We’re hiring: Cape Town-based communication intern

Svetlana DonevaBlog, BlogsLeave a Comment

little boy playing hopscotch on playground outdoors

We are looking for a motivated self-starter, wanting to jump start their career in communications.  Our ideal candidate  for this internship has a tertiary qualification in media/communication/marketing and wants to use their skills to create a positive social change in South Africa.

Are you as creative and passionate as you are meticulous and organised? Do you have excellent writing skills and get excited about the opportunity to tell other people’s stories? If you do, you are probably exactly who we are looking for.

You don’t need any prior knowledge of early childhood development, we will teach you everything.

Our successful candidate will work with the communication manager to:

  • expand our social media presence and influence
  • create content for our website, newsletter, and print publications
  • create media opportunities to increase public awareness of the importance of ECD
  • develop a campaign aimed at young South African parents

Interested? Send us your CV and a brief note telling us about yourself to svetlana@ilifalabantwana.co.za by 31 May.

 

Ball rolling for implementation of the national ECD policy

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs, The Policy PostLeave a Comment

As we move into 2017 we are seeing a growing momentum in foundational actions taken, at a departmental level, for implementation of the national ECD Policy.

This issue of the Policy Post reflects on several key publications which are encouraging in that they reflect focused and strategic recognition, and actioning of ECD as a national priority.

DBE publishes the TIMMS results which show education improvements are linked to early education

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is a credible and internationally benchmarked indicator of the quality of South Africa’s education, and our progress in improving the learning outcomes of children in the critical areas of mathematics and science. South Africa has participated in the TIMMS assessment, along with 58 other countries. Historically, South Africa has scored very poorly. However, the 2015 TIMSS results marked a turning point, with South Africa’s maths and science achievement scores improving, for the first time, from ‘very low’ to a ‘low’ national average. Out of all participating countries, South Africa showed the largest improvement – 87 points in maths and 90 points in science. In addition, the results show a leveling of the education playing fields – the difference between the highest and lowest scores dropped from 205 to 77 points between 2003 and 2015.

Of critical importance is the observed correlation between low socio-economic status and poorer outcomes. For example, learners living in households with flush toilets and running water scored an average 55 points higher in their maths scores than those who do not. Whilst this remain cause for concern, the TIMMS results show that early and sustained access to quality early childhood education improve the educational outcomes for vulnerable children. There was a direct and statistically significant observable difference in the maths results of children who attended quality pre-school, with the improvements increasing with the number of years of pre-school attended. The impact was most marked in fee paying, as opposed no-fee public schools, suggesting that the full benefit of early education depends, not only on the quality of early learning but also the extent to which a quality learning environment is then sustained once the child enters formal schooling.

Additional notable findings from the TIMMS study are that, despite the improvements, children’s educational opportunities and outcomes remain highly unequal – with children’s gender, home and school environments being key determinants of their outcomes. Boys, especially from vulnerable families, achieved lower maths scores across all tested grades. This is not inevitable though and there is significant scope for ramping up the improvements and achieving much more robust equality. What parents do with their children influences their achievements: Socio-economic factors and early education environments influence later achievement. Maintaining the upward trajectory in our TIMMS results depends on how well we implement the ECD policy, paying attention to the goals of equitable access to quality early learning experiences from as early as possible.

Click here to view a copy of the TIMMS report as well as useful summary of the results and implications presented to the Basic Education Portfolio Committee.

DBE’s Annual Performance Plan for 2017/2018 commits to improving ECD

The DBE is not resting on its laurels. It has taken note of the findings of studies such as the TIMMS assessment report, and committed, in the current strategic planning period to expand access to ECD and improve the quality of Grade R, with support for pre-Grade R provision.

The DBE’s Annual Performance Plan for the period 2017 – 2018 commits to the following interventions in furtherance of its goal 11 – to improve access of children to ECD below Grade 1:

  1. Monitor and support implementation of the National Curriculum Framework for Children 0- 4 years
  2. Monitor and support implementation of the National Strategy for Learner Attainment (NSLA) as it pertains to ECD
  3. Monitor and support the training of ECD practitioners in PEDS
  4. Strengthen inter-provincial collaboration through the Inter-Provincial ECD Committee
  5. Strengthen inter-departmental collaboration through the Training and Curriculum Sub-Committee.

Policy on Minimum Requirements for Programmes Leading to Qualifications in Higher Education for Early Childhood Development Educators lays foundations for improved access, equity and quality ECD

A key ingredient to improving access, equity and quality of early learning, particularly for the most vulnerable children, is: “Sufficient qualified human resources to secure universal availability and equitable access to early childhood development services through the expansion of the size and diversity of the workforce to meet the assessed needs, ensuring that the workforce is qualified and has the necessary skills.”

The Policy on Minimum Requirement for Programmes Leading to Qualifications in Higher Education for Early Childhood Development Educators, gazetted in March 2017, recognises and seeks to address a key impediment to securing this key ingredient – “the lack of defined career pathways and opportunities for ECD educators and practitioners, and that existing ECD programmes are neither producing the number, nor the kind of educators/practitioners needed for the diverse ECD context”.

The Policy recognises that remedying this gap requires the education sector – that is civil society, government and universities – fulfil its responsibility to:

  • Design and offer qualifications that will afford a professional status and recognition to ECD educators
  • Standardise the training and qualifications of, and provide a career pathway for ECD educators
  • Develop quality programmes to equip ECD educators with information, knowledge and skills to support the implementation of the NCF.

The Policy puts in place a set of qualifications for ECD educators who are delivering or assisting in delivering ECD programmes, including formal curricula such as the NCF, with guidelines for the programmes that lead to such qualifications. It puts in place qualification programmes for prospective and existing ECD educators who deliver or support the delivery of the NCF in any workplace where public and state-supported ECD programmes are delivered. The programmes can also be used for the development of professionals working in other ECD contexts, e.g. TVET college lecturers and officials and policy makers in government departments, where such professionals require competencies similar to those that will be developed through the programmes contemplated by the Policy.

