Pure Nard Preschool opened its doors to about 40 students on February 2. Now we are busting at the seams with 61 students and a waiting list.
Turns out there is a real need for quality education in Mungu. We already knew that, but we weren’t so sure how families would respond to a new school, especially one that had a foreigner on the premises. WOW…. have we ever been well received! Word of a good preschool flew like the wind and now we have a waiting list.
We are thrilled to be a part of something that can directly impact families in such a profound way.
Pure Nard Preschool has a team of 3 lead teachers, 3 helping teachers and a cook who helps us serve snacks and a lunch. The entire staff is local, living right in Mungu. Together they provide quality education for 3 classes: a baby class (2-4 years old), middle class (4-5 years old) and reception (5-6) years old). Reception is the equivalent of kindergarten or grade zero. Reception is not offered at primary schools, so I feel like this service is an enormous opportunity to get children ready for grade 1. Many children in cities like Lusaka, or even Kafue, attend private reception classes, but once you get out into rural areas like Mungu, finding a preschool that can equip children for grade 1 can be a challenge.
The school fees are subsidized now and we are investigating sustainability projects to eliminate the need for outside donor funding.
It didn’t take long for us to realize how our involvement in the preschool has given us a direct line into the community. Having a relationship with the preschool families gives us even greater access with more opportunities to serve, and its amazing how quickly you learn about the area, its positives and negatives… the good, bad, and the ugly…when you work with families.
One issue we discovered immediately was the problem of inadequate nutrition for children in this community. I can say with a degree of certainly that about half the students are undernourished, and for about a quarter of the students the problem is severe enough that the consequences of malnutrition are visible… orange hair…distended belly…
If you follow my Facebook page, you might remember Mary. We saw her on the road leading up to the school with her brothers and her orange locks were alarming. She was not in school (nor her brothers) because the family did not have the 30 Kwacha per child to pay for the term (about $5). Pastor Daniel went for a visit and encouraged the family to send the children anyway. The church was able to pick up the tuition for 2 of the children and the family was able to pay for one. Now all 3 kids are enrolled in the preschool. None of them had ever held a pencil before. All of them are improving their school “readiness” skills and they are learning. And guess what? They also receive a nutritious lunch.
There are many ways in which Pure Nard Preschool meets the need in the community and one of these ways is to offer a nutrient dense meal to its students, a meal that includes more protein and is fortified with extra vitamins they would not normally receive from a maize (corn) based diet.
I love the fact that we are bringing something to the community that is needed. And I love the fact that the very thing that is needed can be used as a tool to reach deeper into the community. But what I really love is the bright and shinning faces that I get to see every morning! Let’s face it… preschoolers are fun.
My role at the school is to train and support teachers, and to develop leadership to the point that the school is entirely run by local staff. Yes… I am trying to work myself out of a job! We have already designated a “head teacher” and no decision is made at the school without the consensus of the staff. Believe me, these ladies take this school seriously, and they work through tough decisions.
Our goal is to have a staff that will take ownership of the early education of the children in this community, and have a heart for service that will bring about lasting change for Mungu. We are definitely on our way. This is ICBC, a project lead by the community for the benefit of the community.
PS. If you have been following us for a while, you may remember the Sitali family. They had lost their housing and were living under plastics out in the open… with rainy season on the way. Not only do they have a home now, but guess who’s in our class? Little Mwaziona had never held a pencil and now she is greeting me in English and writing her first letters and numbers. YAY! thank you for helping us help her!
Hey, before you go …. exciting news! We have begun to create a webpage that describes the work of ICBC and Teen Challenge. We would love it if you took a few minutes and looked around. Your feedback is valuable to us. The site is still a work in progress, so let us know what you think! Here is a link:
You will find more photos by selecting the link under the “snapshots” tab. Warning… cute bomb hit the photo page with all these darling preschoolers.