Swaziland case study - Moya Centre
Former Education Programme Manager
The Moya Centre was started informally in 1999 by a group of individuals living in the same community. It is located in Malkerns in the Manzini administrative region on the border of a poor rural community. The Centre is governed as a Trust with seven trustees. The indvuna (assistant to the chief) of Mahlanya is the Patron. The community centre was built in 2000 on an acre of a family farm donated by one of the seven Trustees. The organisation is firmly rooted in the community it serves and the programmes have evolved organically in response to community needs. The Centre’s initial activities involved the provision of vitamins and supplements, teaching of life skills, dissemination of information on HIV and AIDS and positive living, and community mobilisation for improved nutrition. Subsequently, the Centre introduced sustainable gardening methods to increase the affordability and available of fresh fruit and vegetables through all seasons.
In 2002, at the request of the induvuna and his umphakatsi (the chief’s council), a pre-school for OVC was started. When the pre-school children were ready to proceed to primary school, funds were raised to pay their school fees. When a substantial sum was raised, the Centre approached UNICEF and the MOE for advice on the best way to assist the largest number of children. During these discussions, it became clear that, instead of sponsoring individual children to attend school, all the children would benefit if the funds were used instead to build the capacity of teachers to deliver better quality literacy and numeracy programmes. The funds would also be best invested to provide poor rural schools with assistance to strengthen their administrative capacity and their basic physical infrastructure.
Once the children graduated from primary school, the support expanded to programmes in high schools. In June 2004, the Swaziland component of the regional Education for All (EFA) programme was launched. At that time, a professional team – including an education specialist from UNICEF, two school inspectors from the MOE, and the Director of the Centre – was formed to oversee this national initiative. The EFA approach facilitated the bringing together of donor funding, government bodies, NGOs, community services, community leaders, parents or guardians, school staff, and learners themselves to enhance the quality of education in schools with a focus on vulnerable children and families. The EFA approach was launched in three selected schools, which most of the Centre-supported children attended.
Currently, the Centre has five full-time staff and, consequently, relies heavily on volunteers in the provision of its programmes.
4.1.1. Strategic framework
The vision of the Centre is that, in all of its implementation areas, all school-aged OVC, especially those in child- or elderly-headed households, will be in school, or attending an NCP. These children will have access to a supportive community network to facilitate emotional well-being, good health and safety. The mission of the Centre is to contribute to Swaziland’s initiatives in strengthening protective domestic, school and community environments for OVC, with a special emphasis on its target population of children in child- or elderly-headed households.
The Centre’s main goals are to:
- Strengthen community capacity for to provide and monitor protective environments for children in child- or elderly-headed households;
- Enhance the capacity of school managers and teachers for effective management of school resources, participatory school planning and to implement and institutionalize child-friendly approaches in their teaching and interactions with children; and,
- Ensure safety, adequate shelter, clean water and sanitation, strengthened life kills, adequate food, and health and emotional well-being for children in child- or elderly-headed households.
The Centre carries out its work by working with partners in government, civil society and community groups to capacitate community duty bearers for children; facilitating capacity strengthening of school managers and teachers in collaboration with MOE, development partners and local NGOs; providing direct support to child- or elderly-headed households; and, facilitating links between child- or elderly-headed households and community service providers.
4.1.2. Moya Centre programmes
The Centre operates five main programmes: support for schools; the Moya Community Centre; primary health care; support to individual children and families in crisis; and, food security interventions.
a) Support for schools
As noted above, early on in its development, the Centre shifted from individual support for school fees to investing in schools. The Centre now funds educational programmes at three primary and secondary schools. In 2008, through this direct support for schools, 247 primary school children received uniforms and stationery while their school fees were covered through a government bursary. In a similar manner, 102 high school children were assisted. They received top up fees to supplement government sponsorship and were also provided with funds for transport if necessary. Also in 2008, there were 16 children attending the Centre’s pre-school programme.
