This year many of DATUM FOUNDATION’S building projects were sadly put on hold due to the global outbreak of Covid-19. The start of construction of the much-needed Creative Learning Centre in the village of Chisala in Malawi has now been delayed until 2021 – however we continue to fundraise to bring this transformative centre to reality.
A Foundation for the Future
Malawi has been ranked as one of the lowest-performing nations for literacy in sub-Saharan Africa with only 35% of children completing primary school. Such statistics are the result of children being denied the chance to learn due to national shortage of classrooms, teachers, and basic teaching materials.
Preschools are not supported financially by the government. Therefore, most are run on a voluntary basis and remain unregistered. 44% percent of pre-schoolers in Malawi face undernourishment and many teachers lack the necessary resources to teach the young children.
Without preschool opportunities, children are missing the opportunities that create a strong foundation for their future studies. Our plans to develop a creative arts education pathway that will provide children of pre-school and primary school age with the opportunity to experience art, music, and drama – all of which is extremely under-resourced in Africa.
The Creative Learning Centre will be one of the biggest projects DATUM Foundation has undertaken to date, therefore it will be built in three phases.
The first element will be the Play School. This will consist of two separate buildings. One to provide children between the ages of 3-5 years with an education in their vital years of early development to prepare them for schooling. Our proposed new play school will be a space for children to learn the alphabet, shapes and colours and receive a nutritious meal. The other room will be for older children 5 -10 years old. Both rooms will be supervised and equipped with toys that are suitable for the children of this age.
A site has been identified and as DATUM Foundation strives to reach our first funding target of £15,000 we are determined to deliver the project in September 2021 in time for the start of the new academic term. Dean Buchanan, Chair of DATUM FOUNDATION says:
“I have visited many countries across sub-Sharan Africa and spent time living in small villages ranging from Senegal to Tanzania. Every year as part of my work with Datum Foundation I spend a few weeks living and working in the remote village of Chisala in Northern Malawi. Wherever I go it is always the same thing that saddens me the most – to watch young, intelligent children with nothing to play with – absolutely nothing. The contrast with the stimulating, usually over provided, toy boxes of children I know in Europe is often hard to bear.
So, this year DATUM FOUNDATION is going to remedy this situation for the children of Chisala and the surrounding region. We are going to build and equip a CREATIVE LEARNING CENTRE – We are going to build a Play School.”
Toy Appeal 2020
This year DATUM FOUNDATION will be launching a Toy Appeal to ensure the Creative Learning Centre has a variety of toys and creative materials for children aged between 3-10 and 10-16. We have already received a very generous donation from Nick and Joanna Blomfield, whose late mother was a collector. They felt it would be a fitting legacy for her to donate to the children of Malawi. Nick shares with us his personal connection to the toy appeal:
“… In my view, toys are toys and therefore should be something for children to enjoy, rather than for me to capitalise on financially. I know that Datum were doing lots of work in various parts of Africa, Sri Lanka and India to name a few, and felt that a donation of this size would really help to drive forward progress with younger children and provide them with something that was far more special.”
The Blomfield’s have donated a staggering 1,000 individual items from their mother’s collection.
“…we felt that my mother would have been happy to hear that they went to a place the toys will truly be enjoyed!”
Building a Brighter Future
To ensure every child has the opportunity to participate in the arts, the second element DATUM FOUNDATION proposes to build is a dedicated Arts Class. This classroom will be accessible to children from both the primary and secondary schools and will be filled with arts & crafts materials for students to express their creative talents.
Teaching art is often overlooked in Africa, as there are limited resources available to schools. Equipment such as drawing boards and books that help teach the essential skills of drawing would make an incredible difference to the students. Fisher Zimba, headmaster of the secondary school in Chilsala, says:
“His two art teachers will be better equipped through this project and will be able to help students reach their fullest potential.”