interview, Patrick Makokoro, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Nhaka
Foundation, discusses the organisation’s efforts at supporting education and
health care in rural regions in Zimbabwe, a landlocked country located in
southern Africa. According official information, Zimbabwe’s total population
stands at 12.97 million. Due to large investments in education since
independence, Zimbabwe has the highest adult literacy rate, in 2013 was 90.70%,
in Africa, but much still remains to be done in the sector.
Makokoro founded the Nhaka Foundation in 2008 as a charitable
organisation that provides education, health care and counseling, and
other essential services to orphaned and vulnerable children throughout
Zimbabwe. In 2012, he founded the Zimbabwe Network of Early Childhood
Development Actors (ZINECDA). In addition, Makokoro is a Founding member of the African Early
Childhood Network headquartered in
Nairobi, Kenya, which works to champion the development needs of
young children in Africa.
Makokoro discussed at length with Kester Kenn Klomegah in Harare, Nhaka
Foundation plans to consolidate its relationship with the
Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and other Government departments at
the local level and leading civic society organisations working in Education
and Primary Health Care issues in Zimbabwe. Here are the interview excerpts:
Q: What would you say are the achievements
and/or success stories since the establishment of the Harare based NGO, Nhaka
PM: Nhaka Foundation is a Zimbabwe-based non-governmental organisation,
it has developed and implemented a series of interventions designed to bridge
the gap between the government’s capabilities and policies mandating the
requirement for Early Childhood Development (ECD) programming in primary
schools and its ability to fully realise the implementation of such programmes. Along
with its partners, Nhaka Foundation provides access to education, basic health
care and daily sustenance for the orphaned and vulnerable children in the
communities it serves. It further provides aid and support to ensure the
creation of a physical environment conducive to learning, growth and the
optimal development of all children.
Classroom and Playground Renovation
Nhaka Foundation has managed to partner
with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to work with rural area
primary schools, parents and caregivers to create Early Childhood Development
(ECD) Centers through the renovation of over 32 dilapidated classrooms. The
classroom floors, windows, doors and roofs are repaired or replaced, and a
fresh coat of paint is applied inside and outside. Each Center has its own
unique personality as the exteriors are then finished with hand-painted, age-appropriate
drawings by local artists.
As a part of the renovation programmes,
the organisation has worked with the families and members of the community to
plan and build, expand or repair the playgrounds and equipment using readily
available and safe materials, hence fostering a sense of community ownership
and building sustainability into the initiative. Once restored to a like-new
condition, the Centers would then be officially incorporated into the primary
school system and sustained by the community through elected Pre-School
Management Committees. This helps to ensure that the children continue to have
clean and safe spaces to work and play.
With the support of school and community
leaders, Nhaka Foundation has facilitated meetings with the over 5000 parents
and caregivers of children enrolled in the ECD Centers it serves. These
meetings have been designed to educate, support and engage stakeholders in
finding solutions to building a better future for the children. A lot of emphasis
has been placed on building capacity and instilling a sense of community
ownership and responsibility through this initiative.
The meetings have covered various topics
including the importance of birth registration, immunisations, health record
maintenance, HIV&AIDS education and screenings, early childhood development
enrolment as well as parental involvement in the education of children. Indeed,
the initiative has been successful in providing caregivers with the information
and tools needed to better look after the children in their communities. It
makes available a platform for voicing concerns and obtaining support from the
school, the community, and the government.
Nhaka Foundation has also managed to forge
a cordial working relationship with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary
Education (MoPSE) to facilitate the on-going training and development of the
ECD teachers working in the Centers it serves. Nhaka Foundation has
successfully trained over 350 early childhood development teachers in the past
5 years. On a rotating basis, the organisation accompanies District Trainers to
the field to monitor and evaluate teacher performance.
Each teacher would be observed at work,
given an opportunity to ask questions and express concerns, and provided
feedback for improvement. Through this initiative, the organisation has managed
to provide teachers with increased skills and at the same time promote a
cooperative environment to share information and resources that have inevitably
resulted in quality education for marginalised children.
In response to the needs of the rural
communities and the children it serves, Nhaka Foundation developed an in-school
feeding programme to address one of the biggest challenges faced each day in,
and out, of the classroom-hunger. Many children would come to school on empty
stomachs making it impossible for them to concentrate or fully participate in
classroom and outdoor activities. While the organisation’s work has been
focused on children enrolled in ECD Centers, it simply could not ignore the
remaining primary school students as the concern was pervasive.
