Building a Preschool in Rural Swaziland

by Vusumnotfo
Walls up
Walls up

Vusumnotfo - Building a Preschool in Rural Swaziland (7882) - Progress Report 4 - November 1, 2011

As I noted in my last report, the project is now at what I call “the fun part” - with construction progressing very nicely - and a donation of $2,444 from a fifteen year old American student…… keep reading!

Apologies, somehow I uploaded photos in wrong order and given internet connection in rural Swaziland, changing them is a seriously painful task; for that reason, photos are not presented or labelled in numerical order.

Photo 1 - Public Works Department (PWD) inspected on October 25, and as shown, the walls were up to roof level.

The building in the background shows the primary school that these children will be attending.  Towards the end of the year, Nellie Mhlabane (the preschool teacher) takes the preschool students on a walk about to the primary school, during which she introduces them to the Grade 1 teacher and explains that this is the school they will be attending next year.

Photo 9 - the builder worked so quick that on October 28th, PWD had to inspect again; the builder’s contract requires PWD to inspect at set points in the process, which are also linked to payments.

Photo 2 - True Dlamini, the builder’s right hand hand, ensuring that roofing sheets are straight. 

Photo 3  - Community members carrying supplies to the site.  To ensure safety, the community selects a homestead for Vusumnotfo to delivery the supplies to; thereafter it is the job of the community to ensure that the supplies are brought to site, day by day, as the builder needs them.  The Preschool Committee, who reports to the Chief's Inner Council, organizes the rotation of community labour.

Vusumnotfo’s job is to ensure purchase and delivery of supplies to the selected homestead.  We either have someone go along with the delivery truck or we provide the designated community member with a copy of the delivery note.

Photo 4 - Community helpers for the day, waiting their turn to go fetch supplies from the homestead providing storage, to the building site; in this particular situation, it is about a 2 Km round trip (1.24 miles).

Photo 10 & 5 -  Keri Dziuban visiting Cetjwayo preschool site on August 3, as a means to assess the project potential for her sister in law, Alex Dziuban.  Alex is a Valley Lutheran High School sophomore (Saginaw, Michigan) whose older brother Eric Dziuban is currently serving two years at an HIV clinic for children in Mbabane, Swaziland.

As soon as Alex heard about the conditions that many Swazi children face, she wanted to help - "I heard about how little the children there had," she said.  "I knew education would be really important in helping them improve their lives."

Alex titled her fundraising venture Project 23.3.  The name is a reference to the astonishing statistic that 23.3% of children in Swaziland are orphans, with one or both parents deceased. In Swaziland, the usual culprit is HIV: Swaziland has the world's highest rate of the infection and as a result also has the world's lowest life expectancy (37 years); two-thirds of the population live on less that $2 per day; only one in 12 children is able to complete high school.

After several attempts of “going it alone” to initiate a viable project to support young children in Swaziland, Keri and Eric hooked up with Vusumnotfo.  The end result is that on October 21, $2,444 was deposited in the Vusumnotfo bank account (clearing at SZL19,559 - as these funds were not routed through GlobalGiving, you will notice that I have reduced the project budget on the Global Giving posting by $2,444).  Alex raised the majority of these funds through motivational talks within her community and church.

Alex’s efforts also motivated some Swazi teenage boys living close to Eric and Keri (in the capital city of Mbabane), to get involved by organizing a car wash to raise local donations.  "It is really great that a student in America wants to help children in Swaziland," said Menzi Ngcamphalala, 15.  "We want to also help so people know that we care and we are thankful for their kindness."

Please check out - - for  photos of car washing, some great  follow up Skype sharing between Alex and the Swazi guys, and more details on the efforts of Alex, Eric, and Keri…. you will be inspired.  For her own part, Alex is planning to visit Swaziland in December / early January.

Photo 6 - Owen Tfwala, Public Works Department Inspector, greeting “future enrolment” of Cetjwayo Preschool.

Photo 7 - The crap road going into Cetjwayo.  The photo doesn’t do justice to the steepness on either side of the bridge; the rocks placed to fill where the bridge has started to wash out were put by the community in preparation for Vusumnotfo delivering the building supplies.  Even with this, when the clay soil is wet, there is always a bit of luck in crossing this bridge straight on (and little room for error).  After a rain, community members on the other side of the bridge walk about 4 Km (2.4 miles) to catch public transport.

Although the rains have now started (a very good thing where subsistence agriculture is the norm and rural unemployement is 46%) this situation shouldn’t delay us as the majority of the building supplies are already on site (building “season” in Swaziland is after harvest (April / May) and before the start of rains (October / November).

So what is next?  - as I am writing this a staff member is driving to Cetjwayo (50 Km / 30 miles from Vusumnotfo office) to have a  look see, prior to the next PWD inspection which is scheduled for November 8th.  Construction should be done by end of November, if not before.  The Preschool graduation is scheduled for November 14 - we might almost make that date but most likely will still have some finishing work.

