Malawi Children's Corners Situational Assessment
In Malawi, Children’s Corners provide supervision through after-school programming to children aged 6-18. These programs, supported by the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability, and Social Welfare (MoGCDSW), are convened in local settings throughout rural Malawi to offer psychosocial support, encourage good school performance, and promote the wellbeing of Malawi’s children, particularly those who are vulnerable.
As a result of their work with orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi, the USAID Applying Science to Strengthen and Improve Systems (ASSIST) Project, together with the Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI), observed a need to develop a user-friendly assessment tool to routinely track and assess child Children’s Corner participants. With the approval of the MoGCDSW, these two partners along with colleagues from the University of Washington, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, created five-member teams to visit four Children’s Corners in Balaka and Mangochi districts and conduct a situational assessment. The intention of the assessment was to create a report about the Children’s Corner programming that will inform the design of future facilitator training and child assessment tool development and implementation.
Major themes that emerged from the Children’s Corner interviews and observations include:
- Psychosocial wellbeing and school performance go hand-in-hand. Addressing children’s psychosocial challenges resulted in improved school engagement and achievement and, in turn, that school success enhanced psychosocial wellbeing.
- The exceptional commitment and skill of facilitators was a strength for many programs. And facilitator quality was based more on motivation to work with children and contribute to the community than years of schooling.
- A broad range of factors motivated children to attend, parents to send, and communities to support Children’s Corners.
- Community support is key. Partnerships with community-based organizations, village leaders, local schools, and parents were seen as vital to the success of the program.
- Children’s Corner volunteers are in short supply. Child-to-facilitator ratios are high and children who attend have a wide range of ages and abilities, impeding the ability of volunteers to attend adequately to children’s individual needs. Increasing community awareness about the need for more volunteer facilitators is critical.
- More training is desired. Both Children’s Corner facilitators and members of community based organizations expressed an interest in participating in training to learn about how to recognize and respond to children’s psychosocial needs.
- The programs need more academic materials and play equipment. Many of the programs had only rudimentary play, art, sports, and academic support materials—some, only a homemade ball.
- And food as well. All facilitators expressed concerns about the nutritional needs of the children.