DSD’s Annual Performance Plan 2016 – 2017

The DSD’s Annual Performance Plan (APP) for the year 2016 – 2017 recognises that fulfilling its role and responsibility in furthering the objectives of the National Development Plan (NDP) (which forms the basis of the government’s Medium Term Strategic Framework) – requires that prioritise improving access to quality Early Childhood Development Services. The APP provides direction on how it will go about fulfilling this responsibility and set of priorities.

The DSD has identified 5 strategic outcome goals for the year in question. Goal 2 is “increased access to quality ECD programmes for children 0- 4, and universal access to grade R.”

ECD falls under programme 4: Welfare services policy development and implementation support, the purpose of which is to create “an enabling environment for the delivery of equitable development welfare services through the formulation of policies, norms and standards and best practices, and support for implementing agencies”. The major focus of the work that will be done by the DSD in the current planning cycle is the development of implementation and regulatory plans aligned to the policy to put in place the foundations necessary for delivery of equitable quality ECD programmes.  Key measures that the DSD will focus on include:

  • The review and alignment of the policies of multiple sectors, acting through the Inter-Departmental Committee for ECD, and consolidation into a national ECD Programme of Action to support implementation of the ECD policy
  • Aligning the current regulatory framework with the ECD policy. Notably, the DSD will focus on aligning the Children’s Act with the Policy
  • Revise a national ECD infrastructure plan
  • Develop an ECD Maintenance and Improvement Plan for ECD centres.

DOH’s Strategic and Annual Performance Plans 2017/19 – 2019/20

The ECD Policy recognises that the health sector has a pivotal role to play in laying the foundation for the healthy development of young children. As such, it places the primary responsibility for delivery of ECD programmes to parents and young children in the forts two years of a child’s life, on the Department of Health.

The Department of Health’s Strategic Plan 2015/16 – 2019/20 lays the foundations for a health system which focuses on securing the healthy development of the country’s population, rather than the treatment of diseases. The development orientation of the DOH is captured in its first strategic goal – the prevention of disease and promotion of health.

The DOH’s Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan for 2017/18 – 2019/20 both recognise that the key to securing its strategic goals is through the strengthening of the health system, notably the primary health care systems to ensure universal quality health-promotive and preventative services.

Whilst these 2 strategic documents reflect this critical shift towards a health promotive system in the country, they do not yet reflect a strategic and operational shift towards prioritising early childhood development. The APP and the documents from which it takes direction, such as the Health Sector’s Negotiated Service Delivery Agreement (NSDA), do not yet reflect child development and the prevention of development delays and disabilities – the outcomes of poor and compromised development – as operational priorities. When it comes to children, the focus is still on reducing child mortality.

The reality is that if South Africa is to achieve its health promotion and preventative objectives, as well as its longer-term development objectives, it is critical that the health sector prioritise, not only child survival, but equally so, child development. And it must do so by prioritising the strengthening of its child development health systems.

The recent Lancet series on ECD stressed the importance of strengthening national child development health systems to meet the growing challenge of poor development. The Lancet puts the spotlight on the fact that our success in improving child survival without strengthening systems for improved child development, has significantly grown the pool of children at risk of poor early (and lifelong) development. An estimated 250 million young children (43%) in low and middle income countries are now at risk of poor development outcomes. The Lancet stresses that the only way to reverse this scenario and realise the rights of all children to develop to their full potential is by strengthening our health systems to ensure they support the development of young children – and not focus only on their survival.

Planning, programming and resourcing to strengthen the health systems promoting child development would take a leap forward and be better sustained if early childhood were to be expressly recognised as both a strategic and operational priority in the next versions of the DOH’s strategic and annual performance plans.

A cartoon image of Patricia Martin, blog author

The Policy Post is written by Patricia Martin, the director of Advocacy Aid, a consultancy that provides advocacy support to the development sector. Patricia has worked as a child rights advocate and policy analyst for more than a decade and has a special interest in ECD policy and programme development and monitoring.

 

 

2017 forecast: Are we heading into an anti-development era?

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Recent political and economic developments could pose a threat to the substantial ECD gains made over the past 5 or so years.

We know it’s not only the research that matters.  It is abundant and clear that ECD is a win-win development formula for children and the country. What is perhaps more important is who supports the research. The high-level support of national ECD programmes by internationally prominent leaders, such as the former US President Barack Obama, generated momentum, the likes of which had not been seen before. It supported international awareness, legitimacy and policy movement in ECD across the globe, including on the African continent and at home in South Africa. What made the US leadership stand out was the passion and visibility President Obama brought to ECD – he believed in it and was vocal on the issue in the most public of fora. At home, we saw the adoption of the national ECD policy and movement in the budget towards greater investments in the development of young children.

However, 2017 started with the inauguration of Donald Trump, who has been entirely silent on ECD and loudly vocal on undoing Obama’s developmental legacy in the form of, for example, “Obamacare” policies. Over and above the silencing of the strong and prominent international voice of Obama which lead the ECD fray, it remains pessimistically unclear what Trump’s foreign policy will mean for funding of development programmes in Africa and South Africa, including ECD programmes.

What is of deeper concern is the conservative groundswell that is building in Europe and which identifies with the Republican rise in the US – which raises the risk of silencing of development leaders with an innate understanding and passion for ECD across the globe, and the legitimisation of political spaces in developing counties for equally conservative policy approaches.

The ECD sector has its work cut out for it to ensure that gains made are not lost, and to maintain the momentum we have seen around meaningful ECD policy programming, budgeting and the ECD developmental and rights-imperative.

It is essential that in South Africa, and globally, the most high-level, prominent and well-respected leaders pick up the cudgels and be visibly vocal on the development and rights-imperative of ECD.

We need prominent and unimpeachable ECD champions to provide strong leadership for our policy makers to guide and ensure fulfilment of their legal and development responsibilities to young children and their families.

We have many potential candidates. We must give media, policy and parliamentary space and credence to the voices and messages of our well-respected ECD thought and policy-leaders, some of whom have shared their ECD wishes for 2017 with the Policy Post.

