By Christine Roulston
Khama Chibwana made a big difference in his native Zomba while living a world away in Victoria. Chibwana, who recently completed his master’s in child and youth care, devoted his time on campus to finding solutions to child care problems in Zomba, Malawi, a rural African municipality, where the effects of AIDS and poverty have left many residents struggling for basic resources.
Chibwana was teaching at the University of Malawi when he was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship in 2005. He chose to come to UVic and immediately focused his studies on the problems with child care in Zomba. “I was interested because of the magnitude of need,” he says. “I thought this must be studied. There is a need for authorities to be involved.”
Chibwana says vast differences in resources exist between community-funded child care centres and those that also receive funds from outside organizations.
“At this stage there isn’t any systematic assessment of child care centres, so it’s hard to know what communities are in need,” he says. Part of Chibwana’s thesis involved selecting a random group of child care centres in Malawi and comparing their resources, from the condition of the facilities to play materials available.
While in Victoria, Chibwana helped spearhead Zomba KIDZ, a project that began as part of Saanich’s Centennial celebrations and focuses on improving early childhood development in Zomba.
He worked to help educate Saanich employees about child care situation in Zomba. The group has raised over $50,000 to build a community facility where children in the region can go to play, learn and receive basic nutrition and healthcare. Chibwana helped the group forge a partnership with Chancellor College, a campus of the University of Malawi, to deliver the program.
Chibwana has returned to his job at the University of Malawi and is working with government and non-profit groups to help shape policy on childcare in the region.