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Trevor Noah Foundation praises Malawian artist

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MLIA SHERIFF —I am open to more partnerships

Renowned comedian Trevor Noah’s foundation has heaped praise on the country’s artist and educator Vera Mlia Sheriff, who is set to use her grant to develop the Toon Notebook.

The foundation said on its page that the Toon Notebook, inspired by 3D gaming and cartoons, is a captivating, fun, and culturally relatable learning material for Early Childhood Development (ECD) education. Covid-19 has disrupted import activity into Malawi, creating challenges in publishing the book.

However, Vera has innovatively spent the past few months designing and creating low-cost ECD toys for children in her community. Her new community ECD Toy Library will complement her Toon Notebook when published,” reads the statement.

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Mlia Sheriff, who is into music and visual arts, said yesterday the move stems from her being part of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) 2020.

“This was the first cohort of education change makers sponsored by Yali and Trevor Noah Foundation in Midrand, South Africa, from February to March 6,” Mlia Sheriff said.

She said that while there, she learnt that they were going to design any project of their choice, perfect it and then pitch it to funders.

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“The best pitches would be adopted and funded, and so it was a battle 42 of us for 10 slots and by God’s grace, my project was picked and became one of Trevor’s favourite. There is actually a video which I shared while there and he mentioned it,” Mlia Sheriff said.

She said when they returned, they continued grilling the projects and that they were now finalizing the paperwork for the funds to arrive.

“I chose to pitch a project that I have been personally building over the years with a friend and partner Patience Khembo, founder of Ladder to Learning. It is based on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target Two which looks at equal access to quality pre-primary education,” the artist said.

She said she has always felt that local children do not get the right preparation for Standard One as their counterparts from well-to-do families hence her efforts to improve early childhood development with local games and cartoons.

Last year, Mlia Sheriff travelled to Egypt where she flew the country’s flag at the Oscar of African Creativity Award having submitted her artwork titled ‘Beauty and the Seven Bandits’.

“I am open to more partnerships as there is a lot of work on the ground as regards home-learning for these foundational stages. If we lose these children at this stage, we will have a terrible time shaping their educational future and it can spell disaster if ignored,” she said.

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