Crit­i­cal process of pre­par­ing chil­dren to learn


IN AN at­tempt to im­prove chil­dren’s readi­ness for Grade R, a par­lia­men­tary panel has rec­om­mended the gov­ern­ment adopt com­mu­nity crèches and im­ple­ment stan­dard­ised cog­ni­tive de­vel­op­ment pro­grammes.

The panel’s re­port to the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion ad­vised that fi­nan­cial sup­port and ap­pro­pri­ate train­ing for Early Child­hood De­vel­op­ment (ECD) prac­ti­tion­ers be pro­vided.

Its aim was to as­sess key leg­is­la­tion and the ac­cel­er­a­tion of fun­da­men­tal change in the coun­try’s ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

Statis­tics South Africa had re­vealed that by the age of 5, al­most 90% of a child’s brain would be de­vel­oped.

How­ever, in re­cent years it was found that the ma­jor­ity of 5-year-olds were not ready for Grade R and could not cope in school.

Molly Goven­der, who opened a day­care cen­tre in Reser­voir Hills this year, af­ter work­ing with chil­dren for 13 years, said in­vest­ing in a child’s foun­da­tional years was crit­i­cal.

“The first five years are cru­cial to the de­vel­op­ment of so­cial skills, per­son­al­ity, cog­ni­tive think­ing, de­ci­sion-mak­ing, abil­ity to con­cen­trate and be­hav­iour.”

Sarah Bi-Amod, the owner of Friendly Bee’s Academy, a com­mu­nity crèche in Shall­cross, wel­comed the rec­om­men­da­tion.

She said the academy ac­com­mo­dated chil­dren from ages 1 to 6 and had qual­i­fied work­ers that fol­lowed a de­tailed pro­gramme to en­sure the pupils re­ceived in­di­vid­ual at­ten­tion.

“We start with break­fast fol­lowed by a morn­ing dis­cus­sion. We then com­mence our first les­son, which in­volves the de­vel­op­ment of mo­tor skills such as work­ing with play dough and build­ing blocks.”

Snack time fol­lows be­fore a work­sheet ac­tiv­ity on life skills.

She said it was vi­tal the chil­dren are able to count, paste, colour and iden­tify shapes be­fore en­ter­ing Grade R.

“Chil­dren at this age grasp the most knowl­edge, so it is im­por­tant to teach them as much as pos­si­ble, even a new lan­guage is pos­si­ble.”

The di­rec­tor of ECD at the Depart­ment of Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion (DBE), Marie-Louise Sa­muels, said they were look­ing at as­sist­ing the 1 500 reg­is­tered and un­reg­is­tered ECD cen­tres to ready chil­dren for Grade R.

“ECD is an in­ter-de­part­men­tal func­tion, and the DBE is presently try­ing to strengthen col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween depart­ments. We will con­sol­i­date mod­er­a­tion in or­der to be more ef­fi­cient.”

Sa­muels said the depart­ment would as­sist with cur­ricu­lum and prac­ti­tioner train­ing. “The DBE is re­spon­si­ble for cur­ricu­lum and train­ing, and the frame­work is avail­able in all lan­guages and Braille. The depart­ment trained prac­ti­tion­ers and has on­line train­ing that has been very suc­cess­ful. In a single year, they have reached 42 000 of these prac­ti­tion­ers.”

She said the DBE was pre­par­ing an as­sess­ment in Grade 1 to as­cer­tain the im­pact of the ECD ser­vices.

They were at­tempt­ing to bring align­ment be­tween the ECD cen­tres and the schools, but that it was not com­pul­sory.

Labby Ram­rathan, a pro­fes­sor at UKZN’s School of Ed­u­ca­tion, de­scribed the move as no­ble but said the ini­tia­tive did not look at the coun­try’s di­ver­sity.

“It works well for ur­ban com­mu­ni­ties but what about the outer-ly­ing, ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties where cost is a glar­ing fac­tor? Com­mu­nity crèches are of­ten used as day­cares and the cost is min­i­mal. When you in­tro­duce so­phis­ti­cated sys­tems to crèches, the costs will es­ca­late, caus­ing their busi­nesses to col­lapse.”

Ram­rathan said there was al­ready a cur­ricu­lum in place for chil­dren aged up to 5 years that he helped put to­gether.

He said it was avail­able on­line and as­sisted teach­ers with im­ple­ment­ing cog­ni­tive de­vel­op­ment.

Ram­rathan added that when a child reached Grade R, he/she should be able to speak in full sen­tences, recog­nise fig­ures and ob­jects, lis­ten to read­ing texts and make sense of it.

Mo­tor skills should also be formed, he said.

Ram­rathan ad­vised ECD teach­ers to be for­ward thinkers and to al­ways be on top of de­vel­op­ment.

“You can­not ex­pect the gov­ern­ment to take the re­spon­si­bil­ity for every­thing. Take the ini­tia­tive and try and do things on your own.”

The Depart­ment of So­cial De­vel­op­ment had not com­mented at the time of pub­li­ca­tion. we have had 30 at­tacks, some oc­cur­ring on a daily ba­sis.”

He said they wanted gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials to visit com­mu­ni­ties to ad­dress their con­cerns. Mpogeng hoped the cul­prits would be iden­ti­fied and pros­e­cuted.

“We have no-go zones in cer­tain ar­eas be­cause it is too dan­ger­ous and be­cause of this, peo­ple are be­ing de­prived of health care. Here we want the gov­ern­ment to pro­vide us with se­cu­rity, so we can help these peo­ple in need.”

But the Depart­ment of Health has con­demned the union, say­ing car­ry­ing guns will not solve the prob­lem.

The KZN Health MEC, Dr Si­bongiseni Dhlomo, con­demned the at­tacks while vis­it­ing a para­medic who was stabbed.

Dhlomo said it was wor­ry­ing that a health worker in full uni­form on duty was at­tacked by thugs.

“This is part of a so­cial ill. These peo­ple who at­tacked him must have been un­der the in­flu­ence of some­thing.”

Dhlomo added that if the paramedics are armed, there must be some sort of train­ing for these med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als.

Raveen Naidoo, the na­tional di­rec­tor of emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices and dis­as­ter man­age­ment at the Health Depart­ment, said they have taken steps to ad­dress the at­tacks on emer­gency per­son­nel.

The di­rec­tor of Gun Free South Africa, Adele Kirsten, said car­ry­ing guns could be to the detri­ment of paramedics.

“We know that arm­ing peo­ple in­creases the po­ten­tial for vi­o­lence. (A gun) is a good of­fen­sive weapon, which is why you would arm your po­lice force or mil­i­tary, but it’s not a good de­fen­sive weapon, so all the ev­i­dence shows that you in­crease your risk of be­ing in­jured or dy­ing.”

Na­tional po­lice spokesper­son Vish Naidoo said it was up to employers to de­cide whether paramedics should be al­lowed to carry firearms for pro­tec­tion.


LEFT: Para­medic Kim Ma­haraj, of Ac­cimed Re­sponse, at­tends to a pa­tient.

Ju­rani Lutchman and Par­vathi Gan­gaper­soon be­lieve the gov­ern­ment is fail­ing them.

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