The CEO of the WITS Centre of Excellence in Human Development,  Professor Linda Richter’s wish is that the Department of Social Development takes up the leadership cudgel and moves to “garner the enormous public, private sector and NGO support for early childhood development necessary to move the National Integrated Early Childhood Development Policy firmly towards implementation in collaboration with the Departments of Health and Education, and that we see the start of policy discussions to address the needs of families for affordable good quality child care.”

Marie-Louise Samuels, the Director Early Childhood Development in the Department of Basic Education’s wish is that 2017 is the year “that we build SOLID RELATIONSHIPS with PARENTS, GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS, ECD STAKEHOLDERS to deliver the commitments made in the National Integrated ECD Policy.” She stresses that children in South Africa deserve the best start in life and key to realising this is completing key policy and funding steps such as the National Curriculum Framework for children 0-4.

The role of Parliament: Creating a visible, meaningful and effective space for the voices of ECD champions?

Whilst 2016 was a year which did not do South Africa proud on the political front, there were a few very positive developments that we can learn from, and which bode well for the health of our developing constitutional democracy. Notable in this regard is the courageous and strong leadership shown by the South African Parliamentary Ad Hoc Committee on the SABC. Members of the committee were not afraid to exercise their substantial accountability muscles, and in the process, the issues were aired to a productive end, and in the process enjoyed massive media and public support.

In times of stress, Parliament must fill the leadership vacuum that threatens our development objectives. This is true for ECD in 2017. My wish for 2017 is that the ECD sector join hands and make a strong and clear call for the establishment of an ECD Ad Hoc Parliamentary Committee to provide the leadership, voice and advocacy space needed to realise our national ECD responsibilities and wishes.

Without focussed leadership and accountability there is some doubt as to whether the policy promises will translate into meaningful programmes on the ground, such as those wished for Monica Stach, the Chief Operations Officer of the well-respected ECD organisation, Cotlands:

  1. A nation-wide ECD awareness campaign targeting parents, ECD practitioners and ECD officials profiling programmes that are available and which provide complementary and comprehensive early learning solutions for all young children in South Africa
  2. Develop norms and standards to ensure quality non-centre based programmes through an inclusive policy development process
  3. Develop and implement a funding model that can sustain quality provision of ECD services by the many NGOs that partner with government in delivering on its ECD responsibilities.

How do we ensure that the necessary advocacy and leadership is funded?

To enable and empower ECD champions and maintain and increase the momentum behind stronger ECD policies, programmes and resources, we don’t just need a national ECD advocacy initiative; we need a well-resourced and effective national ECD advocacy initiative.

Giuliana Bland, who has worked in the area of ECD funding for many years, says that the answer is clear – it lies with South Africa’s philanthropic community and development partners. Her wish is that in 2017, all development partners and every corporate in South Africa invest in ECD. Her wish is that “every corporate invest just 1 percent of their turnover in to programmes for young children.” This she says, is a game changer and challenges all to imagine the different country we would then have in 20 years.

A cartoon image of Patricia Martin, blog author

 

The Policy Post is written by Patricia Martin, the director of Advocacy Aid, a consultancy that provides advocacy support to the development sector. Patricia has worked as a child rights advocate and policy analyst for more than a decade and has a special interest in ECD policy and programme development and monitoring.

The Early Learning Outcomes Measure (ELOM): What’s new?

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs, ECD NewsLeave a Comment

JRM_6748In 2015, Ilifa Labantwana funded, through Innovation Edge, the development of an Early Learning Outcomes Measure for South Africa.  The measure – quickly dubbed the ELOM – was intended to provide all types of early learning programmes with a psychometric instrument for assessing their effectiveness. The ELOM would be:

Over the past 2 years, the ELOM team developed and piloted the tool; they have done an age validation study in three provinces and across 5 school quintiles; and they have now finalised the norms and standards of the ELOM.

The ELOM is designed to be used only by trained assessors. At the of end of 2016, we trained assessors from 11 organisations, which means that the very first ELOM community which will oversee the tool’s implementation is now up and running.

More on the ELOM, in this briefing document.

PHOTO ESSAY: Early literacy in the Free State

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Khayalethu is an ECD centre for 120 children aged 0-5 in Vrede – a small town in the heart of the agricultural Free State.

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Two years ago, Khayalethu was invited to participate in the Nal’ibali StoryPlay project. Nal’ibali is a national literacy programme and StoryPlay is a sub-programme used in early learning centres and schools to get children excited about reading.

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Nal’ibali StoryPlay uses dance, drama and singing to get children involved in the storytelling process. “We encourage children’s imagination by getting them to act out the stories they have heard in class or ones they have made up themselves,” says Malifu Moloi (dressed in orange in the picture below). Malifu introduced the StoryPlay programme in Khayalethu.

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Malifu is not a teacher or Early Childhood Development practitioner. She is a participant in government’s Community Work Programme, which creates job opportunities for people living in poverty.

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Participants in the Community Work Programme wear distinctive orange overalls.  They are paid by government to do useful work in communities. Sometimes, they receive training to do the work from a private partner. In this case, the partner was Nal’ibali.

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The Nal’ibali StoryPlay programme is filling an important need in Vrede because it addresses literacy problems at their source – during early childhood.  The complex brain networks responsible for language and reading begin forming before birth. The more spoken language young children hear, the better these networks will develop. Storytelling exposes children to spoken language and encourages the understanding of words.

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Malifu says that the children who have taken part in the programme in the past, and moved onto formal schooling are already doing better than their peers.  She hopes that Nal’ibali can extend to more centres and benefit more children, in the future. So far, 100 centres, or 5073 children, are benefiting from Nal’ibali StoryPlay through the Community Work Programme in the Free State.

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If you enjoyed this photo essay, you may like to read our longer length article about the Nal’ibali – Community Work Programme partnership in the Free State. 

 

Setting the ECD facts straight: where do child support benefiaries live?

Svetlana DonevaUncategorizedLeave a Comment

You have probably come across these common misconceptions about Early Childhood Development in South Africa at some point. Maybe on social media, maybe in the comment section of a news website, or maybe during a heated argument at a social gathering. We decided set the facts straight by gathering the evidence to debunk 10 stubborn ECD myths.  

