ECD programmes critical for the poor

2017-09-06 06:00

Research shows that learners with sufficient exposure to early childhood development (ECD) have proven to have better attainment levels and cognitive abilities and that the return on investment in ECD programmes can far exceed that of economic development projects.

Reality has also revealed how critical ECD programmes are for children, especially for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

This was highlighted by ByDesign Communications, who also revealed why Anglo American subsidiary Kumba Iron Ore has, since 2011, invested heavily in early childhood development (ECD) initiatives in the vast and infrastructure-poor John Taolo Gaetsewe District area.

Over 1 000 children are reported to have benefitted through the initiative through construction of 11 ECD centres.

Learners are reported to now effortlessly pass through to local primary schools with school readiness at Gr. 1 level through the community’s involvement.

Teaching Gr. 1 has also become a lot more comfortable, as it used to be exceptionally difficult before the advent of the ECD centres.

South Africa’s set target of achieving universal and equitable ECDs by 2030 was further touched on.

ECD, as the foundation phase in the education value chain, has been found to deliver lasting benefits, particularly to the poor and disadvantaged with minimal early education development resources.

A local principal, Nkareng Segano, commented on the initiative.

“We’re now able to recruit great ECD teachers and the difference in the learners’ behaviour is remarkable.”

The manager of public affairs at Kumba Iron Ore’s Sishen Mine, Humbulani Tshikalange, highlighted the challenge faced by children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

He said they are the initial ones more affected by lack of ECD programmes.

“Most of them do not even have a toy to call their own,” said Tshikalange.

“Through the ECD centres that we built and equipped, we’re seeing that the children are more school ready when they reach Gr. 1.”

The principal at Lareng School, Miriam Mathe, also elaborated about how the ECD facilities familiarise children to the formal school environment, associated discipline and structure.

“The children like coming to school, because we teach them skills in a fun way. Our model is interactive.

“The children learn by participating and engaging. When they go to Gr. 1, they’re more confident and, because they can read and write on a basic level, they’re better able to cope with the curriculum,” she added.

“With their small children at school during the day, pa­rents, and women in particular, can enjoy greater economic and social inclusion, as they’re more able to take up jobs instead of having to look after children at home.

“They are also more confident that their children will have a better future through their education.”

The teachers commented that learners with sufficient exposure to ECD have better attainment levels and cognitive abilities and that the return on investment in ECD programmes can far exceed that of economic development projects.

Many of South Africa’s education challenges that are marked as poor literacy and numeracy aptitude, as well as high attrition rates, are reported to being possibly attributed to limited-quality foundation-phase education.

“Just over a third (two million out of six million) of the children who are eligible for ECD enrolment have access to out-of-home early learning centres that offer quality educational programmes,” highlighted ByDesign Communications in a statement.

The company further pointed out that enrolment and access levels are acutely and undesirably lower for children in poor communities, where early education interventions are needed the most.

“The glaringly high levels of ECD under-enrolment are reportedly not a reflection of a shortage of facilities, but instead an indictment of policy failure.”

ByDesign Communications gave a reflection that there are as many ECD centres as there are ordinary public schools, and yet the former accommodate about two million children, while the latter caters for more than 12 million.

It further indicated that more than 4,8 million (73%) of ECD-eligible children live within a 5 km radius of an ECD centre, but parents opt to keep their children at home or delay enrolment at least until Gr. 1.

“This is in part due to the cost. The sector is almost entirely self-funded by school fees and donations that are inadequate to build and operate fit-for-purpose facilities, whose monthly fees per child can be as much as R350 – an insurmountable amount for parents living on the edge of poverty.”

Tshikalange said the 11 ECD centres that Kumba has provided are well-provisioned to cater for their needs and are also very affordable.

“We’re satisfied that our investment in education at this foundation level is in line with what the Department of Education aims to achieve. Our ECD centres set the tone for successful schooling for the Gr. R learners that we impact every year. We’re certainly seeing massive improvements in their overall perceptual and conceptual abilities and skills, motor development, and learning through movement.”


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