In the 'bario' or suburb of Laulane, near SOS Children's Village Maputo, attending kindergarten used to be but a dream for the youngsters growing up there. Their families were so poor that toddlers were commonly suffering from health problems due to malnutrition, such as skin problems, rickets and chronic diarrhoea.
In partnership with leading local community members, field workers from SOS Social Centre Maputo discussed various plans and suggestions how to solve these problems. Eventually, the partnership came up with the idea of a community kindergarten.
The social centre would assist the community to renovate an existing building. The community would help with the practical task of rebuilding and set up community structures to monitor, evaluate and improve the project as it went along.
Eventually, it felt as though the whole community was involved, with people fetching and carrying sand and water for the construction work, others cleaning up the finished structure, and finally the creation of committees to actually run the kindergarten. Before the renovation work was even completed, the community had identified health issues as something that needed to be worked on alongside the education of the children.
The SOS Social Centre managed to support the community by providing some basic foodstuffs to enable them to run a basic nutritional programme for the children attending the kindergarten. In addition to regularly examining the children and to monitoring their general health and physical development, an SOS Children's Village nurse makes sure that the community leaders allocate time to educating parents about the need for a reasonable diet for themselves and their children.
The enrolment of fifty-six children by the end of 2006 was seen as a terrific achievement by the kindergarten committee, and SOS Social Centre Maputo was proud to share this success with them. By the end of February 2007, more than a hundred children regularly attended the community kindergarten at various times, all supervised by volunteer parents and guardians.
The parents see several benefits for their children: an improvement in their physical health due to the nutritional support and the advice given by the SOS Children's Village nurse, social benefits such as the children making friends and having the opportunity to play and discover new things, and educational benefits - most of the children can now speak Portuguese, the national language of Mozambique, in addition to the vernacular languages traditionally spoken by their parents.
The kindergarten committee are looking to make further improvements, though. They would very much like to start a small garden to grow food not only for the children attending the kindergarten, but also to be able to grow a small surplus to sell and raise funds for further improvements to their kindergarten. They would also like to try and raise funds to enable the volunteer teachers to go for some training courses in child care and to be able to take home a small salary instead of being pure volunteers.
If the collaboration between SOS Social Centre Maputo and the residents of Laulane can be maintained, community leaders are sure that this pilot project will be a success and that there will be other community kindergartens in the area.