Building a Preschool in Rural Swaziland

by Vusumnotfo
Jul 30, 2012

Progress Report 8 - July 18, 2012

Swings to come
Swings to come

Frustrating realities - since posting report #7 on March 26, it seems that I have mainly been dealing with “frustrating realities”, including:

1                  The Preschool teacher, Nellie Mhlabane’s husband died - which aside from the personal trauma involved, in Swaziland traditionally involves a period of mourning (kufukama - during which time the widow must stay within her home for 1 month), followed by a period of mourning (kuzila - during which time she wears black and is restricted in her interaction with the public; although kuzila can be for up to two years - as determined by her husband’s family - over the past decade the average time period seems to be gradually shortening and now is about 6 months; as is the level of interaction that the widow is allowed with the public during the mourning period). 

Out of respect for these traditions, we have only worked on the fringes of the outstanding construction activities. Fortunately, at the start of the year Nellie had arranged for Tondzile Mdluli, a young lady with an interest in children, to help her out, so the preschool has remained operational.

2)                  National strikes - the entire teaching service, and now it appears the entire government civil service, are on strike for reasons linked to “national issues” - for details, please refer to The Times of Swaziland /

Although this affects everything - as preschool age children tend to walk to the preschool with the older children who are on their way to the primary schools - I have been impressed that most of the 53 community preschool teachers who are registered for monthly in-service training with Vusumnotfo are keeping the preschools operating. I believe this is due to the teacher’s dedication and the value that parents are seeing for their children attending preschool.

Project Results - within these frustrations, the following results have been achieved at community level -

  • Cement blocks for toilet  - the community has now finished molding blocks from all of the 15 bags of cement that we left with them in December
  • Pit latrine construction - the pit has been dug and the Public Health Inspector has inspected that it meets the necessary requirements (3M deep x 1.2 M wide x 1.2 M long) - it always humbles me how these pits are dug by hand
  • Cetjwayo Preschool has remained operational and enrolment is now at 38 children
  • Several community members have been taken to Vusweni Preschool to see the type of swings that we will be constructing at Cetjwayo
  • The supply list and current costings for the outstanding construction activities (pit latrine, playground, rainwater catchment, fencing, and landscaping) are ready to roll

Added value - although not directly funded by your donations, this project posting has added value to all activities within Vusumnotfo early childhood programme, and vice versa.

Pencil Project - - has directed several shipments of pencils collected by various youth groups to Vusumnotfo for use in the community preschools.  The Pencil Project was started by Maria Vick, who contacted Vusumnotfo after coming across us on Global Giving   - “my mother was a Biology teacher in Swaziland in the early 70’s and I was raised there from 18 months until almost 4 years old. I remember a good deal about it and also visited again when I was 6 and 13. I have always stayed connected to the nuns that raised me and Swaziland has such a special place in my heart”.

Training of Peace Corp volunteers and their community counterparts - in May, Swaziland Peace Corps contracted Vusumnotfo to share community based preschool activities with volunteers and their counterparts.  What I particularly appreciated is that this gave me an opportunity to bring in the services of 4 of the community preschool teachers who have been attending Vusumnotfo in-service training  - their confidence demonstrating activities and answering questions was tangible!

Vusumnotfo was successful to obtain funding from OSISA for the continuation and further development of its community preschool teacher and parenting training activities - this funding allows community pre-school teachers to continue strengthening the quality of teaching that their young children receive (an overview of the grant’s problem statement / goals / objectives / activities is attached).

Vusumnotfo would like to extend a special thanks to Paisley Blank who during her two years in Swaziland was generous in sharing her experience’s with Teach for America’s, whose methodology we have since contextualized and incorporated into project activities.

So what is next?  -

  • Construction of Pit Toilet - everything is good to go, pending mourning issues.
  • Playground - everything is good to go, pending mourning issues.
  • Rainwater catchment tank - everything is good to go, pending mourning issues.
  • Fencing and landscaping - indigenous live fencing material is being propogated in Vusumnotfo nursery for planting out after rains, community youth in process of digging holes for barrier fence (3 strands barb wire) that will protect live fence until it grows to strength. 

As for me - despite 28 years at community level in rural Swaziland  - to remind myself that "what takes a day in USA takes a week in Africa, what takes a week in USA takes a month in Africa, what takes a month in USA takes 1 year in Africa" - for reasons that you have no control over (see attached “25 tips for Peace Corps Volunteers that a friend and I wrote some years back - I seems that I still need to be reminded of these realities).

With many thanks for your donations - which makes possible  these “slow but steady” positive results …. in addition to providing much needed moral support. 

P.S) I am also (still) preparing another project posting - Building Preschools in Swaziland (sorry about that, not very creative!) - this posting will be an annual posting, in support of finishing off / rehabilitation / new preschool buildings, linked to Vusumnotfo’s in-service training for community preschool teachers.

As an ongoing posting, it will provide a framework of support for preschools  - with progress being determined by completion of “community readiness indicators” set by Vusumnotfo. 

This format reduces the variables of “maybe” support, thereby allowing communities to concentrate their efforts on achieving the necessary indicators - i.e. the “don’t give up / don’t give in” dynamics that are conducive to sustainable development. 

In the meantime, I have increased the project budget of this posting to $21,000 - as this keeps the system open while I am preparing the second project posting.  Upon completion of Cetjwayo activities, any funds left over will be transferred to this next project posting - same intended use / different preschool.

Pencil Project
Pencil Project
Clever use of dried up pens (counting / colours)
Clever use of dried up pens (counting / colours)


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Organization Information


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

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