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Myth 3: Parents claim the child support grant for children who are not even living with them.

The Fact: The Centre for Social Development in Africa found that the overwhelming majority (92.2%) of Child Support Grant beneficiaries are in fact living with the caregiver who is claiming the grant.  A separate study found that moms accessing the CSG are actually more involved in the day to day lives of their children – which is known to have positive social, emotional and cognitive benefits for kids.

Read all 10 of the myths here.

Setting the ECD facts straight: teen pregnancy

Svetlana DonevaUncategorized1 Comment

You have probably come across these common misconceptions about Early Childhood Development in South Africa at some point. Maybe on social media, maybe in the comment section of a news website, or maybe during a heated argument at a social gathering. We decided set the facts straight by gathering the evidence to debunk 10 stubborn ECD myths.  

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Myth 5: The Child Support Grant incentivises teenage girls to fall pregnant.

The Fact: Health Systems Trust research found that only 20% of teenage moms are actually claiming the child support grant. The report also found that only 5% of all grant recipients are teenage mothers – disproportionate when one considers the national percentage of teenage vs non-teenage mothers.  A Health Systems Trust survey also found that just 2% of pregnant women aged 15 – 24, cited the CSG as an incentive.  South Africa’s high – but decreasing – rate of teenage pregnancy is more accurately attributed to low levels of education around contraception and gender based violence.

Read all 10 of the myths here.

When community works: Early learning playgroups in the North West

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#Camu

The  Early Learning Playgroup Programme is an innovative public-private partnership, which trains government-contracted community workers in rural areas to run early stimulation playgroups for children aged 3 -5.  The benefits for the children are access to a quality learning programme, where before there was none. For the community workers, the programme presents an opportunity to work with children and take the first steps towards a career in teaching and early childhood development. This is their story:    

Cynthia Molehe’s grandfather always told her she would grow up to be a teacher.  “He used to say that I got the brains in the family and that I was going to make something of my life,” she says.  “But when I finished my matric in 2004, there just wasn’t any money to send me to college.”

Cynthia grew up in Madibogo, a small village in North West’s most rural and under-developed local municipality – Ratlou.  Ratlou stretches for kilometres – it’s vast and dry, with no towns, no industry and minimal tourism.  More than 100 000 people live here and the only job opportunities open to them are seasonal farming work or contract work at the nearby open-pit gold mine, operated by Harmony Gold, which averages a variable work head count of just 450.

When the door to tertiary education closed in Cynthia’s face, she travelled to nearby Mahikeng and Vryberg to look for work.  All she found were piece jobs: a few hours at a time helping in a shop or a month’s contract at a petrol station. In 2013, she joined the Department of Cooperative Governance’s Community Work Programme (CWP).  At that stage, the CWP had already been running for a year in Ratlou – its core function was to provide meaningful work opportunities to the poor.

“The work is all community orientated – maintaining vegetable gardens in schools, assisting the aged, cleaning public spaces, that sort of work” says Cynthia. “Soon after I entered the CWP, I was identified as a skilled worker and I received different kinds of training. But, I hadn’t given up on my dream to become a teacher.”

“In 2015, I was invited to train as an early learning playgroup facilitator (ELF) and I jumped at the chance to work with children. Later that year, I was promoted to a mentor trainer – a manager of a group of ELFs. This is what I do now – I manage 10 playgroups in Ratlou, I advise the ELFs and make sure they are doing the work. Next, I am going to further my studies – maybe through UNISA. I am going to be a teacher.”

The early learning playgroup model was introduced in the North West early in 2015 through a partnership between the CWP, the North West Department of Social Development, Cotlands, LIMA Rural Development Foundation and Ilifa Labantwana.

“This is project has been a model public-private partnership with a clear and transparent framework that government and NGO partners enter into to share resources,” says Zamani Cele, LIMA’s learning support facilitator for the North West. “Each partner has their own roles and responsibilities for the programme success and for the public good.”

“These partnerships shift the work undertaken by CWP participants from menial work to social action and have the potential to create viable career paths for the participants so that they can ‘graduate out of poverty’ – what CWP refers to as an ‘exit strategy’,” adds Zamani.

Ilifa Labantwana supports LIMA and Cotlands, two national NGOs, who partner with provincial CWP implementing agents to select appropriately qualified CWP participants to run playgroups for children aged 3 to 5, who do not have access to any early learning stimulation.  The implementing agents in the North West are Seriti Institute and Dhladhla Foundation.

The CWP participants are selected based on their willingness to work with children and build off personal ambitions to pursue a teaching career.

“We are very thorough in our selection. Participants are literate, have passed Grade 10, we check for criminal records, and we do aptitude, numeracy and literacy assessments,” says Zamani. Participants are also screened against the sexual offenders register, in line with legislation in the Children’s Act.

Once the CWP participants are selected they receive training on playgroup facilitation through Cotlands, a non-profit early childhood development organisation.  Aside from providing the initial training to the ELFs, Cotlands and Lima provide ongoing support from people like Cynthia – the mentor trainers.

“The early learning programme – CWP4ECD – is different to the rest of the CWP work,” says Terrance Mahlatsi, who manages the 1200 CWP participants in Ratlou.  “The participants who have trained as ELFs want to teach in the future.  This work opportunity means that think of themselves as teachers already, their dreams grow.”

The benefits of the early learning programme have not been limited to the CWP participants alone.  Terrance explains that many villages in Ratlou have no ECD centres and therefore no stimulation opportunities for the children who live there.  Where day care centres exist, the cost – anything from R50 to R350 per month – is too much for many rural households, who rely primarily on social grants and subsistence farming for survival.

The South African Early Childhood Review, published in 2016 by Ilifa Labantwana, The Children’s Institute, and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation found that 71% of North West’s children under 6 live in poor households.

As a result, the majority of children under five spend most of the day at home.  According to the South African Early Childhood Review, one third of South Africa’s 3 to 5 year olds – that is 1 million children – don’t attend any early learning programme.