After this we will take a bit of a pause; for community members to plough and plant, for Vusumnotfo to do the necessary preparations for the play ground, and to respect the Encwala ceremony (a key traditional ceremony in Swaziland - already His Majesty has gone into seclusion, indicating that preparations are now under way).

Photo 8 - is just a bit of local interest…. plastic containers and bags collected for resell at the Mbabane market. These containers are used for a wide variety of day to day tasks, including fetching drinking water and storing cooking fuel; in Vusumnotfo’s kitchen garden training, we also promotes the use of “buried bottle watering” as a water wise practice i.e.) watering straight to the roots reduces water usage (by reducing water loss through evaporation) and diseases (by ensuring that stems and leaves do not get  wet).

With many thanks for your donations - which makes possible all the positive results in this report - and much appreciation for generating interest in this project within your circle of friends - anyone can sign up to be notified of reports, independent of donating  - people just need to fill in their  E mail address at Get Updates via Email, found at the bottom of the Global Giving project posting page - after which the person will be sent Vusumnotfo’s project reports by E mail, only i.e.) Global Giving promises “ that we won't share your e-mail with anyone or send you any other emails

Getting it straight
Getting it straight
Carrying supplies
Carrying supplies
Community helpers
Community helpers
Alex Dziuban
Alex Dziuban
Future enrollment
Future enrollment
Crap road
Crap road
Recycling at the market
Recycling at the market
PWD inspector at work
PWD inspector at work
Keri Dziuban (August 3 site visit)
Keri Dziuban (August 3 site visit)
July 20 community meeting
July 20 community meeting

Vusumnotfo - Building a Preschool in Rural Swaziland (7882)

Progress Report 3 - October 10, 2011

By Kathy Gau - Vusumnotfo Director and Project Leader

I have a lot to report on since my July 6th report:

July 20th - Vusumnotfo met with Cetjwayo Pre-school Committee and Mgungundlovu Umphakatsi (Chiefdom),  to confirm the good news about your donations and to confirm the community requirements.  During this meeting we viewed the Global Giving web site so that everyone had a clear understanding of where project funds come from.  I wish I had been able to capture people’s reactions when they first saw photos of Nellie Mhlabane, the preschool teacher, in the Global Giving posting - it was priceless!

In that regard, we also showed the payment list that supported the Global Giving transfers - highlighting that project funds were coming from “a lot of good people across the world, each giving a little, adding up to a lot - Cetjwayo community’s obligation being the wise use of these donations”. 

We than reviewed the work-plan and responsibilities, resulting in the agreement signed by the Cetjwayo Pre-school Committee, Mgungundlovu Umphakatsi representatives, and Vusumnotfo. Note that the GPS coordinates for the Swazi Nation land allocated to the preschool are included in this agreement (refer to attachment and photo).


July 27th - Site visit by Swaziland Government Public Works Department (PWD) inspector, Mr. Owen Tfwala, to confirm layout of building specific to the site.

We than hit a bit of a snag when the community builder that had previously been identified (and Vusumnotfo had positive experiences with) gave us a quote that we thought was too high.  The Vusumnotfo Board asked him to justify the quote, but was not satisfied with his answer. 

August 24th - This situation was explained by Vusumnotfo to Mgungundlovu Umphakatsi.  It was decided that the best way forward was to put the construction of the building to tender. 

August 31st  - Four interested community builders were taken by Vusumnotfo to view Mlumati Preschool building, and than to  Vusumnotfo to discuss the building plan (Mlumati Preschool building was constructed in 2010 through funding provided by Changing Futures ( - the same building design will be used for this project).

One week later the four builders submitted their quotations to Vusumnotfo in sealed envelopes.  The result is that the original builder, Simanga Thobela, came in tied for first place (this time around he used his 2010 price for construction of Mlumati Preschool).  After consultation with PWD, it was decided to continue with Mr. Thobela as his construction work was known to be good where by the other builder was new to us. So, lesson learnt, serving as a positive role model in accountability.

September 29th - Vusumnotfo reported the above results to Mgungundlovu Umphakatsi, signed a contract with builder Simanga Thobela, notified the other three builders, and reconfirmed the arrangements for the safe storage of supplies on site.

October 3rd - Site meeting with builder, Vusumnotfo and Pre-school committee to peg out foundation, thereafter the community was responsible to dig the foundation to standard, their labour being organized by the Pre-school Committee under the authority of the Umphakatsi (ref to photo).

What is significant about this photo is the number of men digging i.e.) often in Swaziland it is the women who shoulder this type of task, particularly for something like a pre-school that is associated with young children, so the number of men digging indicates good “buy in” of the community, which positively reflects on the efforts of Cetjwayo Preschool Committee and Mgungundlovu Umphakatsi.

October 10th - Public Works Department inspected the digging and confirmed that it was to standard so the builder can now start to pour the foundation.  I would like to appreciate that although government transport has been grounded - except for emergency services, due to serious financial constraints facing the Swaziland government (refer to Times of Swaziland at - PWD inspector Mr. Owen Tfwala has agreed to take public transport to carry out the necessary inspections at each step in the building process (payments are made to the builder only after site inspections by PWD).

