Resourceful Young Children

Resourceful Young Children
Learning Brief

Lesedi Educare Association

Our Integrated ECD Care Package - A description

Category: Resourceful Young Children | Comprehensive ECD package | 31 January, 2013 - 05:30


Many young children and their families in the Free State Province live in very difficult circumstances due to the undermining effects of extreme poverty and HIV/AIDS.  The unemployment rate is high, and many families have moved from rural areas to urban areas such as Bloemfontein, in the hope of obtaining employment. This has resulted in mushrooming informal settlement communities, including people from Lesotho who cross into the Free State in search of better opportunities. All of the above has impacted, and continues to impact negatively, on the lives of young children:

  1. Many parents and primary caregivers are struggling to provide for the needs of their young children;
  2. Many young children are neglected due to their life circumstances;
  3. Dire circumstances also contribute to abuse of young children;
  4. Many young children and families do not have birth certificates or ID documents, and as a result, are not able to access the child support grant and other social security grants;
  5. Many young children do not have access to quality early learning opportunities and remain outside of any early childhood development programmes;
  6. The HIV/AIDS pandemic is also taking its toll.  Children are infected by HIV/AIDS and/or live with infected parents. Many grandparents feature as the main caregivers.

A description of our Integrated ECD Care Package

What we hope to achieve:

  • To provide an integrated ECD Care Package through a sustainable, comprehensive, community owned and managed intervention;
  • To increase access to quality early education and care for young children living in difficult circumstances, including children with special needs and children infected / affected by HIV and AIDS, as well as those children still outside of any ECD provision;
  • To support and encourage parents/primary caregivers in their task of child rearing, recognising that they are the first and most important teachers of their young children, and the family and community their most important classroom.
  • To support and encourage communities to take collective responsibility for the well-being of their young children.

Central to our ‘Integrated ECD Care Package’ is the firm belief that Community ECD Centres are well placed to provide valuable nodes of care, support and community outreach. The Integrated ECD Care Package has three components:

  • The quality of ECD provision through the community ECD Centre (ECD Practitioner Training Programme);
  • The quality of childhood and the well-being of young children in the family, at home and in the broader community.  (Community Development and Family Support Programme : CDFSP)
  • Support for both the ECD Practitioner Training Programme and the CDFSP by our mobile Toy Library/Come-and-Play-buses.  The two buses provide an especially valuable resource in reaching out to the many young children who are outside of any ECD provision.  

These components jointly broaden and strengthen the care environment for young children and their families, both within the ECD Centre environment as well as in the broader community. Our main activities include:

  • Training of ECD Practitioners and Community Development Practitioners (CDP’s) attached to community ECD Centres, leading to nationally recognised qualifications at NQF Level 4.  (We are accredited to deliver the FETC: ECD and the FETC: Community Development: ECD).
  • ECD Practitioners are trained in the implementation of an effective child-centred Early Learning Programme with provision for baby-care and parent/caregiver awareness and involvement;
  • Community Development Practitioners (CDP’s) are trained in community development practice with a specialisation in ECD.   They receive skills capacity building through our Family Support Programme.
  • ECD Practitioners are supported by ECD Centre Supervisors and Management.    Community Development Practitioners are supported by ECD Centre Supervisors and elected Community Support Structures.
  • CDP’s, ECD Practitioners and ECD Centre Supervisors work together as a team and meet daily.
  • CDP’s are required to familiarise themselves with the key issues impacting on the well-being of young children and families in their communities.   They also familiarise themselves with key community stakeholders and resources within their communities, so that they are able to draw on these when necessary.   (Eg.  Relevant  Government Departments, Ward Councillors,   Traditional Leadership, SA Police Services, clinics and any other local / community service organisation supporting children and families).
  • CDP’s work closely  with their communities on strategies  and interventions to respond to the most pressing needs impacting on the lives of children and families, both within the ECD Centre environment and in the broader community.
  • Lesedi provides relevant support and capacity building for the Community Support Structures, and community interventions.
  • Lesedi Toy Library / Come and Play buses support community ECD Centres and the informal playgroups, reaching out to children not in any ECD programme, and providing exciting opportunities for learning through play.

What we have learned

We have developed a simple document which outlines the key elements of Lesedi’s integrated approach to ECD and which we feel, provides a simple step-by-step guide based on our own experience and lessons learned.  We would like to share this and have uploaded it to the resource library of the ECD portfolio on this Community of Partners website (read it here).  

Our main challenges to date:

  • Low remuneration for Community Development Practitioners leading to drop-outs:   Although the CDP’s are receiving stipends, these are low.   In view of the valuable work that they are doing, we believe that they should ultimately be included in the Department of Social Development’s funding for programmes.
  • There needs to be strong advocacy in support of integrated programmes for young children which would include stipends for community development practitioners, family and community motivators etc. We have been part of various advocacy initiatives in this regard and was visited by the National Department of Social Development and the National Treasury.   At the National ECD Conference in East London in March 2012, Lesedi’s Deputy Director, Florence Moshotle, gave a presentation on Lesedi’s Integrated ECD Care Package.    
  • Frustration with key stakeholders:  Community Development Practitioners face many realities that need immediate attention for the survival, safety and protection of children.  There is often frustration when seeking assistance from key stakeholders.
  • Documentation: The on-going weekly, sometimes daily, documentation of the programme’s activities, challenges, reflections, solutions and lessons learned continues to present quite a complex challenge.   The collection and analysis of data and information on all aspects of the programme is a slow process, and the refinement and extension of the database is on-going, so that it does not become a burden to all concerned, but is rather a simple, effective way of recording the programme and all its facets.
  • We are presently reviewing the way in which the informal playgroups are operating as we are concerned about the quality and impact on young children, and the need for the playgroups to follow a more “structured” programme.

Why is our “Integrated ECD Care Package” innovative?

  • ECD Centres provide nodes of care and support for children and families at risk, and an entry point for community outreach;
  • ECD Centres are viewed as a valuable community resource and already provide community infrastructure. This ensures on-going community sustainability and ownership and also underscores the potential for replicating the programme;
  • Lesedi’s Integrated ECD Care Package adds an extra dimension to this already community-owned resource;
  • The programme is planned and implemented in response to community needs through on-going community consultation at all levels.    It is thus an evolutionary, dynamic and responsive process.   It is important to remember what works in one community,  might not work in another community;
  • Trained Community Development Practitioners and ECD Practitioners work together as a team through community ECD Centres with parents and key community stakeholders, to support the well-being of children and families within the ECD Centre environment, and in the broader community;
  • It is thus a multi-stakeholder and multi-faceted approach which takes into account the many issues which impact on the well-being of young children
  • The training of ECD Practitioners and Community Development Practitioners leads to nationally recognised qualifications, thus opening up the potential for career-pathing.

Unicom High School, Tweespruit, Free State

 082 313 2606

In Short

In this learning brief Lesedi Educare Association describes their innovative Integrated ECD Care Package. They also share a simple step-by-step guideline document to implement the key elements of their intervention based on their experience and lessons learned. Their intervention has led to a marked improvement in the overall learning environment for young children in participating ECD centres, and a greater understanding of the holistic developmental needs of young children - this learning brief is thus well worth a read.  

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