“Young children need to be stimulated. The learning which takes place before school will ensure that the child is able to absorb knowledge once they start Grade R,” says Getrude Mabeza, Cotlands Project Manager for the North West.  “There is evidence that children who attended a good quality early learning programme are better equipped for the formal education system.”

“I have seen the difference these playgroups make in so many children,” says Cynthia.  “They come shy and they sit in the corner, not talking and not interested in the games. One little boy – Thabo – didn’t even know how to play with the toys!  A few weeks in and they are excited, they are taking part in everything, they can’t stop talking. I don’t mind if they are naughty – that’s how children should be.”

“Their parents come and thank us. They say ‘you have made my child clever’.”

Mmapule Mothobi is one of the CWP participants running a playgroup, managed by Cynthia.  Mmapule’s playgroup, which is attended by 10 children, is housed in a small outlying building on a private property. Like most playgroups, it relies on space donated by the community – such as churches, spare rooms, primary schools – procured through the initiative of the CWP participant themselves.

Mmapule Mothobi with two of the children in her Ratlou playgroup.

Mmapule Mothobi with two of the children in her Ratlou playgroup.

Children arrive for the 9am start time. Their morning is structured.  Mmapule, working together with a second facilitator, takes the children through a series of activities, designed to stimulate, inspire curiosity and the engage the imagination.  Mmapule has been trained in facilitating each activity but has the flexibility to improve and adapt as she goes along.  Her sounding board is Cynthia, her mentor trainer, who visits her playgroup on a regular basis, providing support, filling knowledge gaps and assisting with administration.

Mmapule was working in the community food garden when she first joined the CWP. “The work at the playgroups is much better. I have received interesting training and I am learning at work every day. My dream is to have my own ECD one day, this is helping me get there,” she says.

Shortly before noon, Mmapule serves the children a snack, marking the end of her day with the children and the start of a trickle of parents arriving to pick up their children.  Jobeta Warona is picking up three-year-old Ameelia. “The most important thing is the activities she does now because once she starts school she won’t fall behind the other children.  All that I dream for is a bright future for her.”

The impact of the playgroups on the development of the local children has been noticed by the local schools, who have welcomed their contribution to the education eco-system. Winnie Letsapa, an ELF who runs a playgroup from her mother’s spare room in Ratlou’s Setlagole village, says that the local primary school is assisting her with materials and advice.

“They help me because the work I am doing with the children now will help them once they start school,” she says. “The principal came to see the playgroup and she told me she really liked it. When I needed a chalkboard, she gave me a spare one from the school.”

Winnie Letsapa from Setlagole Village.

Winnie Letsapa from Setlagole Village.

In Ratlou, the CWP programme is led at a municipal level by Mamokete Molebelwe, who has championed the programme since its inception.

“The main thing about the CWP is that it restores dignity to people’s lives.  The participants were people who had no way of providing for their families. Some of them had no bank accounts or ID books.  They have those things now and it’s a source of pride.”

“The CWP early learning programme is different to the other kinds of CWP work.  The people who do the work really enjoy it and they become ambitious, they want to progress.”

The CWP4ECD programme is transforming and this will mean that those CWP4ECD participants who want to move forward in the field, will be given the opportunity.  The introduction of SmartStart social franchising in 2016 means that the ELFs, now to be called SmartStarters, will register playgroups under their own names, go through a licencing and accreditation process to help them deliver a quality early learning programme and become part of a much wider network of support, through their local club. They also have the possibility to earn income by charging parents a small monetary contribution towards the running of the playgroup depending on what the parents can afford.  The mentor trainers, now Club Coaches, will continue to provide support, ensuring that the quality of the early learning taking place is maintained.

“This is very exciting for the ELFs,” says Mosetsanagape Blennies, Club Coach for the Kagisano Molopo local municipality, who manages 11 playgroups and 25 ELFs.  “They never thought that they would accomplish this sort of work and make a difference in their community.”

Mosetsanagape adds that parents in her municipality are seeing increasing value in the playgroups, which in turn has increased respect for the ELFs and improved their self-esteem.  This is, in part, as a result of the monthly parent workshops run by the ELFs, focusing on at-home parenting skills such as positive discipline and storytelling.

“The ELFs don’t just run the playgroups, they are helping caregivers provide better care for their children during the rest of the time as well,” she says.  “If parents don’t come to the parenting workshops, the ELFs visit them at home.  This means they can identify problem situations at home and they can assist.”

Veronika Mokhutsane and fellow CWP-participant Boitumelo Leipego in front of the building they use to host playgroups in Ganyesa Village.

One of the ELFs under the support of Mosetsanagape, Veronica Mokhutsane, recently discovered that a child attending her playgroup was coming in hungry in the morning. After visiting the child’s home, Veronica rallied the support of the community for the destitute household.

“This job has changed me,” says Veronica.  “I never thought I would be someone in life. I didn’t think I would be a teacher. I didn’t think I could do something to help my community.”

To download a printable PDF of this story, click here

Bringing the Story Home: Early Literacy in the Free State

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs, ECD News, Lessons from the FieldLeave a Comment

During October 2016, we visited the Community Work Programme participants who are implementing the Nal’ibali Early Literacy programme in ECD centres around the Free State.  For the children enrolled in these centres, the programme means access to an early literacy programme for the first time. Nal’ibali is part of an innovative partnership, which trains Community Workers to fill gaps in ECD service delivery in impoverished communities.  Below is their story.  

If you take the N5 west out of Harrismith, you will reach Makholokweng in about 40 minutes. It lies to the left of the highway – a vast collection of one-story brick houses organised around wide, unpaved roads, dotted with potholes. Although the electricity poles are a new addition, as is much of the water delivery infrastructure, Makholokweng has been around for years.

Nancy Tsotetsi grew up here and she loved it. She still does. “We have tradition here. We respect the elders. People know their neighbours and more importantly, they care about them.”

Nancy, who turned 26 this year, was one of the few graduates of her matric class to go onto university. As soon as she completed her undergraduate social work degree in Durban, she came home.

