When communities are plagued by poverty and crime, education easily falls by the wayside. Early childhood development is one of the biggest victims and it is estimated that more than 6 million South African children are at risk of not achieving the necessary developmental benchmarks.
This is where The Unlimited Child, an early childhood development initiative, has stepped in and is helping to create a future for tens of thousands of children by laying a solid foundation before they reach the age of seven. Easily replicable, The Unlimited Child programme focuses on a structured programme for preschool children as well as the training needs of their caregivers.
During July, the community of Olivenhoutbosch in Pretoria recently became part of the roll-out of the programme in Gauteng, when caregivers from five local crèches received practical training, teaching plans and specially developed educational toy kits. These toys are designed to specifically develop the children’s cognitive abilities, as well as gross and fine motor skills.
Thobile Msimang, a monitor and team leader for The Unlimited Child, provided hands-on training for the caregivers to ensure they know how to maximise the use of the toys and create stimulating learning environments. “The training went very well and I loved the involvement and participation from the caregivers in this area. They did not have the tools, so we’ve given them a lesson plan with a daily programme and shown them how to use it. But most importantly, we have provided them with toys to take back and implement what they’ve learned, said Msimang.”
According to Jessica Mokone, owner of Century Day Care, being part of The Unlimited Child programme will change her crèche and the lives of her children forever. “The kids are going to love playing with these new toys. The training has shown us that each toy has a different use and how we can use it to teach the children many things. This will help them to develop and it will be great for their future. I know from personal experience that if you don’t learn the right things early, school can become very hard. Now my children will find it easier when they go to school and they won’t struggle with subjects like maths. I am so excited that we can now give them a good foundation for their future,” said Mokone after the workshop. “Teaching is not about just getting a salary. If we help the small ones, we can change the nation.”
The Unlimited Child is a unique, proactive ECD initiative that is addressing a national problem. Since its establishment in 2008, it has already reached more than 500 crèches, 1400 caregivers (caregivers) and over 48 000 children. Currently, more than 26 000 pre-schoolers are enrolled at these crèches in KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape and Gauteng. The Unlimited Child aims to replicate the programme in all nine provinces as the impact on teaching and learning in the crèches is immediate.
According to Steph Bester, chairman of The Unlimited Child, this latest expansion of the programme forms part of their mission to create a sustainable approach to solving some of the challenges in the ECD sector. “Our successes in KwaZulu-Natal are proof that The Unlimited Child can have a huge influence on future generations. We have seen that this project is a rapid impact initiative and its effect is felt within weeks of a community being ‘touched.’ We will continue to expand our footprint in the rest of the country and are confident that our progress in Gauteng will help us realise our aim of reaching 20 000 crèches nationally by 2020”.