This is the story behind the Paypal "donate" button to the right...
One of my sitemates, Ariel, started going to the preschool in Monapo last year once a week to read to the children. As an education volunteer, she was given children's books (in Portuguese) as a sample from a company called Books for Africa. One week, I decided to join Ariel at the preschool. After reading one of the books to a room full of noisy, rambunctious children, we decided to instead sing songs and play games.
We quickly discovered that the preschool's space was insufficient for the 78 children that are there Monday-Friday. Children from three to six years of age all occupy one small room. There are four open windows (no glass panes to block out rain) and a thatched grass roof. There is one traditional latrine for all of the children and they have no hand-washing stations. The preschool's one teacher, Samuel, only has one other helper. Rosalina is responsible for making breakfast, usually a traditional porridge, and preparing juice to accompany the snacks which the children bring from home. Samuel built the existing preschool from his own personal money and regularly gives up part of his salary to buy toys or food supplies.
Samuel told us that it was his dream to expand the preschool in order to serve more children. Unfortunately, however, he has been unable to save for the funds needed. After much discussion, Ariel and I decided that it would be a good project idea to improve the preschool. We also decided to convert the preschool into a Community Child Development Center in the afternoon once the preschool children return home. Children, youth and adults would be encouraged to use the center as a library- to read books, do homework, play educational games, etc. The Center would allow all members of the community to have access to books and a safe place to learn instead of limiting access to only those children attending the preschool.
Unfortunately, most Mozambican adults do not realize the importance of early childhood education. Parents often delay the education of their children until primary school which students begin between the ages of 6 and 8. My neighbor, Carla, is in 6th grade and can barely get through a beginner-level book. Another neighbor, Eddie, is in 2nd grade and just learned how to write his name at my house. It is not uncommon for a high school student to be illiterate. But the lack of help at home isn't the only problem. Even if a child wanted to practice reading, where would they do so? Their schools don't have books. There is no Community Library. Surely they don't have books at home.
Therefore, in addition to rehabilitating the space at the preschool, we hope to raise enough money to purchase the whole Portuguese set of books (over 200) from Books for Africa that range in difficulty for primary to high school students. In the afternoon, people will be welcome to come to the Center and read with their children and younger siblings or by themselves.
With the construction of a new, two-room building, the preschool children will be devided according to age. The project will also provide funding for Samuel to employ an additional teacher. Besides the preschool, there are no other organizations in the community providing structure and resources to young children in Monapo. Many parents do not understand the benefit of early childhood education and those who do may not have a guaranteed placement for their child in the preschool. This project aims to create a better learning environment for the children enrolled in the preschool while also creating an early childhood development center available to everyone in the community. Along with providing resources to educating young children, the center will aim to advocate amongst parents and youth the importance of beginning education at a young age.
I cannot count the number of times I've had someone tell me (or write to me) that they admire what I am doing here in Moz and wish they could help. Well, this is your opportunity. Normally I am not a fan of simply doling out money as a form of aid. But this preschool is already fully functioning. There is no room for failure because we are investing in something that already exists and works. But there is a tremendous need for growth and improvement and your donations will help Samuel and the community of Monapo achieve this.
If you'd like any more information, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or see my sitemate's website at http://justsoyum.wordpress.com/build-a-preschool/.