How MCT promotes relevance of early mother’s milk for newborns

TANZANIA: THE first three to five days after a baby’s delivery are crucial for the newborn, as experts emphasise that the mother’s milk produced during this period is rich in essential nutrients that are vital for the baby’s development.

Unfortunately, in some rural areas, ignorance prevails regarding the significance of this early milk.

There are misconceptions among parents who consider the milk dirty and unsuitable for their babies, leading them to feed the newborns with porridge instead until they are convinced of the cleanliness of the mother’s milk.

Speaking at the recent Montessori Community of Tanzania (MCT) general annual meeting, Ms Margareth Cyprian, the Nutritionist for Amani Girls Organisation, highlighted the organisation’s health and nutrition programmes conducted in collaboration with health experts.

These programmes, including the ongoing ‘Mapema Education Scheme’ from 2019 to 2024, focus on promoting baby and mother health, ensuring adequate nutrition during pregnancy, encouraging responsive parenting, and prioritising child safety and protection in the Lake Zone, particularly the Mwanza region.

“We came across this through our health and nutrition programmes we run in collaboration with other health experts,” said, Ms Cyprian, during the recent MCT general annual meeting.

The organization, in collaboration with partners, including MCT, has been running what is called ‘Growth and Early Child Development’ programs in Lake Zone, particularly the Mwanza region, through various projects, including the ongoing (2019–2024) ‘Mapema Education Scheme’.

Through these initiatives, the organization aims to enhance access to health services at the community level, providing training to Community Health Workers (CHWs) and organizing ‘Village Health and Nutrition Days’ to promote better nutrition practices within society.

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However, challenges such as low male participation due to entrenched patriarchal beliefs and misconceptions persist, hindering progress.

Ms. Cyprian also shed light on outdated beliefs in certain parts of Mwanza, such as pregnant women being prohibited from consuming nutritious foods like eggs, fearing it would lead to complicated childbirth procedures.

Additionally, efforts are made to encourage early clinic attendance for pregnant women and their husbands, including HIV testing and counseling on precautionary measures for virus transmission.

“In the case of transmissions, counseling comes in on how the couple should precautionary go for sexual intercourse while adhering to virus-suppressing drugs,” affirmed Ms Crprian, who also doubles as Head of the Integrated Early Childhood Development Department in her organization.

Under the ‘Mapema Education Scheme,’ the organization has supported the construction of pre-primary classrooms and Early Child Development (ECD) centers in both public and private schools.

Additionally, female entrepreneurs are financially empowered, with a portion of their profits allocated to school feeding programs to ensure children receive adequate nutrition during the school day.

Through the project, said MCT Director, Ms Sarah Kiteleja, the little ones will be well attended through a Montessori approach that prioritises the child’s eligibility.

The project will take off at any time after a Memorandum of Understanding is signed between MCT and the government, affirmed the director, adding that: “We have already submitted the document to the government, waiting for a response. The project will also involve in-office capacitybuilding training for teachers to make sure that the babies get what they deserve,” she said.

Furthermore, at the Montessori annual meeting, a fiveyear ‘Challenge Fund’ project was launched to rehabilitate and construct 500 ECDs in public and private schools nationwide, with funding not exceeding $50,000 per center under the sponsorship of the Arthur Waser Foundation.

“This is completely wrong. Parents must fully support the feeding. Children do usually have long trips to school, putting nothing in their stomachs throughout the day. They can do nothing in class rather than sleep,” she insisted.

This project, set to commence upon signing a Memorandum of Understanding between MCT and the government, aims to provide quality education through a Montessori approach tailored to meet the children’s needs.

Mr Abdul Maulid, Director for Primary Education in the Ministry, emphasized the importance of parental support for school feeding programs, emphasizing that children’s concentration in class is affected when they go without food.

He clarified that while education is provided free of charge, it is essential for parents to contribute to school feeding initiatives to ensure children receive proper nutrition throughout the school day.

According to him, the findings show that a child loses concentration in class when the stomach remains empty, calling for public support given the fact that nutrition fueling is a cross-cutting issue at the family level.

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“It is true that people misinterpret a free education initiative. Parents must bring food for their children to school,” said the director.

In conclusion, the combined efforts of organizations like Amani Girls Organization, Montessori Community of Tanzania, and governmental collaborations seek to address nutritional challenges and improve early childhood development for a brighter future.

The Montessori Community of Tanzania (MCT) has a rich history that dates back to its establishment in 1997 as the Montessori Training Association of Tanzania, registered as a society under the Tanzania Societies Ordinance of 1954.

Throughout its existence spanning 26 years, MCT has been a dedicated advocate for the Montessori Pedagogy of education. its primary focus has been on nurturing children’s natural growth,

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