Through the EFA project, a number of capacity-building activities were carried out in the three primary schools attended by the Centre’s children. These activities included:
- Training of school committees on management skills;
- Training of head teachers and other teachers on financial skills, particularly budgeting;
- Sensitising teachers on OVC issues and ways of supporting them;
- Training of teachers about all types of abuse and on basic skills in guidance and counselling, in collaboration with service providers and the MOE;
- Providing opportunities for head teachers to consult with their peers about personnel management and to share ideas on team-building and improving motivation;
- Building up school libraries, strengthening skills of teachers and helping them to source books;
- Purchasing science equipment and related supplies for secondary schools; and,
- Expanding infrastructure within schools by building classrooms; providing desks and chairs; ensuring a potable water supply by providing water tanks, boreholes and pumps; providing a vehicle; improving security through provision of fencing and gates; establishing food gardens for school kitchens; and, providing gardening materials and training.
In 2009, the National Emergency Response Council on HIV and AIDS (NERCHA) began to provide food to secondary schools not previously included in school feeding schemes. A condition of participation was that schools had places to store and prepare food. As a result, the Centre began to assist secondary schools in its intervention areas to build proper facilities. The Centre first required schools to make their own investment in the process by building storage and kitchen facilities to window height with local materials. The Centre then offered to complete the structures. Prior to 2009, the Centre had helped secondary schools establish gardens and had bought cooking equipment and utensils for them.
To improve the provision of guidance and psycho-social support for OVC, the Centre engaged a clinical psychologist to train guidance teachers and regular teachers. The training had a practical focus of equipping teachers with basic counselling skills. A system for recording and tracking the use of the training in helping children was also put in place.
b) Activities at the Moya Community Centre
Through the Moya Community Centre, a number of activities are offered for children and adolescents. An Afternoon Club primarily serves OVC but all children from the local community are welcome. During this time, the pre-school teachers help children with literacy and volunteers facilitate reading groups for older children and assist them to use the small library at the Centre. For secondary school students, extra maths and science lessons are offered and there is a youth club with a focus on building life skills, particularly for adolescents.
During these activities, staff and volunteers us the opportunity to identify and support very needy children with either food or emotional support. In some cases, the Centre engages the school or a child’s caregivers to address more complex needs. The Centre may also organize home visits to monitor children struggling with illness or emotional difficulties. Food is the greatest need that the Centre is called on to address. Direct food support is only offered to destitute children. Otherwise, the Centre provides assistance to families to grow their own food in the form of gardening tools, seeds or fertilizer.
c) Direct support to individual children and their families
The Centre recognizes that ‘a child who is sick, hungry, abused, grieving, cold or exhausted does not flourish in school’. Consequently, it offers a number of programmes to address family and home circumstances that impact negatively on children’s capacity to learn. The Centre maintains a number of partnerships for this purpose, including Save the Children Swaziland, the Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse, and the local NCPs. The Centre also works with Rural Health Motivators, the umpakhatsi for land issues and protection, and the police who assist with abuse cases or abandonment.
Wherever possible, the Centre engages the community to solve problems. This includes working with local communities to resolve overcrowding in homes or to repair places where children’s safety is clearly at risk. Families in severe crises can be supplied with basic provisions, such as food or access to safe water. As noted previously, some children are provided with support to attend school, such as topping up their school fees, or assistance with transport in the form of bus fare, or bicycles when distance is a problem. For child- or elderly-headed households, assistance is provided to establish gardens with the provision of training, tools, seeds and fertilizer. The Centre may also mobilise the community to provide chickens or other livestock. The Centre works with neighbours, local churches, and the umpakhatsi, among other community resource people, to ensure that these households are monitored and supported.
