CHITETA, Malawi, 4 October 2010 -- Every weekday morning, Leviticus, 5, wakes his mother early. He is eager to get to the community-based childcare centre, a red brick building in eastern Malawi's Chiteta village and a 2 km walk from Leviticus' home.
During the week, the hall is turned into a preschool for more than 100 three- to five-year-olds. The informal centre -- which is operated entirely by community volunteers -- offers early learning and provides many children with the only nutritious meal they'll have for the day.
Chiteta's community-based childcare centre offers what parents and education authorities hope will make a game-changing difference in Malawi's educational goals.
The community-based childcare centre in Chiteta is one of around 6,000 centres providing much-needed preparation for tens of thousands of children across Malawi. As approximately 1.1 million children under the age of 18 are orphaned across the country, support for early childhood learning is essential.
And strides are being made daily.
"There is still a big gap, but what we are seeing is that communities themselves are mobilizing," said Chief of Child Protection at UNICEF Malawi Bruce Grant. "Each year hundreds of new centres are opening," he added.