As a consequence, the programme has
provided food once each day in the form of a protein drink for all of the
students in all of the primary schools it serves. The programme has benefitted
well over 5,000 children a day across 15 primary schools in collaboration with
the schools and communities, with food preparation and service is managed
on-site by community volunteers while Nhaka Foundation manages the logistics,
training and programme oversight.
Nhaka Foundation has partnered with the
Ministry of Health and Child Care, District Medical Offices and local health
clinic practitioners to facilitate health assessments of the children enrolled
in the ECD Centers it serves. On a rotating basis, the Nhaka’s team members have
accompanied nurses from the rural health clinics to each school to evaluate the
most basic and immediate health concerns facing the children.
The assessments have captured important
baseline information on height, weight, heart rate, immunisations, and personal
hygiene as well as screen for common conditions such as ringworms, scabies,
skin infections and cavities. Indeed this initiative has created a strong
starting point to address basic medical conditions and to educate parents,
caregivers and the communities on infant and child health care issues and
prevention reaching over 800 children in 2019 alone
Q: In the
first place, tell us about the driving reasons, in other words the motivating
factors, why the idea of helping rural communities in Zimbabwe?
PM: In 2019,
Nhaka Foundation contributed towards the attainment of Sustainable Development
Goals (SDG) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 as recounted here as follows.
SDG 1: End
poverty. The organisation contributed to SDG 1 through transferring skills in
new systems of farming to parents, which has a potential to boost their
economic status in the long-run. However, due to reasons beyond the
organisation’s scope such as
recurrent droughts, poverty was said to be the status quo for most households
in the communities where Nhaka Foundation introduced these innovations,
especially grandparent-headed households.
SDG 2: Zero
hunger. Nhaka Foundation’s support of nutrition gardens to strengthen the Feeding Programme and
its impartation of new farming skills were meant to eliminate hunger. ECD
learners indeed benefited from school-based feeding, although at the schools
sampled by this evaluation the feeding had stopped and some nutrition gardens
no longer functional.
SDG 3: Good
health and Well-being. Nhaka Foundation invested heavily into the health and
well-being of its target beneficiaries, including through its trainings in
personal hygiene for parents, procurement of nutritious foods like maheu and
porridge as well as its facilitation of health assessments for ECD
learners. At the time of this evaluation, these initiatives stopped
because of limited funding to the organisation.
SDG 4: Ensure
inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning
opportunities for all. Nhaka Foundation’s support for ECD infrastructure
development made education accessible for the ECD learners while its capacity
building for ECD teachers contributed towards improved education quality. ECD
teachers confirmed that they learned new techniques of teaching and effectively
handling ECD learners through workshops that the organisation facilitated in
partnership with MoPSE trainers.
SDG 6: Clean
water and sanitation. Nhaka Foundation supported the drilling of boreholes and
construction of toilets in some schools that had dire need thereof, which
tellingly improved access to clean water supply and sanitary ablution
facilities. The evaluation, however, revealed that with growing ECD
enrolments, the need for additional boreholes and toilets remains at most
Q: How would you characterise the urban-rural
development gap in Zimbabwe?
PM: The development gap between the
urban-rural settings is still evident mostly due to unavailable funds that go
towards infrastructure development. This challenge is not only limited to
Zimbabwe alone but to most countries in Southern Africa Development Community
(SADC) and sub-Saharan Africa. As African countries rise against the struggles
and inequalities imposed by colonialism, there is the need to invest more
resources in order to develop the rural areas. It is important for financial
resources be directed towards creating economic hubs in the various rural areas
so that there is enough investment that supports and boosts the rural
Q: Under-development, diseases, illiteracy and
abject poverty have something do with the Government. Could you please give
your views and analysis here?
PM: Over the 20 years after independence,
the government in Zimbabwe invested heavily in education, and by the end of
this period, Zimbabwe had one of the finest education system (and its highest
literacy rate) in Africa. The success of this programme was reinforced by the
importance Zimbabweans place on education and the considerable sacrifices
families are prepared to make to ensure their children are well educated.
