Education - nation’s life-blood

2015-09-30 06:00
PHOTO: supplied

‘Thandanani children’ with building blocks.

PHOTO: supplied ‘Thandanani children’ with building blocks.

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WHEN one considers that almost 80% of a child’s brain potential is achieved by the age of four, one realises that early childhood is a fundamentally important time for children. It is the child’s early experiences and relationships that literally shape the brain and how that child will learn and grow.

Children who are actively engaged and who experience nurturing relationships from a young age are more likely to develop to their full capacity while those who are under-stimulated, under-nourished or neglected are more likely to experience developmental challenges. Unfortunately, poverty negatively impacts on advancement with children from impoverished environments displaying higher levels of malnourishment; underdevelopment and even mortality.

It is also well known that completing schooling significantly impacts on the longer term economic prospects and well-being of an individual. According to Statistics South Africa’s 2014 report titled “Poverty Trends in South Africa”, in 2011, two-thirds of those who had no education were living in poverty.

This decreased to 60% for those who had some primary, and 55% for those who had completed primary school. The level dropped to 44% for those who had some secondary schooling, and dropped even further to 23.6% for those who had completed matric.

Of concern is the fact that while 99% of children in South Africa, aged seven to 13, are reported to be attending school, the attendance rate begins to drop from age 14 onwards and decreases steeply from age 16 onwards. In 2012, 290 000 children of school-going age were reported not to be attending school.

Once again, poverty plays a role in school drop-out rates. When families are unable to provide the basic needs of their children, or when children are rendered vulnerable by the loss of one or more of their parents or a similar trauma, the risk of children dropping out of school significantly increases.

This is why Thandanani Children’s Foundation, a local non-profit organisation that works to strengthen families caring for orphaned and other vulnerable children, places significant emphasis on schooling and education in the work that they do.

Apart from assisting impoverished families with fee remission applications, school uniforms, attendance and performance-monitoring and bursaries, it is also introducing a home-based early childhood development (ECD) programme for caregivers of children under five who they work with.

In partnership with other local organisations, including The Caversham Education Institute, Siphakema, Dlalanathi andamp; Singakwenza, Thandanani is capacitating its staff and fieldworkers to run ECD groups in communities which will provide caregivers of young children with basic knowledge and skills that will enable them to make toys from waste and intentionally engage the young children in their care in “play with a purpose” - play that has a developmental and relationship-building purpose while still being fun.

In this way Thandanani and partners aim to positively impact on the well-being and development of children in the critical early stages of their development by creating an understanding of the importance of stimulation in early childhood and a culture of intentional engagement of their children by caregivers.

To find out more about the work that Thandanani does in strengthening families caring for orphaned and vulnerable children, visit www.than

To support its work, visit

- Supplied

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