By Isaac Kambwiri:
The Director for Education at Ntchisi District Council Ronnex Banda says the rolling out of the school playing materials project by Alliance One Tobacco in some of the primary schools in the district has increased the enrollment of pupils by a considerable percentage.
Banda made the remarks during a monitoring visit which officials from Alliance One did to the some of the schools which are implementing this program in Ntchisi and Dowa last Thursday.
Through the Chess Association of Malawi (Chessam), Alliance One Tobacco in collaboration with its sister company, Pyxus Agriculture Limited is sponsoring the ‘After School Chess Playing Program’ in some selected primary schools in the central region districts of Dowa, Ntchisi, Kasungu and Mchinji with an aim of fighting child labour in tobacco growing areas.
According to Banda, enrollment of pupils has increased in both schools where Alliance One Tobacco donated several in-doors and out-doors playing materials including footballs and chess playing boards as most children are being attracted by these sporting materials.
The DEM cited Makanda Primary school based in Traditional Authority Chilowoko where he said its enrollment rose from 1,800 last year to 2,635 during this school calendar attributing the increase due to the availability of the sporting materials especially that of Chess and football.
“Sport plays an important role in creating a proper learning environment of children as it helps to simulate their abilities to perform better in class considering that a child’s brain normally needs balancing between the usual class activities and other body stimulating activities such as sports,” said Banda.
Banda therefore commended Alliance One for sponsoring the school Chess playing clubs in some of the district’s primary schools which he said would help to effectively promote this sporting discipline in the rural areas of the country.
Head Teacher for Chunzu Primary school based in Traditional Authority Mkukula in Dowa District, Christopher Manda also collaborated with Banda’s sentiments, saying the introduction of a Chess playing club as well as the donation of other sporting materials has increased the enrolment of pupils at his school from 1,300 during the last academic calendar to about 1,600 during this school term, a development he says is also reducing issues of child labour in the surrounding areas.
“Since these sporting initiatives were introduced at this school, the number of drop outs has decreased tremendously as many kids are now being attracted with these sporting materials such as Chess hence they keep on coming to school,” said Manda.
Speaking a couple of months ago, during the Chess’s financial sponsorship in Lilongwe, Alliance One Tobacco Malawi Limited Managing Director Simon Peverelle said his company in collaboration with Pyxus Agriculture decided to increase sponsorship of the project to K6 million as Chess has a great potential of helping kids to do better in class through improved concentration and decision making.
“We decided to support Chessam because our aim is to reduce the probability of children being involved in child labour especially in tobacco production after school hours. We therefore believe that playing chess after their classes will not only improve their skills of the game, but also improve their problem solving prowess, critical thinking as well as decision making in their daily life,” said Peverelle.
Apart from Makanda and Chunzu primary schools, Alliance One with technical support from Chessam has also introduced Chess playing clubs at Mthawira, Chiundira, Kambuyana, Manondo and Chiputu primary schools based in Dowa, Kasungu, Ntchisi and Lilongwe rural among others.