Resourceful Young Children

Resourceful Young Children
Learning Brief


ITEC

ITEC's Masibakhuseleni Project

Category: Resourceful Young Children | Test population-based models of provision | 20 August, 2012 - 15:43

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ITEC Masibakhuseleni Project, Pefferville and Duncan Village, East London

THE CHALLENGE

Children suffer high levels of poverty and multiple deprivation, particularly in the Eastern Cape.  Although this is most marked in rural areas, young children in poor urban contexts also suffer.  Young children in the urban Pefferville/ Duncan Village areas of the Buffalo City Municipality, in which the Masibakhuseleni Project works, often live in overcrowded, unhealthy conditions with little meaningful opportunity for optimal development.

Although many young children in these areas attend day care centres, conditions are often less than ideal.  ECD Centres, even when registered with the Department of Social Development, may offer children few opportunities to learn and grow, may not offer adequate nutrition, or a safe and healthy environment.  Nor are they able to ensure that under qualified staff achieve greater competence to address the children’s needs. Projects that work with young children must, therefore, help ECD Centres to improve the quality of their services by improving practitioner qualifications (and therefore competence) as well as improving governance and the ability of Centres to comply with the provisions of the Children’s Act.

Many children are outside the reach of ECD Centres, and receive even fewer services.  Many of these children are malnourished or sick, may be abused or neglected, and enjoy few systematic opportunities to learn.  Such children must be healed, protected, stimulated, and nurtured through the efforts of the adults around them.  Networks of concerned adults – such as practitioners, parents, community workers, support groups, and local government must not only understand the needs of children, but must establish mechanisms for protecting these children.

The Masibakhuseleni project, through various activities, and through collaboration with other organisations, attempts to address the needs of young children in the Pefferville/ Duncan Village areas of the Buffalo City Municipality in the Eastern Cape.

ITEC's PROGRAMME STRATEGY

 

Barriers which prevent children from reaching their potential are systematically reduced over a period of time, primarily through strengthening the capacity of community and family support structures to provide a better quality of care to children.

The Masibakhuseleni programme seeks to form strategic partnerships with communities, particularly focusing on Community Child Care Forums, community Early Childhood Development (ECD) sites and schools, as the primary means of community engagement.  Support and buy-in from local leadership and the broader community is crucial.  ITEC also advocates for support from local government structures and engage officials and politicians. Through this programme, ITEC seeks to create an environment where children are protected, nurtured and encouraged to reach their full potential by improving ECD programmes by training unqualified ECD practitioners, and improving management and governance, providing a family home visiting programme to reduce vulnerability, promote positive child-rearing practices, and offer learning opportunities to children not in ECD centres (Non-Centre Based Programme), promoting children's rights and wellbeing at neighbourhood, community and local government level.

This project began, after the initial preparations, during August 2011.  Some of the notable outcomes are that the capacity of practitioners to identify vulnerable children and families has been developed.  They can now compare the development and behaviour of ‘typical’ children with that of particularly vulnerable children, and are able to observe and report on child development.  When they have completed the elective Unit Standards that deal with working with families and learners with special needs, they should be equipped to both identify and support vulnerable children and families.

The ECD governing boards have completed some of the training. The non-profit model for ECD Centres is a challenge.  Committee members are often co-opted onto the governing body merely as a formality, and the Constitution is often drawn up simply to achieve NPO status.  Committee members are therefore often not able to offer the time and commitment required, and frequently the Constitution is only on paper rather.

Six child and family support visitors have now been appointed.  Two of these have been involved in making supportive home visits to vulnerable families since January.  The four newly-appointed child and family support visitors, who have experience and qualifications in home based care and first aid, are to be inducted early in June.  The child and family support visitors are currently engaged in setting up playgroups, and in helping to set up community child rights and protection forums.  In collaboration with the CWP, they will be trained on psycho-social support for children, and basic child counselling skills.

Eight food gardens have been established at ECD centres with the purpose of improving children’s nutrition.

Existing community structures have been identified, and plans have been made for key role-players to meet to discuss how child rights and protection can be infused into their mandate.  We will establish two such forums in Pefferville/Duncan Village. Lessons learned through a similar project in a rural setting are being transferred to this project and are  adapting the Soul City criteria for identifying and supporting vulnerable children for the use of ECD practitioners, child and family visitors, and child care and protection forums. 

IMPLICATIONS FOR OTHER IMPLEMENTERS AND FOR BROADER SYSTEMS AND POLICY DEVELOPMENT

Our experiences show that the benefit to children multiplies when projects and organisations collaborate. In ITEC’s case, the DG Murray Masibakhuseleni project has informed and strengthened the child-friendly focus of the local Community Work Programme (CWP), which has in turn improved the sustainability and reach of the Masibakhuseleni Project.

The CWP, based in the Department of Cooperative Governance, provides a part time employment safety net for upwards of 1,000 people per community in exchange for work that promotes the public good.  As of 2011, the CWP had 100,000 participants in 70 sites across South Africa, and plans to establish at least one CWP site in each municipality by 2014, reaching a target of one million people (National Development Plan, 2011).

As the Local Implementing Agent for the CWP in Buffalo City, ITEC has been able to drive our child-friendly agenda, while at the same time diversifying CWP work from a narrow street-cleaning and maintenance focus to include much needed social and community work at home, pre-school and school.

During 2009/10, ITEC’s work in the CWP in Pefferville and Duncan Village revealed that many unqualified practitioners were working in ECD centres in the area.  Twenty of these practitioners were selected for inclusion in the accredited Masibakhuseleni Further Education and Training Certificate in Early Childhood Development in 2011. In addition, a sister organisation working in ECD (Loaves and Fishes Network) were able to place a number of practitioners on the course, substantially increasing the number of practitioners in the area who will have improved qualifications. 

The synergy between the Masibakhuseleni and the CWP extended into improved nutrition for young children. Masibakhuseleni has so far established eight food gardens, which are tended and maintained by CWP workers. Seven of these gardens are in the grounds of ECD centres, while the eighth is in a community garden that serves a number of ECD centres.  

Masibakhuseleni is working with the CWP to set up systems to reach out to vulnerable children, piloting ways to identify, monitor, and work with vulnerable children and families. This effort includes providing opportunities for development through establishing playgroups for children not in centres.  This will be extended into the network of social sector co-ordinators, home visitors, and community forums that the CWP works with.  Because the CWP is a national government programme which is rolled out at a local municipal level, the ITEC child-friendly agenda has the potential to influence the structures and planning of the Buffalo City municipality.

In addition, some of ITEC’s other initiatives add value to families and children living in this area.  Our library project provides libraries to local schools as well as a Community Library within ITEC, while other projects promote reading and literacy, as well as mathematics, science and information technology in the community.

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