There is a special focus on psycho-social support for children within the Centre’s programme. The Centre organises workshops, for example, to provide guidance and counselling to children and to help them develop emotional resilience and other life coping skills. At times, when individual children or adolescents encounter challenges, such as pregnancy, anti-social behaviour, addiction, and other problems that require immediate attention from an adult in that child’s life, the Centre staff will provide counselling and support, and assist with finding solutions that involve the school and the family whenever possible.
d) Primary health care
The Centre offers basic primary health care to all community members free of charge two mornings per week. This includes provision of vitamins and other supplements, some homeopathic remedies, advice on nutrition and positive living, de-worming for children, and basic first aid. In addition, health care advice is provided for caregivers, and, when necessary, referrals to appropriate health centres and hospitals are made. A health worker supports children and adults who are HIV positive, and HIV testing and counselling and treatment for STIs are provided in partnership with a local health clinic operated by the Salvation Army.
The sexual abuse of learners in school is a major problem in Swaziland. In 2007, for example, ten primary school children reported sexual abuse by three different teachers in the same school. An investigation was undertaken with the result that one of the teachers resigned, and two were dismissed. In abuse cases, the Salvation Army provides testing, counselling and treatment for STIs if necessary. The Centre provides interim care for an abused child and coordinates its assistance with the police and other social services. Such children are monitored on an on-going basis through their participation in the Centre’s Afternoon Club.
For HIV-positive children and adolescents, the Centre links with the Baylor International Paediatric AIDS Initiative (BIPAI). BIPAI provides a day clinic at the Centre for paediatric HIV diagnosis and treatment. BIPAI also does outreach to surrounding communities and works with primary schools. Working in partnership with BIPAI, the Centre sensitises schools on how to identify children who may be positive and to assist them in seeking testing. Teachers frequently ask the Centre’s staff to talk to parents because of a lack of confidence and issues of stigma in the community. To complement the efforts of BIPAI and the Centre, workshops are offered in communities by health workers from Ministry of Health on HIV and AIDS, home-based care and support, and positive living.
e) Food security interventions
As mentioned previously, food security is a major problem in Swaziland and consequently this is a major focus of the Centre’s activities. After an initial training in 2001, the Centre has been promoting trench gardening across all of its intervention areas. The Centre has trained many other community groups and service providers, including NCPs, rural health motivators, agricultural extension officers, members of agricultural clubs, students and teachers. In partnership with the SAHEE Trust, based in Switzerland, the Centre has also worked in the community to promote homestead kitchen gardening.
The approach is innovative in that it relies on a high level of interest from the participants and avoids the potential conflict that can arise in programmes that support community gardens. The programme starts by advertising the training opportunity through the local leadership and community radio stations. Everyone who is interested attends an initial training on fencing with an emphasis on using locally available materials. Potential participants then return to their homes and fence the area they plan to use. The training team then visits all these sites and takes photographs that are displayed at a meeting with all the prospective participants. In a group of 60 participants, the training team will then select the 30 best fences and those become the participants for the full training programme.
The training programme takes place over one week each month. The first two days are site visits by the training team to see how the training is being understood and applied, followed by the next block of group training over three days. There is an assignment after each block, and before the next block, the team will check on how the previous lessons are being applied. A standard form is used to monitor gardening activities and outputs, with additional information gathered through informal conversations on such topics as water, pests and harvests. Photographs are taken of the gardens for monitoring purposes. Participants are encouraged to keep simple records of their harvests in order to track whether they are able to grow foods that make a significant contribution to their household food supply.
Materials and tools are only provided well into the course and only when it is clear they that are needed and will be well utilised. The training is practical rather than theoretical and encourages participants to informally share ideas and lead by example. Participants see other gardens and get interested and learn by seeing others doing it. The course includes discussion about the environmental impacts of cultivation, including soil erosion and loss of soil.
About the author(s)
Wongani Grace Nkhoma is the Education Programme Manager. Wongani has over 10 years experience working in the development sector. Before joining OSISA, Wongani worked with ActionAid International - Malawi as Regional Manager and Education Policy Coordinator