Change that brought everlasting hope – Courtesy of Early Learning and Development Services in Malawi
When all hope was gone that Kina Nguluwe will speak, it was a joyous moment when Kina’s parents heard their son speak his first sentence at the age of 5. Kina lives with his parents in Mzoma community. Mzoma is found to the west of Mzimba South District along the Malawi-Zambia boarder, in Traditional Authority M’mbelwa. Mzoma is about 60 kilometres away from the district centre with a population of 21,509 people and 5,284 under 5 children. The majority of the population lives in typical village houses which are grass thatched with muddy floors, with no access to running water or electricity. However, a few government institutions such as Mzoma Community Day Secondary School and some households around trading centres have access to electricity due to the Malawi Rural Electrification project (MAREP).
Kina Nguluwe, a boy, aged 7 comes from Philip Jere Village, Group Village Headman Milingo Jere in Mzoma. He comes from a family of 4 (3 boys and 1girl). Kina was born with language and speech problems. During his early age, he seemed to have no problem until when he was 3 years when his parents started to wonder as he could not speak. At this stage he was also observed to be very weak and could not play with his friends. He liked isolating himself when left to play with his friends. This surprised the parents as nobody from their family background had a history of a similar problem. Kina’s parents tried to visit Kalikumbi Health centre, which is about 8km from their village but they were told that the child had no major problem and that he will catch up on his own. Mr. Atikinye father to Kina, explained that the response did not bring any hope to them and he felt like something was piercing his heart. He was noted to be emotionally affected when he was explaining the story.
When Kina was 4 years old, his mother suggested that he be enrolled at a nearby Community Based Child Care (CBCC) within the village but the father did not allow him to be enrolled at the (CBCC) for his early stimulation and learning. This was because he feared Kina could not be looked after properly at the centre because of his disability. It was observed that most parents of children with disabilities did not send their children to CBCCs due to over-protection and negative attitudes and that the father was also over-protecting his child.
It was following the coming of IECCADEV ( in full for someone just interested in the case study) project that changed the life of Kina. It all started when a home visitor Mrs. Milliam Nkhonjera, for essential package visited Mr. Nguluwe’s house after she noticed that there was Kina who did not speak and is not enrolled in the CBCC despite being eligible for CBCC enrolment. When Mr. Nguluwe was asked why the child was not in CBCC, he explained that the child did not speak and because he was also weak, they could not enroll him in the CBCC for fear that he may not receive good care at the CBCC. The home visitor linked the family with a caregiver who was trained in Inclusive ECD. Using the skills obtained from the training, the caregiver managed to convince the parents to enroll Kina at the CBCC. She promised to personally take the responsibility of making sure that Kina was safe and interacted well with friends.
At the age of 5, Kina was then enrolled at the CBCC. During the first days, it was not easy for him as he often isolated himself from his friends and it was the caregivers who helped him to adjust and get used to his friends. By the end of year 2017, Kina started speaking, he became very active when playing with friends and showed a positive response to early stimulation. Kina’s case acted as a model towards change of attitudes of parents with children living with disabilities.
When asked to comment on the issue, Milliam Nguluwe, mother to Kina excitedly said ‘I looked at my son as a burden, the feeling of raising someone who could not talk broke my heart very much. He was as good as dead to me. But because of this project, my son has risen from the dead where we placed him. We can now proudly talk to him and send him to do different tasks which are appropriate for his age’.
Kina is now a confident and active boy in standard 1 at Kamtchenja primary school. He is among the 11 children (4 boys and 7 girls) who graduated from Mchenga CBCC to Kamtchenja primary school. His teachers Mr. Mumba and Mr. Jere said Kina progressed well in speech and language. He has also adjusted well to the school environment such that he is able to participate in class and in games.