Giv­ing chil­dren a head start

Vuk'uzenzele - - Education - Hlengiwe Ngob­ese

Im­prov­ing chil­dren's ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion was close to OR Tambo's heart. He be­lieved that chil­dren should be given the skills they need to pre­pare them for a fu­ture with dig­nity.This year South Africa marks the cen­te­nary cel­e­bra­tion of the birth of OR Tambo. Tambo was pas­sion­ate about ed­u­ca­tion. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing with a BSc de­gree in Physics and Maths, Tambo spent 10 years work­ing as a Maths teacher at St Peter's Sec­ondary School in Jan­nes­burg. Those that were taught by Tambo de­scribe him as an in­spi­ra­tion to other ed­u­ca­tors and a teacher who had a distinc­tive im­pact on his learn­ers.

Gov­ern­ment has stepped up in­ter­ven­tions to en­sure that all young chil­dren, in­clud­ing those in deep ru­ral ar­eas, are en­rolled at Early Child­hood De­vel­op­ment (ECD) cen­tres coun­try­wide.

ECD plays an im­por­tant role in en­sur­ing that chil­dren reach their po­ten­tial. The Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plan (NDP), which is gov­ern­ment’s plan for deal­ing a blow to the triple chal­lenge of poverty, unem­ploy­ment and in­equal­ity by 2030 calls for a strong ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem span­ning early child­hood de­vel­op­ment, pri­mary, sec­ondary, ter­tiary and fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion. This is cru­cial for ad­dress­ing poverty and in­equal­ity.

The Ikusasalethu ECD in KwaNon­goma, KwaZulu-Natal, was opened re­cently. It will en­sure that chil­dren from the area have ac­cess to qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion from an early age.

The state-of-the-art cen­tre has room for 30 chil­dren. It boasts class­rooms, a kitchen, din­ing room and toi­let fa­cil­i­ties, among oth­ers. When Min­is­ter of So­cial De­vel­op­ment Batha­bile Dlamini launched the cen­tre she said ac­cess to ECD cen­tres is no longer a priv­i­lege but a pri­or­ity.

“By at­tend­ing ECD cen­tres, these chil­dren will have a life­time op­por­tu­nity of re­ceiv­ing a good foun­da­tion in their lives and make them bet­ter cit­i­zens with po­ten­tial of mov­ing South Africa for­ward”.

The Min­is­ter ex­plained that ECD cen­tres are im­por­tant tools that en­able gov­ern­ment to pro­vide qual­ity ba­sic ser­vices such as nu­tri­tious food, and qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion to chil­dren dur­ing the foun­da­tion phase of their ed­u­ca­tion.

“Chil­dren who at­tend ECD cen­tres are pro­tected from var­i­ous so­cial ills in­clud­ing rape, child abuse, child traf­fick­ing, child ne­glect and ex­ploita­tion,” said Min­is­ter Dlamini.

Over 800 000 chil­dren ac­cess ECD ser­vices. Of this num­ber, more than 500 000 chil­dren re­ceive a sub­sidy of R15 a day for 264 days a year.

The Min­is­ter said over the Medium-Term Ex­pen­di­ture Frame­work (MTEF) pe­riod, a con­di­tional grant to the value of R812 mil­lion has been al­lo­cated for the ex­pan­sion of ECD ser­vices, fo­cus­ing on ru­ral and in­for­mal set­tle­ments. The al­lo­ca­tion for the cur­rent fi­nan­cial year is more than R317 mil­lion.

“In ad­di­tion, gov­ern­ment pays child sup­port grants to over 12 mil­lion chil­dren be­tween 0 and 18 years.” Most of these chil­dren are from KwaZulu-Natal.

The Min­is­ter en­cour­aged ECDs to reg­is­ter with gov­ern­ment so they can gain ac­cess to gov­ern­ment ser­vices in­clud­ing so­cial se­cu­rity, sub­si­dies and over­all so­cial pro­tec­tion ser­vices. One of the care­givers at the Ikusasalethu ECD Nokuthula Sha­bal­ala is proud to be work­ing at the cen­tre. I am urg­ing other teach­ers to bet­ter them­selves by gain­ing ECD qual­i­fi­ca­tion. This will im­prove the lives of the chil­dren they teach and also help them to open their own ECDs,” she said.

In De­cem­ber 2015 Cab­i­net ap­proved the Na­tional In­te­grated Early Child­hood De­vel­op­ment Pol­icy. “It is through this pol­icy that gov­ern­ment re-com­mits it­self to the pro­vi­sion of ac­cess to qual­ity early stim­u­la­tion, ed­u­ca­tion and care for all the chil­dren, es­pe­cially, chil­dren in poor com­mu­ni­ties. The pol­icy is a step to­wards en­sur­ing that ev­ery child, ir­re­spec­tive of their fam­ily back­ground and liv­ing con­di­tions, is given a bet­ter start through in­vest­ment in the early years as clearly pro­jected in Vi­sion 2030 of the NDP,” said the Min­is­ter.

AS PArT Of GOv­ErN­mENT’S com­mit­ment to give chil­dren ac­cess to early child­hood de­vel­op­ment (ECD), the KwaZulu-Natal De­part­ment of So­cial De­vel­op­ment is in­creas­ing the num­ber of ECDs.

Early child­hood de­vel­op­ment plays an im­por­tant role in the lives of chil­dren and en­sures that they reach their po­ten­tial.

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