August marks the Centre for Early Childhood Development’s (CECD) 25th year of putting young children first.On Thursday 1 August, CECD staff members, funders and friends came together to celebrate this huge achievement at the Tuscany Garden’s (Cathkin Caterers) in Rylands, Athlone.About 140 guests were treated to welcome drinks on arrival, followed by a three-course dinner. A lively performance by a steel band made up of a group of high school learners from the Cape Flats kicked off the evening’s festivities. The steel band is one of 16 taught by The Steelband Project Western Cape. The project’s core focus is to provide quality music education to young people, with a particular focus on youth in under-resourced communities and “youth-at-risk”. Adding a touch of glitz and glamour to proceedings was Jimmy Nevis who wowed guests with five songs X “7764”, ”Heartboxing”, “All About It”, “Ballin” and “Happy Birthday”. Najwah Mukadam of CECD says guests were in awe and people danced, sang and took cellphone video recordings of him. Each guest also received a cupcake from the birthday cake and a copy of the CECD’s latest publication Untold Stories: Memories of Growing Up in a Different Era.CECD staff member Chanel Fredericks, who is the outreach programme manager for the Cape Town Museum of Childhood, was the master of ceremonies.Founder and director, Professor Eric Atmore, spoke about the organisation’s key milestones. “Our organisation has grown tremendously over the years, in both our staff numbers and range of ECD programmes and services. “We are eternally grateful for the support of our funders and stakeholders and we would like to thank everyone for playing a part in our journey over the past 25 years. We anticipate another 25 years and more of putting young children first.”Remarking on the state of ECD in the country at present, Atmore said: “The national integrated ECD policy, approved by the cabinet in December 2015, is excellent. It is comprehensive and integrated. However, the political will to drive it is missing as is the funding for implementation.” The organisation urges the government to politically drive child rights and ECD programmes and quality. Until this is done, CECD believes that young children will not thrive and South Africa’s poor record of caring for children will continue.Guests at the event thoroughly enjoyed themselves and were full of praise.“What an amazing celebration last night – a well-organised event with so many lovely touches. We are looking forward to reading our gift book,” said David Gore, the director of the College of Magic. Tughfa Hamdulay, director: ECD and partial care, congratulated the organisation on the great work that it has done, and continues to do, for the past 25 years. “Many of it being highly innovative and groundbreaking. A well-organised event that was streamlined, with a short and sharp programme… and Jimmy Nevis … what more can I say.”CECD offers a range of national ECD programmes and services, including an integrated ECD programme that focuses on the growth and development of ECD centres through mentoring, coaching and providing support to governing bodies, principals and staff members to improve their services to young children. Some of its milestones include: . In 1995, it received its very first donation of R10 000; . In 1996, it developed the first (and only) ECD leadership and management programme on the African continent; . In 1997, it was awarded the first ECD tender to pilot Grade R programme training, for the Northern Cape, and subsequently in Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Western Cape. . In 1998, it was awarded the Presidential Award for Education Excellence; . In 2000, CECD was the Nationwide ECD Audit Study tender, where 23 482 ECD centres were located; . In 2003, it started its first ECD centre infrastructure upgrade programme. . In 2010, a world-class ECD centre in Philadelphia, for 80 children was built. Since then, the organisation has erected numerous ECD centres and conducted minor upgrades of many existing facilities.