Category: Resourceful Young Children | Test population-based models of provision | 8 November, 2012 - 15:05← BACK
In South Africa, only 22% of young children attend pre-schools. 78% of children do not have this opportunity. When both these groups of children enter Grade 1, the majority will thus be those who have not received any formal type of ‘school readiness’ preparation. This then results in the Grade 1 Teacher having to work at the pace of the less prepared children, slowing the development of the prepared ones. To address this, Ntataise Lowveld Trust has developed informal playgroups in the villages. These playgroups provide children with a good start to school, school-readiness and holistic development. This programme also relieves the grandmothers who are looking after the young children and caters for the most vulnerable of children. Due to the HIV/Aids pandemic, elderly care-givers are stretched to their limit to provide even the most basic of needs such as food, water and clothing. This has resulted in a ‘baby-sitting’ type of intervention with no stimulation nor any foundation for learning. The consequence has been the large number of children repeating grades due to the lack of a good foundation in early literacy, math, science and life skills during their pre-school years. As mentioned, these children also hold-back the children who have attended pre-schools from moving forward at the correct pace. This becomes a cycle which will forever repeat unless we ‘level-the-playing field’s’ for all pre-school children.
In implementing our programme we had to brainstorm what to do first, second and third, going back to the drawing board time and again. 15 Villages without preschools were identified, but we ended up with 14 villages because the 15th one had political problems between the Induna and the councillor. We are still engaged in negotiations with the two parties. 15 Families/children in desperate need were approached and facilitators and caregivers were identified by the Indunas. We soon realised that what looked good on paper doesn’t work in reality. We adjusted as we went along, considering all stakeholders involved -this involved meeting after meeting with municipal councillors and addressing communication gaps between provincial and local authorities.
We learned to bite the bullet and carried on regardless — faith in our dream kept us going. The two week preschool orientation programme for the facilitators was completed and slowly the obstacles became stepping stones. The launch day was an eye opener, children were just streaming in from all over – more than we bargained for. This led to DoE questioning the accuracy of our needs assessment. We learned that character is built during difficult times, the staff members got out of their comfort zone and stood together to make this a success story. While keeping our eyes and our hearts open, change and growth is taking place in little lives that cannot be counted in monetary value.
An important lesson learned through our experience is to always make sure that the community understands the language and are on board with the programme, that funds are available and to accept that there will be unforeseen situations. Going forward we plan to involve as many communities as we can, extend our footprint to other needy villages around Mpumalanga and share the programme and our expertise with other organisations around the country.
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