By Samuel Malasa Banda
The After-School Program is Cornerstone’s flagship program that has given birth to other programs at the ministry. Introduced in 2012, the After-School program provides supplementary education to pupils between the ages of 7 and 15, who are in Standard 4 up to 7 in the afternoon. Normally, public primary school learners leave school at 2pm, so the ASP starts at around 3 pm.
Most public schools in Malawi have a high enrollment reaching a maximum of 150 learners per classroom, and the learner-teacher ratio is very high making it hard for most of the kids to understand the concepts they are taught. With that in mind, the Cornerstone ASP serves to help the kids — free of charge — to excel academically.
Further, many Malawian families cannot afford to have 3 meals a day. This means that most of the kids do not eat breakfast and lunch and only eat supper. Therefore, many are not able to concentrate in class. To address this issue, kids at the After-School program are given snacks, and where funds permit, they are served a complete meal.
From Monday to Thursday, the program serves between 200 and 250 kids who come from seven public schools that surround the Cornerstone impact area.
Additional to the After-School program, during school holidays, Cornerstone runs a Summer Camp program where kids come in the morning from 7 am up to noon. The program’s objective is to engage learners in Christian, academic and athletic activities during the holiday. Among the activities that happen at the summer camp program are life skills, music lessons, athletics, arts and crafts, and Bible lessons. The Summer Camp program is usually attended by over 350 kids.
The strength of both the After-School and Summer Camp programs is that they are inclusive. The programs incorporate physically-challenged and marginalized kids and accept kids from all religious backgrounds knowing that Cornerstone will teach them the Word of God.
In our quest to give a Christian foundation to the kids, one of the challenges has been physical space to conduct our programs. Since 2012, Cornerstone has been operating from rented premises which are costly and unsustainable. Therefore, it is the vision of the ministry to have its own premises where kids can come to learn to grow in wisdom, stature and favor with God and men just like Christ did.
The provision of meals for students has attracted many kids into the program, as they know they will get their stomachs filled while at the same time getting an education and learning the Word of God. When there is a lack of funds to provide meals to the kids, it hampers the attendance of the program. Cornerstone wishes to continue being a safe haven for needy and hungry kids where they will have their hopes and dreams renewed.