Enterprising School Leavers

Enterprising School Leavers
Learning Brief

Midlands Community College

Early learning from our home-visiting ECD programme

Category: Enterprising School Leavers | Facilitate access to educational opportunities | 12 December, 2012 - 16:07


We offer home-based assistance to children in a 100 homes in the Mpophomeni township who cannot attend and benefit from established, formally- structured pre-school sites. The ‘Family Facilitator’ model is a well-researched and innovative way of increasing positive impact in the early childhood arena in vulnerable and marginalised communities.

To role-out this service we had to set-up community committees, gain buy-in from all stakeholders, select the homes that would be visited as well as the family facilitators who also needed to be trained. We also had to develop a variety of monitoring and evaluation tools such as baseline questionnaires, and Family, Household and Child profiles and tracking forms. This learning brief will share learning from our early experiences implementing the programme.

1.     Preparing our family facilitators

In order to visit children in a 100 homes we had to train 10 family facilitators who would each visit two homes a day every weekday.  Our family facilitators went through a basic level 1 ECD course (offered by us) designed to motivate and support caregivers on the main issues around children’s basic health, social, emotional and cognitive needs and development. The training took place over a nine month period and we had a 100% attendance rate.

2.     Establish a baseline

At the beginning of the project the Family Facilitators were required to gather household and beneficiary data through the completion of a household questionnaire and a child profile. Through this assessment we learned the following:

  • There are 96 households participating in the project and not 100, as some withdrew.
  • There are 105 children participating in the project. There are fewer very young children per family than originally predicted.
  • The average age of the children participating in the project is 2.75 years.
  • 73% of the children are cared for on a daily basis by their mothers.
  • 26% are cared for by either the gogo (grandmother) or by another relative.

3.     Making links

The Family Facilitators have been incorporated into our Toy Library Programme.   Once a month the Family Facilitators meet with the Toy Library to exchange a bag of toys for the children to play with – allowing variation for mental and physical stimulation.

We are including family members, out-of-school youth and adults, from the 100 homes, as project beneficiaries, by offering them places on the Vegetable Gardening course which might contribute to the nutritional aspect of a holistic ECD programme.

4.     Start implementing! Our learning:

a)     Our family Facilitators

One of the main challenges was that the family facilitators started with very little training and experience in the field.  Understanding was hampered when English was used in some instances as an instruction language during the training. There was unevenness of competence in the group, with some struggling significantly more than others.

At the moment some of the Family Facilitators are doing well but one or two are struggling with the running of the actual daily programme.  This is mainly due to a lack of experience. The Family Facilitator Co-ordinator spends more time with those who are experiencing difficulties.  She also takes some of those who are struggling to work alongside those who are doing exceptionally well. 

b)     Interacting with caregivers

Many mothers and grandmothers did not appear to understand the purpose of the project and interfered in activities, sometimes inhibiting the children. This might have been prevented by allowing for enough contact time by experienced ECD specialists with the community and the families before the family facilitators started their visits.

Some effort had to be invested initially to ensure that the community understand the role of the facilitators and start to trust them. The parents were very suspicious at first as the project was introduced by way of the facilitators arriving with many questionnaires to be completed.  They thought that the facilitators were there to` take away their grants.’ 

In some instances the households saw the Family Facilitators as baby sitters – telling the facilitators how long they should stay for whilst they went out. At the other end of the spectrum were the caregivers who would not trust their children with the facilitators.   The facilitators overcame these issues by explaining their role and we have also now provided them with name tags and T-Shirts that clearly depict the project and Midlands Community College. 

c)     Interacting with the children

There were recurring problems related to poverty and unemployment affecting the families - specifically in the areas of nutrition, warmth and adequate clothing.  The facilitators recognise that there are some things they have no control over being able to change – and these issues fall into that category.

Some parents do not understand early childhood development and as a result they don’t realise that continuity with attendance is important. This was reflected in problems like the child not being ready when the Family Facilitators arrive and they have to wait for the child to be fed and bathed.  Because there is limited space for playing in homes the work of the Facilitators is weather dependant – on days when weather is bad or cold some children might not be allowed to see the facilitators as a result.

The Family Facilitators often combine the children from the households to develop social skills, in which case the Facilitator can spend a bit more time with the children.

The issues of trust, and seeming lack of understanding of the purpose of the project on the part of the caregivers, were deemed to be serious and a possible threat to the project. We together with an external ECD professional thus visited the families where problems had arisen to iron out difficulties and to give care-givers the opportunity to ask questions, to clarify roles, and to understand the aims of the project more clearly.  The caregivers appreciated the visits and were happy with this chance to better understand the importance of the family facilitators’ work. They commented that they could see progress in the children and were grateful for the support. All but one family is still participating in the programme. 

Midlands Community College

Nottingham Road, KwaZulu-Natal  

 (033) 266-6588


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