the organization should implement practical acts to combat this scourge of terrorism to prevent its expansion and destabilization of the region, and warned of the risk that the actions of armed groups with a jihadist connotation could hinder regional integration.

According official reports, SADC fends off United States / European Union anti-terror intervention in Cabo Delgado. It further said no to another Mali / Somalia / Libya / Syria disaster on the African continent, adding that the global Anti-Terror lobbies are frustrated.

Deeply concerned about the continued terrorist attacks in Cabo Delgado, especially for the lives and welfare of the residents who continue to suffer from the atrocious, brutal and indiscriminate assaults, the leaders decided at their meeting to deploy a technical mission to Mozambique. It’s not clear what action the region will take but the deployed technical mission will report back to heads of state by 29 April.

The final communiqué from the summit condemned the terrorist attacks “in the strongest terms” and declared that “such heinous attacks cannot be allowed to continue without a proportionate regional response” but it did not suggest what such a regional response might consist of.

The Summit expressed “SADC’s full solidarity with the government and people of Mozambique” and reaffirmed “SADC’s continued commitment to contribute towards the efforts to bring about lasting peace and security, as well as reconciliation and development in the Republic of Mozambique.”

The summit ordered “an immediate technical deployment” to Mozambique, and the convening of an Extraordinary Meeting of the Ministerial Committee of the Organ by 28 April 2021 that will report to the Extraordinary Organ Troika summit on 29 April 2021.

The extremely brief communiqué mentioned no other specific measures.

The violence unleashed more than three years ago in Cabo Delgado province took a new escalation about a fortnight ago when armed groups attacked the town of Palma, which is about six kilometres from the multi-million dollar natural gas, according to United Nations data.

The attacks caused dozens of deaths and forced thousands of Palma residents to flee, worsening a humanitarian crisis that has affected some 700,000 people in the province since the conflicts data. Several countries have offered Maputo military support on the ground to combat these insurgents, but so far there has been no openness, although reports and testimonies are pointing to security companies and mercenaries in the area.

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African agriculture is ready for a digital revolution

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Authors: Akinwumi Adesina and Patrick Verkooijen*

After a dark 2020, a new year has brought new hope. In Africa, where up to 40 million more people were driven into extreme poverty and the continent experienced its first recession in 25 years, a brighter future beckons as the economy is forecast to return to growth this year.

Africa now has an opportunity to reset its economic compass. To build back not just better, but greener. Particularly as the next crisis—climate change—is already upon us.

Africa’s food systems must be made more resilient to future shocks such as floods, droughts, and disease. Urgent and sustainable increases in food production are needed to reduce reliance on food imports and reduce poverty, and this is where digital services come into play.

With mobile phone ownership in Sub-Saharan Africa alone expected to reach half a billion this year, digital services offered via text messaging can reach even the most remote village. And at least one-fifth of these phones also have smart features, meaning they can connect to the internet.

We can already see how digital services drive prosperity locally and nationally. In Uganda, SMS services that promote market price awareness have lifted the price farmers receive for bananas by 36 percent, beans by 16.5 percent, maize by 17 percent, and coffee by 19 percent. In Ghana, services that cut out the middleman have lifted the price for maize by 10 percent and groundnuts by 7 percent.

But digital services don’t just raise farmgate prices, they are the gateway to farm loans, crop insurance, and greater economic security, which in turn enables farmers to increase their resilience to climate change—by experimenting with new, drought-resistant crops, for example, or innovative farming methods.

Text messages with weather reports help farmers make better decisions about when and what to plant, and when to harvest.

In Niger, a phone-based education program has improved crop diversity, with more farmers likely to grow the cash crop okra, while an advisory service in Ethiopia helped increase wheat production from one ton to three tons per hectare.

The data footprints phone users create can also be analyzed to help assess risk when it comes to offering loans, making credit cheaper and more accessible.

Phones and digital services also speed up the spread of information through social networks, helping farmers learn about new drought-resistant crops or services that can increase productivity. Free-to-use mobile phone-based app WeFarm, for example, has already helped more than 2.4 million farmers find certified suppliers of quality seeds at fair prices. They can also connect farmers to internet-based services.

Examples of digital innovation abound, sometimes across borders. In Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria, equipment-sharing platform Hello Tractor is helping farmers rent machinery by the day or even hour, while in Ethiopia, AfriScout, run by the non-government organization Project Concern International with the World Food Programme and the Ministry for Agriculture, provides satellite images of water supplies and crops every 10 days so problems can be spotted quickly to aid remedial action.

Transforming food systems digitally has demonstrably excellent results: the African Development Bank, which has allocated over half of its climate financing to adaptation since 2019, has already helped 19 million farmers in 27 countries to lift yields by an average 60 percent through applying digital technology, for example.

This is why the Global Center on Adaptation and the African Development Bank have launched the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP) to mobilize $25 billion to scale up and accelerate innovative climate-change adaptation across Africa.

Once developed, the digital nature of these services often makes such projects easy to replicate elsewhere and scale, even across large rural areas with little existing infrastructure.

Further, adaptation projects are proven to be highly cost-effective, often delivering value many times the original investment and so helping African economies grow faster and create many more much-needed jobs.

This makes it imperative that the global resolve to rebuild economies in the wake of Covid-19 is harnessed in the most effective way. We must not simply replicate the mistakes of the past. We must build back stronger, with a more resilient and climate-smart focus.

Funding and promoting disruptive business models in which digital technologies are embedded to increase productivity without using more land or more water will create a triple win: increased production, a more resilient climate and more empowered farmers.

We have the means and the technical capability to put Africa well on the way to achieving food self-sufficiency and greater climate resilience. In doing so, we can help millions move out of food poverty. We must not squander this opportunity to create truly historic and lasting change.

AfDB

*Patrick Verkooijen is CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation.

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Towards the Second Russia-Africa Summit

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Following the instruction of Russian President on the preparation of the second Russia-Africa Summit in 2022, a working meeting between Adviser to the President of the Russian Federation and the Association of Economic Cooperation with African States (AECAS), the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum and the Roscongress Foundation was held in Moscow.

Among the participants of the meeting were Adviser to the President of the Russian Federation Anton Kobyakov, Ambassador-at-Large of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum Oleg Ozerov, Chairman of the Board, Chief Executive Officer of the Roscongress Foundation, Head of the Coordination Council for Russia-Africa Partnership Forum Alexander Stuglev and Head of AECAS Alexander Saltanov.

They discussed the prospects for further development of relationships with African countries in accordance with the decisions of the first Russia-Africa Summit that was held in Sochi in October 2019, as well as the key aspects of preparation for the next top-level Russian-African meeting in 2022, including the need to establish efficient information cooperation with African countries.

Adviser to the President was presented with the interim results of the work done by the Secretariat that was created in 2020 for coordination and preparation of events within the Russia-Africa format, as well as advances made by AECAS, the establishment of which is an important achievement on the way to efficient and fruitful preparation for subsequent events of the Russian-African track.

The day before Russian President Vladimir Putin informed the participants of the International Inter-Party Conference Russia-Africa: Reviving Traditions about the preparation for the second Russia-Africa Summit in a telegram and noted that the first Summit «gave a strong momentum to the development of friendly relationships between our country and countries of the African continent.»

Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, who took part in the Inter-Party Conference, said that the Summit is already being prepared and filled with meaningful content, and roadmaps of Russian-African economic, scientific and humanitarian cooperation are to be drafted in the near future. Minister also noted that African issues are supposed to be included in the programme of the upcoming St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. These topics will be further discussed at the next meeting of foreign ministers of Russia and the African Union trio that is scheduled for 2021.

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