The Centre for Early Childhood Development (CECD) is a non-profit organisation in Claremont that provides training, support and advice in the field of early childhood development (ECD). This organisation believes young children must be put first in society and that is why they do the work they do to ensure that happens.The focus of their work is on improving the education and care for children from disadvantaged communities by improving ECD services in South Africa. Their work is primarily done in the Western Cape but they also work across South Africa with a national footprint in all nine provinces.CECD offers an integrated early childhood development 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. “We offer a package of support to ECD centres based on their needs. The aim is to ensure ECD centre sustainability and that young children receive holistic early learning and care. This approach to working with ECD centres includes the following elements: management and supervisor training, governing body training, teacher training, on-site support for teachers and management, parent education, infrastructure upgrades, provision of education equipment, and assistance with registration and subsidisation. On an annual basis, we work with around 300 ECD centres across the country,” says Western Cape operations manager, Jessica Blom.The centre’s director Professor Eric Atmore says early childhood development is critically important in the development of all children, especially for vulnerable young children. “Young children who attend a quality early learning programme perform better at formal school, are less likely to need expensive remedial education, are less likely to get caught up in crime and substance abuse, are more likely to get a job as an adult and for young girls, are less likely to become pregnant whilst a teenager. “These are significant social, education and economic benefits for families and society,” he says.According to Atmore, parents can offer quality early learning opportunities within the family at home by reading with their children and simply by talking with and playing with them. “Play is the means through which young children grow and thrive. If the parents work, then enrolling the child in a quality early childhood development centre is advised,” he says.When asked by People’s Post if South Africa is on the right path when it comes to early childhood development, Atmore, says the National Integrated Early Childhood Development 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. Public officials in most provinces do not have the skills or capacity to deliver on the policy. The result has been that little implementation has happened and the quality of the majority of ECD centres and programmes is poor.“We need government to politically drive child rights and early childhood development programmes and quality. Until this is done, young children will not thrive and South Africa’s poor record of caring for children will continue,” says Atmore.For more information on Centre for Early Childhood Development call 021 683 2420 or visit www.cecd.org.za or find them on Facebook: Centre for Early Childhood Development.