Nancy says she studied social work because she wants to improve her community but, despite her best efforts, she hasn’t been able to find a social work post in Makholokweng; or any other work, for that matter. Makholokweng is remote and fairly residential, with no industries or commercial farms close by. Jobs are scarce, and most people rely on social grants. Unwilling to leave her home and look for work elsewhere, Nancy signed up as a participant of the Community Work Programme.

The Community Work Programme, or CWP, is a poverty alleviation initiative of the Department of Cooperative Governance (DCoG). Participants in CWP are paid a stipend by government to work part time, usually two days a week, doing useful work in their communities such as cleaning and tending to food gardens.

In 2015, a few months into CWP, Nancy was invited to join Nal’ibali, a national reading for enjoyment campaign which trains CWP participants to do their useful work by promoting early literacy in Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres and schools.

“Nal’ibali uses interactive storytelling to get children to enjoy reading from a very early age,” says Sithembiso Nhlapo, a Literacy Mentor at Nal’ibali.  Sithembiso trained Nancy at the start of the programme, and has continued to support her and other CWP participants running Nal’ibali groups in Makholokweng through monthly visits and follow-up training.

Nancy Tsotetsi

Nancy Tsotetsi

Power of Partnerships

“Joining forces with the CWP has meant that we have been able to reach 5 073 children aged 3 to 5 in the Free State. We couldn’t have achieved that alone,” he adds.

Public-private partnerships, like the one with Nal’ibali, are core to the success of CWP. “Our private partners provide the skills transfer, which enables the participants to do useful work,” says Fortunate Makhubu, DCoG’s CWP Partnerships Manager. The relationship between Nal’ibali and DCoG is facilitated by the Lima Rural Development Foundation, a non-governmental organisation working in rural development administration and project management.

“Lima works with DCOG and local leaders to identify the needs of the community. We then assist in the implementation of projects which meet those needs,” explains Nontokozo Kunene, who oversees the Nal’ibali project in the Free State on behalf of LIMA.

“The partnership is supported by the DG Murray Trust, which also works with CWP on rolling out early learning playgroups in the North West – another innovative application of CWP to ECD. We believe these projects have big potential for ECD service delivery in South Africa going forward,” she adds.

For Nancy, Nal’ibali means an opportunity to improve education outcomes in her community by addressing literacy problems at the source – during the early years. The complex brain networks responsible for language and reading begin forming before birth. The more spoken language young children hear, the better these networks develop. Storytelling exposes children to spoken language and encourages the understanding of words.

“This is the foundation of reading and comprehension,” says Sithembiso. “And South Africa needs urgent action when it comes to teaching our children to read.”

Recent University of Stellenbosch research found that 58% of Grade 4 learners are not able to read for meaning, and a third are completely illiterate. The majority of these pupils – usually from impoverished communities like Makholokweng – never catch up to their peers, forfeiting all chances of a tertiary education or upward economic mobility. The literacy crisis extends beyond the individual: Stellenbosch University estimates that it costs South Africa R450bn each year.  It’s a missed opportunity to build the imagination, empathy and problem-solving that the country needs.

Opening doors to career opportunities

CWP is not intended to be a long-term employment solution for individuals and Nancy, who has a degree, will probably exit the programme when she finds full time work. She is an exception, however, as most participants enter CWP with very few formal skills. For them, training programmes and work experience like Nal’ibali can form the first steps in a career path in early childhood development.

“I always knew I wanted to work with people, but Nal’ibali gave me direction towards teaching,” says Malifu Moloi, the CWP coordinator for the Nal’ibali programme in Vrede, a small town in the Free State’s agricultural Phumelela municipality.

Malifu is a natural performer.  She’s in her element when reading to a group of children or leading them into a dramatic story interpretation. “I actually used to dream about working in TV when I was younger,” she says. “Unfortunately, Vrede isn’t a place with those kind of opportunities.”

Malifu Moloi with the children at Khayalethu Edu Care.

Malifu Moloi with the children at Khayalethu Edu Care.

Malifu’s parents died when she was in her teens, leaving no money behind for a tertiary education. She went after her dreams of public speaking by volunteering as a peer mentor for NGOs such as loveLife and Soul Buddyz, but struggled to find permanent work in Vrede, where youth unemployment tops 34%. Four years ago, she joined the CWP, and was soon leading a group of 25 participants in cleaning local ECD centres.

“Nal’ibali approached us in 2014. After the first day of their Story Play training, I knew it was for me. This wasn’t about monotone reading to bored children. This was fun! We perform the story with the kids, we sing, we engage their imagination. We bring the story home.”

“The other important thing about Nal’ibali is that we read and tell stories in the children’s home language, because that’s the language children learn best in.”

Malifu and her team introduced Nal’ibali into the ECD centres they were cleaning. “They didn’t have literacy curricula before. Now that the difference the programme has made for children entering Grade R is clear, all the ECD centres wants Nal’ibali,” says Malifu.

Jessie Sigasa, the head at one of the centres where Malifu introduced the programme, agrees. “Nal’ibali is preparing children for Grade R. We can see it in the reports of the children who attended the programme last year. They are doing better than the others in their class.”

“But for us, it’s about more than just literacy. We had some very shy children here. They worried us because they didn’t want to take part in the group activities. It was hard to get them to smile. During Nal’ibali Story Play, they forgot to be shy and just joined in the fun with the others. Now they are starting to come out of their shells and it makes us happy,” adds Jessie.

Malifu has noted a change in her CWP team as well – the cleaners-turned-Nal’ibali storytellers. “They are different now, this work is important. We are empowering children. I would rather make a child smile than pick up a broom and sweep the floor.”

Veronica Maduna, who is taking part in Nal’ibali in nearby Warden, had a similar experience. “I saw one of the children from the centre, walking down the street with his mom. He greeted me with ‘Hello, Miss!’. I could see his mom was surprised. I know she is thinking, ‘A Miss in CWP overalls?’. But it’s good for the parents to know that we don’t just clean the streets. It felt good. That’s dignity.”

