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Early Childhood Education in South Africa

Investment in infrastructure, access to markets, modern commodities and acquisition of knowledge are important steps. But for children in particular, investment in early learning helps to develop confidence and plant a seed of a brighter future in their lives.

The most critical time for a person’s development are between the ages of one and six years-old. This is important as it is when a child needs good nutrition, brain development, parental nurturing and love. To optimize this time is the most cost effective way to ensure better life opportunities for children’s future so they can become successful citizens and make meaningful contributions to society.

The purpose of Early Childhood Education within Humana People to People is to prevent poor children in becoming poor adults. Breaking the cycle of poverty takes many concerted efforts and the fact applies for South Africa. Pockets of South Africa’s urban and rural population are in need of access to quality and affordable early childhood education.

While South Africa battles child poverty, inadequate child healthcare and nutrition and low-quality education services, it has become important for Humana People to People to join hands with communities to address the educational needs of young children.

Despite the provision of public and private preschool education having been increased over the years in South Africa, according to UNICEF only 43% of children under 5 years-old still do not attend preschool.

As a direct response to improve access to quality preschool education in the country, Humana People to People in South Africa has developed a preschool teacher training curriculum and has activities which are benefitting many prospective preschool teachers at the KwaZulu-Natal Experimental College (KNEC) located in Durban.

The goal is to provide a combination of theoretical and practical Early Childhood Development Care and Education (ECDCD) teachers training over a period of 12 months to young people from less fortunate backgrounds who are interested in working to improve the lives of children in pre-schools. The project aims at ensuring that children aged 2 - 5 from disadvantaged backgrounds receive care and support needed to develop into well-adjusted, responsible adults.

"Investment in quality preschool education will have far reaching consequences for the country," says Simphiwe Stuurman, Principal of KNEC. "Children that have accessed quality preschool education invariably perform well in their schooling and have a higher chance of acquiring skills and qualifications that can contribute to the country's economic development."

In a move to make preschool education more accessible, Humana People to People has established a model in South Africa aimed at providing comprehensive Early Childhood Development services in an efficient and sustainable manner. Known as Preschools of the Future (POF), the model is designed to provide quality preschool education to children that will prepare them for primary school.

"[The] Preschool of the Future program is critical to children's cognitive, emotional and physical development. It plays an important role in getting young children ready for primary school education and life outside the home set-up," explains Ms. Nondumiso Khethwa, POF Campaigner for Humana People to People in South Africa.

She adds, "Preschools of the Future again stimulate entrepreneurship at grassroots level to empower people to lift themselves out of poverty and contribute to reducing the high levels of unemployment currently faced by South Africa." Many people in South Africa are taking provision of early pre-schooling as an avenue to generate household income. The new trend has helped to create opportunities for economic self-reliance whilst addressing social challenges to do with early childhood education.

Nondumiso Khethwa is confident that with the skills learnt from the teacher training project - along with support from Humana People to People - teachers will be equipped to develop their own sustainable Early Childhood Development centres and extend their activism as they take part in community development initiatives that impact on the quality of childhood in the communities they will work with.

The Preschool of the Future program in Durban, South Africa is being replicated by other Humana People to People national members. Notable growth of the program is in China, Mozambique and Namibia. Ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education is part of how Humana People to People is seeking to influence a positive impact on the SDG Goal 4.