At its inaugural meeting in April 2017, members made a resolution to open, at least, three Early Childhood Development centres in the three regions of Malawi. This document seeks to provide an implementation plan for this resolution.
Children Day Care Centre is normally used as a short way of referring to Early childhood Care and Development Centre. Early Childhood Care and Development Centres are places organised with the purposes of offering the child all his or her needs for holistic development. The emphasis is to make the child grow healthily in all aspects: physical (free from disease well nourished), emotional (through peer play), intellectual (basics in numeracy, literacy, picture drawing ). Such centres may not easily be run by private individuals for commercial purposes for they are bound to be expensive.
In Malawi, it is mostly the Churches and international NGOs that run these centres.
ECD in Islam
In Islam, childhood is divided into three stages – early childhood (from when a child is a baby until when he attains six years of age); middle childhood (between six years and 9 years), and; late childhood (between 9 years to age of puberty – any age above 10 - or 15 years). (Sulaiman, Jamsari and Che Noh, 2004:34).
The Islamic division of childhood is based on the instruction of the Prophet (salallaahu alayhi wasallam), ‘Teach your children to pray when they are seven years of age and smack them (lightly) them (if they disobey) when they are ten.’ (hadith) Thus, the terms mumayyiz and tamyiz have been used to mark the seven year exit point.
ECD refers to the pre-tamyiz period - children below seven years of age. As per the Hadith above, by the age of seven, the child should be able to recognise and appreciate prayer and its associated functions, e.g. read the small Surahs, wudhu, tahaarah, dos and don't of Salaat, number of Salaats per day. IFFD seeks to make this - among others - a mandatory minimum education for any Muslim child in Malawi.
A child from the age of seven is said to have reached the age of tamyeez, thinking level, where a child is able to differentiate and see bad and good, and comprehends the consequences of action of each. The incident of Musa (alayhis salaam) as a child putting hot charcoal in the mouth serves to illustrate effects of the pre-tamyiz.
Puberty (buloogh) marks the transformation in Islam from childhood to adulthood. A boy who has reached puberty is now called a full grown man in Islam, and is responsible for his actions. The type of education for this type of man changes into training and guidance.
Childhood upbringing and education in Islam is holistic in nature. Another Hadith of the Prophet states, ‘Educate your child 100 years before birth.’ (ref) has deeper meaning. Educating a child is not done by chance, but rather, follows a well laid plan
IFFD recognises that a child needs education at the various changes in their growth stages. IFFD also recognises that raising and educating a child requires a society. These children are born of sacred and pure nature, free from any filth. We need not introduce filth into their path. We need to uphold their purity and innocence.
Imaam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali al-Shaafi’ee, a famous Islamic education figure, has outlined some instructions on education. He states: ‘children should be taught to use good words. Apart from physical exercise and sports in order to have a healthy and fit physique, a child must be trained with courage, good manners, patience, respect for people older than him and, most especially, obedience to parents’.
Al-Ghazali also advises:
“... their spiritual aspect should be exposed by means of performing prayer in full, adhaan (call to prayer), reciting du’aas and congregational prayer. Additionally, fasting exercise should be applied to remind the child of religious education which covers both of the worldly and the hereafter. From the aspect of manners especially during mealtime with family, no one is allowed to eat before other members of the family have assembled. Washing hands is part of good table manners for cleanliness and most important is to offer prayers before eating with the right hand.” (Sulaiman et al, 2014:37)
From the perspective of Psychology, childhood has been divided into three stages: Early childhood (between two to five years); Middle childhood (between six to twelve years); and Adolescence (between 13 and 20 years:34).
ECD in the World and Africa
The concept of education for children in the western education system is a rather recent one with an introduction of Infant Schools in the early 19th century in Europe. (Pence and Nsamenang, 2008:3) Early Childhood Development gained significant recognition when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989.
ECD was fully recognised at the World Conference on Education for All in Thailand in 1990. The conference recognised, ‘Learning begins at birth. This calls for early childhood care and initial education’. (Peance and Nsamenang, 2008:3)
The Netherlands based organisation, Bernard Van Leer Foundation, claims early involvement into ECD in Africa with its engagement in Kenya and South Africa in the 1970s. Among other earlier entrants in this field is the Aga Khan Development Network, opening Madrasah Resource Centres in East Africa in the 1990s.
Pence and Nsanameng (2008:22) recognises the long held tradition of Islamic and African in ECD. They also recognise the spirit in Africa where older children and kin serve as mentors to the smaller kins.
Case for Malawi
Malawi follows a 8-4-4 approach to education where 8 years of primary education are followed by 4 years of secondary and a further 4 years of university. The university education ends with a bachelors degree while secondary education end with a Malawi Secondary Certificate - equivalent to GCE 'O' levels education.
Like the rest of Africa and the world, Early Childhood Development (ECD) is a new phenomenon. Perhaps, this is in response to the 1990 "World Conference on Education for All" held in Thailand, where, among the six target areas was: 'expanding Early Childhood Care', and 'universalizing access to and completion of primary education'.
In Malawi, ECD education was a preserve for the working class and the rich. Then it used to be called 'ku mkaka' (where children drink milk). ECD centres provide a pre-primary education, preparing children aged 2-3yrs to 6 years, for primary and further learning.
ECD centres in Malawi are largely funded by the International organisations as well as the churches. In his report, Matola (nd) states, 'This then is the philosophy behind the various Education for All enabling projects and programs that have been funded; regional and sub-regional Workshops and training for capacity building that have been conducted and surveys and special studies that have been done'.
By 1994, the different NGOs, led by the Church sponsored NGOs, entered the Early Childhood sector. Common NGOs and churches engaged in this area include :
1. Save the Children (SCF)(US) - Mzimba, Kasungu and Nkhotakota;
2. World Vision International (WVI) - in Chikwawa and Nsanje
3. Church of Central Africa (CCAP) - Blantyre, Domasi and Mulanje;
4. Blantyre synod;
5. Action Aid (AA), and;
6. Other Church organisations (USAID-MALAWI, NGOIES, 1994).
The Muslim Association of Malawi, while listed as a player in the ECD sector, their areas of operation are not listed.
Formal basic education in Malawi has its roots in 1875 by the missionaries belonging to the Free Church of Scotland. Their aim was mainly to spread the 'word of God', thus, the curriculum depended on the Church's creed and ideals. Government entered the education fray in 1908 with provision of small grants for education of the natives. A permanent office responsible for education was established in 1926 as the Department of Education in the colonial office.