Mtikhe Community Centre - 2015
In October 2015 we first visited a Nursery School in Mtikhe Village, with a roll of 62 children, gathering each day under a tree. We were captivated by the passion for education of the 3 voluntary teachers, with little in the way of resources beyond a cracked blackboard and a few chalks. The children learned basic letters and numbers by drawing them with a stick in the sand, and learned the alphabet, nursery rhymes and months of the year in english, by rote.
They were just requesting a room to escape the weather, but on assessment, we realised that instead of a simple classroom, a multi-purpose building would benefit the whole community, as well as the nursery school. The plan was to construct a hall, with an office and storeroom, from the best materials available to the highest local standards.
When we fund village amenities, we always work in partnership with villagers, to encourage “ownership”, so they made bricks and supplied river-sand, while we provided all the cement, building materials and a specialised construction team.
So the ground was cleared, building teams hired, foundations dug, doors & frames made by hand, metal windows welded, roof timbers sliced, walls built & plastered, porch established, roofing trusses constructed, iron roof positioned, floor laid, blackboards plastered & skimmed, exterior skirting and pointing done. Every element had to be specially made, nothing “off the peg” here! Then all was lime- washed, painted, glazed, and finished a couple of months later.
This building caused such excitement in this disadvantaged society, that the Opening Ceremony had to be postponed as so many officials clamoured to attend the occasion! But at last the event happened and formal responsibility was passed to the local committee, witnessed by dozens of traditional and civic leaders, and celebrated by the whole community.
This invaluable resource now hosts many other groups too—all-age teaching classes, social, civic, and community events, health clinics, etc., so not only has the nursery school a brilliant new home, but Mtikhe Village has a highly valued multi-purpose Community Centre at its heart.
But during the build, we were amazed to learn that 2 of the 3 volunteer teachers working tirelessly for these youngsters had been on our AID AFRICA Education Programme nearly a decade before! Jobs may be scarce, but the gift of a school place, sponsored by friends in the UK, changed their lives and stimulated their vision to help others long after they left formal education!
The success of this public building made way for others around the area, each serving their community with protected space to further develop opportunities, projects and services.
Msikita Community Centre
Msikita Village is a large, remote, vulnerable area of 1,850 households - about 7,000 people - inaccessible by vehicle during the rainy season, so could only be reached by bike or foot.
For 7 years Zayambika Nursery School had been run by 6 volunteers, eager for educational opportunities for the 83 children in their care. The school started under a tree and later, the villagers came together to build a simple school room. Sadly, poor materials and lack of foundation, caused the building to collapse and there were no resources to maintain or rebuild it.
Because of Msikita’s remote location, we couldn’t even get there till after the rains, but the local villagers worked hard to build a “road” for us - a dirt track filled with stones, clods of earth and branches - which would allow our 4x4 to get most of the way.
So on our first visit, as we crossed the stick bridge, we were overwhelmed by the warm welcome received from the whole village. The children sang, the women danced, the men shared their conviction that education was the route out of poverty for their little ones. So we decided to go ahead and build another Community Centre for this huge village, despite the logistical challenges, but once again it needed local commitment. The villagers carried sand, and transported each of the 30,000 bricks we bought, by foot, wheelbarrow or pushbike, as their contribution.
We could only deliver materials to site by our motor-trikes, as no commercial trucks would venture out so far in such difficult terrain.
The foundations were dug and the building took shape, and in several months, it was finished - plastered, painted, roofed, windows glazed and ready for the opening celebrations.
Alongside, we dug a well and trained in reforestation; providing tree seeds for fuel and composting, and promoted the growth of moringa to improve nutrition and general health for all.
2022 - Disaster! Msikita Community Centre vs Cyclones
Over the years, more Community Centres were built, all based on the same design but each with its own identity and role in society.
Liphala Community Centre
In Liphala Village, the nursery school had been operating for 3 years, under a tree, with 4 voluntary teachers, and 52 children on the roll from 4 villages. In the past the community had made 5,000 bricks to build a school-room, but the project stalled as they couldn’t provide any further materials.
So we built them a new Centre, and as their contribution, villagers excavated and carried river sand to site, and we used the bricks they’d made in the foundation, buying in thousands more with a higher spec for the main build.
Namata Community Centre
In Namata Village the nursery school had been running for 4 years, sometimes they could meet in a church building, but usually under a tree. 5 teachers (2 men & 3 women) taught 126 children from 3 villages, backed by an active, enthusiastic school committee.
This is a remote area, with poor roads, but they were happy to carry river sand to site by foot, if we would help provide a better learning environment for their children.
So we went ahead and built the Namata Community Centre on land allocated by the Chief.
Mthowa Community Centre
A year or so later, we visited another Nursery School in Mthowa Village. 41 children were on the books, from 4 villages, taught by 5 teachers under blue-gum trees, with no shelter from the rain.
So another Community Centre was planned, to serve all the people in the area as well as the school. The Chief gave us land, and we set to work....
Lots of challenges, but within months the new Community Centre was fully operational ....
Each of these Community Centres forms the central hub of its village, providing superb facilities for further education, health clinics, civic meetings and social events, as well as a permanent home for the growing Nursery Schools!