Early childhood education in the Eastern Cape received a much needed boost when The Unlimited Child partnered with locally based Early Inspiration to provide training and educational toys to thirteen crèches in the Walmer township in Port Elizabeth.
The immense lack of early childhood education throughout South Africa has always been a pressing concern and was the reason for establishing The Unlimited Child. According to Steph Bester, chairman of The Unlimited Child, serious intervention is needed to put the spotlight on the massive socio-economic impact this can have for future generations. The Unlimited Child is helping to create a future for tens of thousands of children by laying a solid foundation before they reach the age of seven. At the same time, crèche caregivers are trained to maximise the use of the educational toys and to create stimulating learning environments.
“The state of early childhood education in South Africa is shocking and it’s estimated that there are more than 6-million preschool children in this country, who receive little or no proper stimulation. This will directly affect their motor skills, cognitive and emotional development and the lack of stimulation makes these children extremely vulnerable,” explains Bester.
Easily replicated, The Unlimited Child initiative focuses on a structured programme for preschool children as well as the training needs of their caregivers. Since its establishment in 2008, The Unlimited Child has already successfully reached 615 crèches and 65 000 pre-school children. It has also provided training to more than 1 900 caregivers.
“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 to realise our aim of reaching 20 000 crèches nationally by 2020. In order to achieve our goal, we partner with organisations such as Early Inspiration that are already active in specific areas. By working together with partners that are passionate advocates for early childhood education, The Unlimited Child is aiming to create a sustainable approach to solving some of the challenges in this sector,” says Bester.
The Unlimited Child approached Early Inspiration to identify crèches they are already involved with and that specifically cater for 3 and 4 year olds in the Walmer area. Following a very successful training programme, certificates and educational toys were issued to the respective care givers and supervisors.
Dr Lauren Stretch, the founder and director of Early Inspiration, early childhood development has always been a passion. “Through my studies, I realised the importance of early stimulation and intervention. Through active engagement in the field, I have realised that our country faces a desperate need and this stirred a desire to make a difference and greater impact,” says Dr Stretch.
“All children are currently undergoing pre-assessments and monitoring will take place throughout the year followed by a post assessment group, which will reflect the impact achieved by The Unlimited Child in classrooms within Walmer township. We are pleased with the scale and progress of the intervention. It is important that we are first comfortable with current interventions before scaling up. Maintaining quality is a key focus for The Unlimited Child and Early Inspiration and this needs to be a priority before we can look at any further expansion,” concludes Dr Stretch.