The first three years of a child’s life is the time when their potential to develop emotionally, physically and cognitively is crucial. To this end, early childhood development is crucial in preparing them for school.
Early Childhood Development (ECD) can be defined as programmes, activities and experiences aimed at promoting the overall health and education of young
children – with the active participation of their caregivers and parents..
It refers to a child’s all-round development in the first 1000 days of his or her life and is what sets them up for further growth, success and confidence and equips them with necessary social skills into childhood and adulthood.
It is also a fundamental tool in decreasing social inequalities and poverty caused by adverse environments. And it guarantees of future peace, security and prosperity for the community at large.
During this time they develop rapidly on a physical, cognitive and emotional level and the quality of care and education they receive at this tender age can make all the difference in particular in their school-readiness.
The majority of parents in townships send their children to a crèche from an early age to allow them to return to work as soon as possible. Many such crèches don’t have formal accreditation and therefore teachers are, in many cases, babysitters rather than educators.
An article published by the Brookings Institute (a private non-profit US organisation devoted to independent research and innovative policy solutions) estimates that ECD is not a global priority and none of the developing countries have comprehensive programmes that reach all children.
Why is this?
Lack of government spending is one factor, but so too is cooperation between governments and donor or private institutions.
Another problem is huge knowledge gaps caused by a lack of awareness about the benefits of ECD among parents, teachers and policy makers.
How bad is the problem in SA?
It is estimated that around two thirds of South African children don’t have access to quality out-of-home facilities. That despite the fact that 73% of ECD-eligible children live within a 5km radius of an ECD centre.
The cost of about R15 per child per day is one of the main reasons parents don’t enroll them.
Local woman struggle to provide safe spaces, daily meals or educational input and many so-called crèches are poorly equipped. They mostly operate in temporal structures that are unsafe, poorly insulated and too small.
The basic lack of adequate structures is also of concern considering the shack fire crisis South Africa is facing.
This is especially the case in poor communities where it is arguably most needed but where there is a dire lack of information and money to pay for ECD programmes.
Who can help?
Many grassroots programmes have been initiated to fill the gap in ECD, but much more needs to be done.
Here are a few stars:
Afrika Tikkun that partner with the Government’s Department of Education to develop ECD services in SA’s poorest regions.
Matchbox Africa that work with communities to develop upgrade strategies for existing crèches.
Sikhula Sonke that works with communities and offers free ECD training and support to children.
Ajuga that supplies safe, fire-resistant structures (homes and crèches) that can be assembled in two days and have been fire tested to 1000 degrees C.
Finally, you can help. Visit any of the abovementioned charities and organisations helping to educate our young ones – your donation will help build a strong, vibrant, educated community of happy, prosperous South Africans.
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Afrikatikkun.org Early Childhood Education in South African Townships: Academics Accepting the Challenge to Empower Early Childhood DevelopmentPractitioners J.E. (Elsa) Fourie, Journal of Social Science, 36(1): 59-68 (2013); Matchbox Africa; Ajuga; Sikhula Konke; Brookings Institute
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