Unfortunately, the financial and political
crisis that engulfed Zimbabwe in the first decade of this century resulted in a
dramatic decline in the educational sector. The impact of this decline was
especially marked in rural schools. In light of these challenges, the
investment in early childhood development and education programmes was minimal
if any, as the government and other civil society organisations focused more on
the delivery of primary and secondary level education.
Early education thus was not given the appropriate
attention and action. More importantly, parents have little or no understanding
of the substantial long-term benefits that early childhood development
programmes have on their children’s educational and social outcomes. Parents
and caregivers have limited knowledge of other important child development,
protection and welfare issues.
Q: Judging from the above discussion, is it correct to conclude that Nhaka’s
activities are closely related to the politics and policies of the Zimbabwean
PM: As far back in 2005, the Zimbabwean
government introduced a policy (Statutory Instrument No. 106 of 2005) mandating
all government primary schools to introduce two years of ECD education before
primary school entry. This was in line with the Commission of Inquiry into
Education and Training’s (CIET, 1999) main recommendation to
democratise pre-school education, the Ministry designed a two-phased, ten-year
programme to establish ECD classes at every primary school in the country.
During Phase One (2005/6 to 2010), every primary school was expected to attach
at least one ECD class of 4-5 year old’s referred to as ECD ‘B’, to prepare them for Grade One the following
year. In Phase Two (2011 to 2015), every primary school would attach another
ECD class of 3-4 year old’s to prepare them for ECD B.
Indeed, over the past 11 years, Nhaka Foundation has become a leading
organisation in Zimbabwe working in partnership with the Ministries of
Education, Health and Social Services to enhance Early Childhood Development
(ECD) services and access to early learning opportunities reaching 15,000
beneficiaries directly through its programmes in 2019. Nhaka
Foundation’s preschools programme
works closely with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and has received
its full endorsement through a Memorandum of Understanding signed in October
Nhaka Foundation is aligned with the
established policy of integrating ECD centers into primary schools. The current
Government in Zimbabwe is responsible for setting policy priorities and within
the education sector that falls under the ambit of the Ministry of Primary and
Secondary Education. Nhaka Foundation therefore works to complement government
efforts in line with the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two
Q: How does Nhaka operate in terms of
project financing, support from stakeholders and so forth?
PM: Nhaka Foundation promptly responds to
calls for proposals as well as carries out internal fundraising activities in
order to generate resources for its operations and sustainability.
Q: What are your long-term strategic
plans, at least, the next half decade?
PM: Really, we have long-term plans to
raise the current achievements to a higher level, especially along the lines of
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These are:
Goal 1: Resource Mobilisation
The organisation will focus on the
development and implementation of a comprehensive resource mobilisation and
sustainability strategy that will encompass both traditional and non- traditional
means of fundraising as well as incorporate key principles such as financial
accountability and integrity in order to retain the confidence of funding
Goal 2: Enhancing Nhaka Foundation‘s
The organisation under this focus area
seeks to promote the Nhaka Foundation brand using traditional and emerging
online platforms. The organisation anticipates consolidating its relationship
with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and other arms of
government at the local level and leading civic society organisations working
in ECD programming as a means of strengthening its reputation as a growing
practitioner in ECD issues in Zimbabwe.
Goal 3: Governance and Institutional
The organisation will focus on strengthening
the role of the Board of Trustees in giving oversight to implementation of this
strategy as well as operations of the organisation. Strong attention will be
paid towards ensuring strong internal organisational systems, controls and
procedures are taken up and implemented by all organisational members.
Goal 4: Enhancing Implementation and
Management of Programmes
The organisation plans to strengthen the
framework of programme cycle management, including development of an
indicator-based monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework that enables
drawing of important lessons and best practices. The organisation intends to
build the capacity of programming staff in order to enhance efficacy in project
cycle management as well as improving responsiveness to the ever changing
trends in ECD-related programming such as responding to the needs of children
with special needs and addressing other issues that inhibit access to education
by young children.
Goal 5: Influencing Policy, Advocacy and Evidence-based ECD Programming
The organisation anticipates engaging a lot
more in thought leadership in ECD issues at national and international level,
spearheading and supporting various advocacy and lobby efforts aimed at
improving childrens’ access to affordable and equitable ECD services in
Zimbabwe and in sub-Saharan Africa.