Squad, tribe, community. Call it what you will, in the end, a rose has never smelled so sweet as knowing you have a community to rely on.
The It takes a village
series we’ve been sharing with you over the past month has been exploring the universal understanding that “it takes a village to raise a child” by highlighting the importance of community. This week’s story is no different.
When my children started school, I knew my ‘village’ would be expanding. I was grateful for the role these new villagers would play in my children’s lives, as we all worked together to support their learning. Coming from a home where my Dad read The Ultimate Children’s Dictionary
to me at bedtime each night of my kindergarten years, I had a deeply ingrained belief in the importance of early childhood education.
A teacher at heart
Michael Pichay, aka Mr. Pichay, is an important member of that village. Although a somewhat new kindergarten teacher to the school, Mr. Pichay has already become an essential figure in our community. Both students and parents were full of praise and excitement when they learned he would appear in this piece – further confirmation of his valued role in our community.
When I asked Mr. Pichay why he wanted to become a teacher, he said: “I wanted to be a part of a community, to be one of the cogs that helped to raise children”. This didn’t surprise me. Mr. Pichay is not only a teacher, he’s a basketball coach, a tutor and an active volunteer at school activities.
Mr. Pichay's classroom.
Teaching the next generation is no easy task, something I’m often reminded of when attempting to help my own children with their homework. It requires patience, passion and dedication.
Madame Magdalene Mwakesi, an early childhood educator in Kenya, also shows these characteristics. Although her school faces challenges such as a lack of materials and clean water, Madame Mwakesi still describes her hours with children as the most enjoyable part of her life.
A day in the life
Despite the distance it’s amazing to me just how similarly the two teachers’ days are structured, the routines that are common to children in both classrooms.
Both classes provide a healthy balance between structured activities and free play. Both teachers set aside time for the children to share, and learn about themselves. Both groups spend time outside each day, and recognize the importance of imagination.
Would you believe that both classes have a make-believe shopping area, where their students pretend to sell and buy merchandise from one another?
Madame Mwakesi playing with her class outside.
Both Madame Mwakesi and Mr. Pichay understand the critical importance of a nutritious diet, when it comes to children’s ability to learn. It’s why Mr. Pitchay volunteers at the breakfast program at his school. The program is open to all students at the school, and provides them with hot, nutritious meals.
Madam Mwakesi’s school doesn’t have a program like this – even though her students sometimes arrive hungry. She sees firsthand how hard it is for children to concentrate. “It affects the learning activities, as children get easily tired out,” she shares.
A way forward
Madam Mwakesi is working hard to overcome the challenges in her classroom. She’s partnered with World Vision to improve the classroom and school resources. And is working with parents to help them see the positive impact education can have for their children.
And it’s making a difference. “Now, parents are coming out to support the development and education of their young children, and have been of great support in developing local materials for learning,” she says.
Madame Mwakesi in class with her students.
Mr. Pichay reflects on his own childhood, remembering how the loving support of family and community made all the difference to his learning.
“I was raised in a strong community, where I had people who cared for me. I think that definitely helped me succeed as a child, and has helped me succeed in my life now.”
Community support is critical if children are to thrive, that’s why World Vision’s Village2Village
program was created. By building partnerships with communities like Madam Mwakesi’s, we can ensure all children have access to education.
Whether it’s writing their first stories – or playing make-believe in a pretend store – those first, small victories will lead to amazing change.