Joseph, age 7, was one of over 350 students at Mankhamba Junior Primary school, who were struggling with primary education. With only 4 teachers at the school, Joseph received little personal attention.
“If only we completed these (teacher) houses, our children could see hope for better education,” the School Committee Chairperson told the Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco growing Foundation (ECLT). He explained that the village cannot recruit enough teachers because they do not have funds for proper accommodation. Teachers walked up to 4 kilometres carrying books and lesson plans.
When children in farming communities cannot go to school, they are more likely to work in fields with their parents. Mankhamba village is located in the Ntchisi district in Malawi, a main tobacco-growing region, where the ECLT Foundation has worked since 2011 to engage communities to promote education and fight the root causes of child labour.
Building up school attendance for children in Malawi
Working in collaboration with local implementing partners, YONECO, the ECLT Foundation was able to act quickly, providing funding and mobilising the community to renovate and finish 3 houses for teachers, as well as an office to safely store books and materials away from rain and the elements.
Four bridges have also been constructed in partnership with the Tobacco Association of Malawi (TAMA). They will make travel easier for over 15,000 students, teachers and community members in tobacco-growing areas.
Through ECLT’s larger CLEAR II project, a water pump has also been strategically installed close to the school and the fields, providing safe water for students and farm workers, as well as helping with irrigation. In addition to improving sanitation at the school, having a well nearby allows girls to go to more classes because they do not have to spend time walking to fetch water.
This investment of just over 14,000 USD was relatively small, but it is already making a world of difference for children like Joseph and their families. Since work started at the beginning of 2018, requested enrolment for Mankhamba primary school has already increased by more than 30% and community members are contributing manpower and materials to build new classrooms, with the hope of offering another grade level at the school.
Sustainable Solutions against Child Labour
Throughout this project, ECLT has collaborated with local partners, which is the key to ensure that communities are engaged and feel ownership for the improvements. “This is very important as the sustainability of the projects is somehow guaranteed,” explained ECLT’s project manager in Malawi.
This “quick impact intervention” is part of ECLT’s broader work in Malawi where the ECLT Foundation has reached more than 190,000 children, farmers and their family members since 2013.