Perivoli Schools Trust began in Namibia in 2012 by sponsoring a nursery school at the Okonjima Conservancy which is still running very successfully. It then branched out into neighbouring rural communities by refurbishing existing nursery schools and providing toys. However, we were unable to find teachers who understood the importance of play and the toys disappeared.
We learned the hard way that well-meaning NGO’s that spend resources on buildings and infrastructure are invariably wasting time and money. That’s why we switched our focus to providing much-needed training.
The education system across much of Sub-Saharan Africa is failing. Not all children attend primary school, and of those that do, many drop out for a variety of reasons, often after being forced to repeat years. Young women are regularly the worst affected.
Children arriving at primary school are invariably poorly prepared in nursery school and at home. Whilst they mean well, nursery school teachers typically have a limited understanding of how to organise a class room or the case for including play activities. So children are left to their own devices without oversight or stimulation.
Some teachers adopt old fashioned methods, shouting at the children, expecting too much of them in blackboard-centric classrooms or requiring them to sing a limited number of songs in rotation. This can stunt confidence and development.
Home life can also be far from ideal. Extreme poverty and the breakdown in family structures on account of disease (particularly HIV/AIDS), alcoholism, absenteeism and transient employment also affects a child’s early development.
Many children are brought up by a sibling, a single working parent or a grandparent, who don’t always have the skills or resources to provide hands-on care.
In addition, the practice of carrying children around in shawls on backs is said to inhibit a child’s development.