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Maya Kafuwa: Our goal is to get girls to read

Words by Smiley Team

The more young girls around the globe who are educated, the better chance we have at achieving equality. A better education can lead to job security, financial stability, more life skills and an increased life span. 

Maya Kafuwa, is CEO of The Perivoli Schools Trust, a charity hoping to achieve this by running a nursery school teacher training programme that is transforming the lives of young girls and children in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

The Trust has found that without formal pre-school education, young children’s brains aren’t properly prepared for the learning environments in primary and secondary schools, and as a result are more likely to drop out of school. This drop-out rate translates into increases in child pregnancy and challenges with overpopulation, with studies showing that the statistics are even worse for a girl in Africa.

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The Trust has already trained over 10,000 nursery school teachers and reached about 250,000 pre-school children, with 5 million being the target. And, not only does it support female education and empowerment, but it has also created more jobs for women across Namibia, by employing a large number of female teacher trainers.

Maya Kafuwa, for example, first joined the charity as a teacher trainer in Malawi in 2017. “There are a lot of reasons why this organisation means so much to me," Maya tells Smiley News. "But above everything else, it's the passion for education, helping children and creating a better future. Perivoli gives me the golden opportunity to shape the future of Africa through education. 

“For me it is not just work, or meeting the agreed targets, but more the satisfaction I get every evening when I go to bed that I contributed to make life for African children better. I helped to secure their future and I made a few hundred be able to smile.”

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It’s a well-known fact in Africa that girls who can read have two children, and those who don’t have five, says Maya. They tend to fall pregnant once they reach puberty at 13 or 14 if they struggle at school. 

“Our goal is to get the girls to read before they leave nursery school,” she says. “By stimulating a girl’s brain in the early years, they become more receptive to Primary and Secondary education – helping reduce high dropout levels and giving children the tools to make better future choices. 

'It costs $3 per child'

Among the problems facing Africa are governance, lack of investment and demographics. Africa accounts for 17% of the world’s population and it’s rising fast. 

“One of the reasons education has struggled in Africa is that children in their first seven years do not have access to education that engages them,” she says. “ This is partly because school teachers are often untrained and under resourced – they also don’t understand the importance of play.”

The Perivoli Schools Trust runs a two-year teacher training programme for nursery school teachers in multiple countries. It’s free to the teachers and promotes the use of waste materials like bottle caps and empty cans to provide classroom sessions that engage young children and stimulate their minds through active play. It costs about USD 3 per child per year to run, so it’s an affordable way of addressing the needs of nursery school teachers in a region that is frequently overlooked by the world. 

A positive lasting impact on girls 

Early Childhood Development (ECD) receives very little attention across due to a lack of resources and funding. With our method, and by training more teachers, more African girls also have access to education, reducing the demographic burden and increasing the prospects for Africa’s female population.

“I have uplifting moments on a daily basis when I’m with teachers in their classrooms as they thank me profusely for our help in making their lives so much easier,” says Maya. 

“That’s also the case when I revisit a classroom where I had seen on my first visit a room full of children doing nothing with sad glazed expressions - but now where they don’t even look up to see who’s come in. 

“That’s because they are so busy doing activities like playing with a toy shop or a toy kitchen or heading off to the puzzle corner to collect a matching game made from a piece of cardboard. These experiences help me see that we are making a great difference.”

Inspired to act?

SUPPORT: Support The Perivoli Schools Trust and help them continue their mission. 

GET INVOLVED: Support CAMFED, a campaign for female education across the word. 

DONATE: You can donate to WONDER Foundation, which aims to improve girls education worldwide. 

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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