Literacy begins in the home

Parents are an important part of Nal’ibali, which means that the work of the CWP participants reaches beyond the centre. “We need to change reading behaviour in the home,” says Nancy from Makholokweng. “We are speaking to parents about it at the ECD centre meetings. Nal’ibali produces newspaper supplements filled with children’s stories. We cut them out and put them in the children’s backpacks to take home.”

Nancy’s drive to get parents reading to their children hasn’t been easy. “People don’t have much access to books here,” she says. No newspapers or magazines are sold or distributed in the community. The first and only library opened in 2009 – a 3mx2m prefab room, which was greeted with some suspicion. “There was a mentality that libraries are for ‘educated’ people,” says Nancy. “Fortunately, that’s starting to change.”

She says people are discouraged from education. As a start, it’s logistically difficult. The closest secondary school is a 45-minute walk away. There is one taxi shuttle, but it prioritises the younger pupils, or at least those of them who can afford the fare.

Mobilising individuals and communities 

Taking part in Nal’ibali through the CWP inspired Nancy to joined another Nal’ibali initiative, called FUNda Leader.

“FUNda Leaders are literacy advocates. They mobilise community members by initiating storytelling and reading activities in the streets, in churches, in clinics – anywhere where people gather,” says Sithembiso.

“There are no monetary incentives for FUNda Leaders, although we do assist them with training and resources where we can. These are passionate people who recognise the importance of exposing upcoming generations to reading and breaking the cycles of poverty. The incentive is individual desire to make a lasting change in the place where they live.”

Many of the CWP participants running Nal’ibali groups in the Free State have become FUNda leaders, and are organising reading and storytelling activities for older children (and even adults) after their paid-for work in CWP ends for the day. The majority are women like Nancy, Malifu and Veronica – in their 20s and early 30s, with young children of their own and the enthusiasm to create a wave of change that will sweep their own growing families along into a better educated South Africa.

However, Nal’ibali is changing the older generation as well. Majafita Malinga is 52 years old, she is a CWP participant, working with Nal’ibali at an ECD centre outside Harrismith.  Majafita left school in Grade 10, after being left with the responsibility of looking after her younger siblings.  She has spent the years since working as a part-time domestic worker, and later, cleaning drains as a CWP participant.

“I had an aunt who was a nurse so when I was younger, that was what I dreamed about – being a nurse. Unfortunately, none of my dreams came true. The best I could do was to focus on being a good parent, although that’s been difficult,” says Majafita.   img_2262

“When they announced that there was this Nal’ibali programme, I decided to apply to take part. I love children and my raising my own children has been the main source of joy in my own life,” she says. “The training was intimidating at first. I dropped out of school so many years ago, and I haven’t been inside a classroom in a long time. I honestly did not believe I would learn a new skill at my age, but I did.”

Since finishing the training, Majafita does Nal’ibali activities with the children in the centre in the mornings, and she reads to school children in the local library in the afternoons.

“Every parent dreams that their children don’t end up the same way as them. This is why I am doing this for the children here. I am helping to build better people of tomorrow.”

Download a printable PDF of this story here

ECD in 2016: the good, the bad and a growing to-do list

Svetlana DonevaBlog, The Policy PostLeave a Comment

2016 has been a good year for early childhood development in South Africa.

  • The National Integrated ECD Policy was adopted
  • Many more ECD centres, which had previously battled to register and improve access to quality services, were able to register and access the ECD subsidy, thanks to a more robust system of conditional registration
  • Partly because of this registration drive, the number of children benefiting from the ECD subsidy increased by almost 100 000.
  • The qualifications framework for ECD practitioners has been strengthened to better align with the ECD policy vision of an expanded cadre of qualified workers able to deliver a comprehensive programme of early childhood development
  • Significantly more money has been allocated from the public purse to fund ECD expansion. Notably, government made available an R 810 million conditional grant for ECD infrastructure expansion
  • The Department of Health, which has for many years not aligned itself to the national ECD agenda, has acknowledged its key role in delivering ECD services to children under two years, and has engaged in focussed drives to promote breastfeeding and revise the Road to Health Booklet which will form the locus of the department’s development services
  • A closer and stronger working relationship between the sectors responsible for the ECD package gained impetus with the establishment of the Inter-Ministerial committee on ECD and the supporting ECD forum
  • The first South African Early Childhood Review was published in partnership between the Presidency, The Children’s Institute and Ilifa Labantwana, giving a clear picture of how far we have come and how far we have to go to provide a suite of essential ECD services.

Despite the good progress, the ECD review and other research publications of 2016 showed that there is still substantial work to be done, not just in the delivery of ECD services, but in the building of  systems to drive and sustain population based planning and delivery.

Notable challenges include:

  • The high levels of stunting and generally poor nutritional status of young children in South Africa
  • The continued focus – in planning and resourcing – on ECD centres rather than programmes from birth
  • The continued focus in the health system on surviving rather than children thriving, as required by the Sustainable Development Goals
  • The lack of effective quality ECD services for children with disabilities and / or developmental delays
  • The lack of systems and data to plan for and track progress in delivery of absolutely essential services such as parenting support programmes.

These challenges represent only a sample of those that must be overcome if we are to realise the ECD policy vision. As 2016 comes to an end, we must ask: What should we prioritise in 2017 to see the systemic shifts in our development landscape that ECD has the potential to make? And how do we guarantee that the country turns its collective and focussed attention to addressing these priorities?

Well, the ECD policy itself clearly identifies the short-term priorities. The policy requires, that by 2017, the following foundations be put in place (most of which need substantial work to get to the required policy position):

  • A national multi-sectoral comprehensive food and nutrition strategy for children under 5 must be developed
  • National multi-sectoral guidelines to ensure universal availability of quality inclusive ECD services must be developed
  • Provincial departments of social development must, in collaboration with local municipalities, establish management structures to manage, oversee and coordinate delivery of ECD services
  • The community health worker programme must be expanded and community health workers must be trained on development and provide an expanded suite of support in homes and communities
  • A national non-centre based ECD facilitator programme must be developed and rolled out
  • The financing mechanism for the delivery of the ECD package must be in place
  • A national monitoring system must be developed and overseen by the Inter-Departmental Committee on ECD to measure progress in advancing the delivery of the promised comprehensive ECD package.

