Giving children a head start

From left are Selina Peterson, Wilmot Arendse and Zurayda Abbas with Lily Geerdts of HeadStart Kids and City of Cape Town councillor Patricia Francke. PHOTO: luvuyo mjekula
From left are Selina Peterson, Wilmot Arendse and Zurayda Abbas with Lily Geerdts of HeadStart Kids and City of Cape Town councillor Patricia Francke. PHOTO: luvuyo mjekula

More than 3000 preschoolers across Cape Town are set to benefit from an educational project that saw R250 000 worth of Lego donated to the City of Cape Town’s Early Child Development (ECD) centres recently.

Lego is a construction toy consisting of plastic bricks and other standardised components that fit together with studs.

The toys are useful in education through play, according to educators.

“These boxes of Lego are more than just for the children to play with. We believe that in order to give kids a physical wellbeing, moving them correctly to enable them to relax and concentrate, will enable them to get a head start before school-going age,” says Lily Geerdts of HeadStart Kids.

HeadStart Kids is a Johannesburg non-profit organisation that champions effective early childhood development.

HeadStart Kids made the donation in partnership with Care for Education, which provided a “massive” donation of more than 100 boxes of Lego.

HeadStart Kids is one of 50 charities that used the recent Sanlam Cape Town Marathon as a platform to raise funds and awareness­.

Geerdts says they decided to also give back to Cape Town. “It’s all good and well to raise money but we felt we needed to make an impact here by giving back.”

A handover ceremony was held at the Shelley Street ECD Centre in Salt River on Wednesday 26 September with a number of ECD practitioners from various centres in attendance.

A total of 33 ECD centres from areas including Manenberg, Bonteheuwel, Khayelitsha, Diep River, Heideveld, Ocean View, Ottery, Nyanga and Mitchell’s Plain will each receive three boxes of Lego.

Geerdts says all the Lego will be distributed by the end of November.

She explains the practitioners will receive training. “The vital teacher training to teach the Lego learning system, known as Serious Play, is scheduled to follow in November,” says Geerdts.

She adds: “Collaboration with loyal partners such as these gives our South Africa children a head start.”

The non-profit organisation which is a registered Section 18a company, was formed in October 2015 and receives its funding from various sectors – business, organisational and private – as well as donations in kind.

“We are passionate about giving children in our country a genuine head start,” it says in a statement.

The organisation provides preschool children (three to five years old) of low-income families with a comprehensive ECD programme to meet their emotional, social, health, physical, nutritional and psychological needs.

Meanwhile, staff at the Shelley Street centre welcomed the donation.

“It’s such a beautiful initiative. We are looking forward to the training,” says principal, Zurayda Abbas.

She says the practitioners are enthusiastic about the new concept of Lego.

The centre currently accommodates 28 learners, aged between two and 12.

The older age group – six to about 12 – attends aftercare classes, Abbas explains.

Two teachers and the principal provide education to the children every day of the week.

City ECD official Wilmot Arendse says: “It’s a good boost for the children, helping them to play and improve their numeracy and literacy skills.”

Wilmot says children need support in the foundation phase in order to build teenagers and adults with a solid foundation.

City councillor Patricia Francke encouraged practitioners to prioritise children’s safety at the centres.

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