Supplies on site - we have also started to purchase and delivery supplies on site.  We have divided this into several different deliveries, so that we can keep pace with the builder while managing risk (ref to photos).

So what is next?  -  as the tasks are now more tangible in nature, the project is at what I call “the fun part”.  The builder and the community will carry out the tasks in accordance with the construction work-plan that was signed off.  Vusumnotfo’s role is to ensure timely inspection by PWD at the required steps in the process, to arrange purchase and delivery of supplies ahead of the builder’s work, and to support problem solving if needed.  

We are all aware that the road into Cetjwayo is crap and not passable for some few days after a rain (and we just received the first rains of the season) - however, our experience with Simanga Thobela is that now that building has started, he moves fast.  Phase 1 is to complete the preschool building; Phase 2 will be the play ground equipment thereafter.

With many thanks for your donation - and much appreciation for generating interest in this project within your circle of friends

Please pass the word - GlobalGiving's LAST Bonus Day of the year is October 19th! On this day, starting at 12:01 am EDT, GlobalGiving will be matching all donations (up to $1,000 per donor, per project) at 30%. Global Giving has $100,000 available in matching funds

P.S. - please accept my apologies for not having reported on these events in a more timely manner, but it was for good reason - a long standing promise to my daughter to climb Mtn Kilimanjaro for her 16th birthday - and as you can see, the delay was in my reporting, not the work on the ground (refer to photo - we made it to the roof top of Africa!)

Digging Foundation
Digging Foundation
Delivery of supplies
Delivery of supplies
Delivery of supplies
Delivery of supplies
Mtn Kilimanjaro
Mtn Kilimanjaro

Painting, with flour, water, and food colour
Painting, with flour, water, and food colour

I am very happy to update you on two significant achievements since my April 13, 2011 report:

1st - Our project posting Building a Preschool in Rural Swaziland was successful in meeting Global Giving’s Open Challenge criteria, which means this project posting will remain open on Global Givings website until full project funding is secured (for those of you who are competitive, we came in 10th place out of 250 projects, putting us in the 96th Percentile - so compliments to you all for making that happen!).

2nd - Your donations amounting to $9,245.75 have already been transferred by Global Giving to Vusumnotfo, and a second installment of $291.25 is on its way!

Given that 72% of the project posting has now been donated, we feel confident enough to start the building process.

So what is next?  - Vusumnotfo will now be meeting with the Chief’s Inner Council and the Cetwayo Preschool Committee to confirm this good news and to start the steps in the construction process.

Already the following have been completed:

  • Land allocated by the Chief’s Inner Council
  • Building design approved by Swaziland Public Works Department
  • Community builder identified

We next will be formalizing an agreement with the community builder and start purchasing supplies.

Thanks to Mark Deziel for forwarding information on translucent roofing panels, as a way to improve light into the building design - we will run this idea past the relevant parties for their considerations.

In the meantime, Cetjwayo preschool teacher Nellie Mhlabane continues to attend monthly in-service training sessions at Vusumnotfo.  Activities carried out in these sessions build the skills of the community preschool teachers for greater teaching effectiveness (please refer to photos).

You may be picking up a few stories about Swaziland in the international press, mainly that government is struggling to meet civil service payroll.  Be assured this project will not be affected by as what little renumartion is provided to community preschool teachers comes from school fees paid by the children’s guardians, not from government payroll.

What this situation does highlight is the importance of a human resource development stratgy that starts from the ground up i.e.) community based efforts to strengthen the early childhood years. 

With many thanks for your donation -  it provides both practical and moral support!

Vusumnotfo library for preschool teachers
Vusumnotfo library for preschool teachers
Location of the Future Nkamanzi Community Preshool
Location of the Future Nkamanzi Community Preshool

Hello, my name is Kathy Gau, Director of Vusumnotfo. It has been a little over a week since the beginning of the challenge and I am thrilled to be seeing positive results. At this point I want to give an initial progress report from a visitor's point of view.

Claudia is a university professor from the US who is visiting Vusumnotfo for three weeks as part of her sabbatical to study sustainable development. Today she went to visit Cetjwayo Preschool at Nkamanzi..  
Claudia noted.....

"I met with the teacher and the little students at the current site where the children sit outside on wooden benches or on the ground and have no permanent structure. Their teacher is enthusiastic and it is evident that the children are being taught using all of the tools that she has available, as could be seen by the blackboard and their recitation in English. We then went to the proposed school site where I saw a pile of sand, stacks of cinder blocks, and some initial trenches for the foundation. The children played on the blocks and I could imagine the permanent structure and the work that the enthusiastic teacher could perform."

Claudia Bridges, PdD Associate Professor of Marketing, Sacramento State University

Some "Students" of the Nkamanzi Preschool
Some "Students" of the Nkamanzi Preschool
Nellie Mhlabane, the Preschool Teacher at Nkamanzi
Nellie Mhlabane, the Preschool Teacher at Nkamanzi

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Organization Information


Location: Piggs Peak - Swaziland
Project Leader:
kathy gau
Piggs Peak, Swaziland

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