Our collective attention must turn to these deliverables as soon as the year starts, given that each represents a massive undertaking that will take significant resources and collaboration of stakeholders to yield the desired outcomes.

How do we ensure that collective attention and resources turn to these priorities?

We must ensure that they are truly embedded within the national framework of priorities – governed by the Outcomes Framework.

The Outcomes Framework is a statement of our 14 national priorities aligned to the National Development Plan and the Medium Term Strategic Framework. The Presidency is the custodian of the Framework and all ministers and departments at all levels of government must develop their annual plans and budgets to advance these priorities. All government ministries and departments are required to plan for, deliver and report against progress in the fourteen priority areas. Their contractual obligations are managed and enforced through outcome delivery agreements signed by ministers and provincial premiers.

The successful national and government-wide prioritisation of an issue or set of issues depends on how well they are embedded within the Outcomes Framework. Their visibility in the Outcomes Framework is a true test of their national importance.  And, at this stage, ECD is just not visible enough.

2017 should start off with a review and revision of the national Outcomes Framework and accompanying indicators and delivery agreements across the 14 priority outcomes areas to better profile ECD and the specific ECD policy priorities as non-negotiables for action across the ministerial and departmental spectrum. The delivery agreements with ministers and premiers should be revised accordingly, as should the current set of indicators to better reflect progress in our ECD priorities as articulated in the policy, and to enable the country to monitor progress at all levels of government.

A cartoon image of Patricia Martin, blog authorThe Policy Post is written by Patricia Martin, the director of Advocacy Aid, a consultancy that provides advocacy support to the development sector. Patricia has worked as a child rights advocate and policy analyst for more than a decade and has a special interest in ECD policy and programme development and monitoring.

 

 

 

 

 

Setting the ECD facts straight: Child Support Grant and alcohol?

Svetlana DonevaUncategorizedLeave a Comment

You have probably come across these common misconceptions about Early Childhood Development in South Africa at some point. Maybe on social media, maybe in the comment section of a news website, or maybe during a heated argument at a social gathering. We decided set the facts straight by gathering the evidence to debunk 10 stubborn ECD myths.  

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Myth 4: People spend the Child Support Grant on alcohol!

The Fact: People who receive the Child Support Grant are most likely going to spend it on food, school fees, school uniforms and electricity – in that order. This review of the grant explains in detail.

Read all 10 of the myths around Early Childhood Development here.

New play-based teaching course for ECD practitioners

Svetlana DonevaBlog, ECD NewsLeave a Comment

A child learns through play at an ECD centre in KZNThere is a growing amount of evidence globally which supports that play is fundamental to learning in the first 1000 days of a child’s life.  For young children aged under 6, playing is a way to develop social and cognitive skills, as well as confidence.

Incorporating play into an early learning curriculum, however, is not as easy as it may seem to the uninitiated. True play is spontaneous, voluntary, it engages children’s imagination, and is, above all, fun.  Facilitating play on an ongoing and regular basis for a group of children requires skills, not always taught during early childhood development (ECD) or teacher training.

A new e-learning platform, introduced last month, is attempting to change this.  PLAY is a free online training course aimed at ECD practitioners and foundation phase teachers, initiated by our partners, Cotlands, along with UNICEF, The Lego Foundation and South Africa’s Department of Basic Education.

“PLAY doesn’t replace existing formal training, but complements it,” says Jackie Schoeman, CEO of Cotlands.  “It’s an advanced course, which practitioners can do in their own time.  It is designed to be practical; it gives ideas on how to turn the theory into practice at the end of each module,”

“PLAY is part of a much bigger movement of reintroducing play-based pedagogy into our schools and ECD centres,” she adds. “Ultimately, we want to influence the way new teachers are trained and evaluated.”

Play-based learning is already supported by the National Integrated ECD Policy, approved by Cabinet last year. However, transforming the way ECD centres and foundation phase classes are taught will be a process, requiring attitude shifts from all stakeholders.

“We also have to change the minds of parents who still believe that a completed worksheet equals a day spent learning.  We want them to understand that play is as fundamental to their children’s early education, as formal teaching.”

Jackie says that the decision to offer the course on a mobile platform was considered, and backed by market research. “We needed a way to reach as many practitioners and teachers as possible. Training at scale is very expensive, and so we went with a mobile platform which is accessible on any phone with an internet connection.”

“E-learning is a big shift from the way training is traditionally delivered in South Africa, but it’s one we feel we need to make. It’s common practice elsewhere in the world,” she adds.

The biggest obstacle to accessing PLAY will be data costs, but Jackie says that the course has been designed to be consumed in parts, each of which only requires a small amount of data to download.  The Department of Basic Education is offering free Wi-Fi at its teacher training centres around the country, to practitioners wanting to download modules.

So far, PLAY has attracted a fair bit of attention from practitioners and teachers. Jackie expects take-up to really fly with the start of the new academic year in 2017.  All Cotlands Early Learning Facilitators and SmartStarters, including those who are facilitating playgroups supported by Ilifa in the North West, will be taking the course.

Registration for PLAY is free and open to anyone working in ECD or foundation phase teaching. Simply SMS “PLAY” to 30594.

Setting the ECD facts straight: more and more children

Svetlana DonevaUncategorizedLeave a Comment

You have probably come across these common misconceptions about Early Childhood Development in South Africa at some point. Maybe on social media, maybe in the comment section of a news website, or maybe during a heated argument at a social gathering. We decided set the facts straight by gathering the evidence to debunk 10 stubborn ECD myths.  

The Myth 2: Poor people keep having more and more children, SA’s tax payer base cannot just keep on supporting them.

The Fact: The population of young children in South Africa has not grown substantially over the past decade – showing that poor households are not, in fact, having increasing numbers of children. The number of children under 6 years in SA, is steady at around 6 million.  The number of births per women in SA is 2.4 – just under the 2.5 world average, and far lower than 5 birth/woman average in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Read all 10 of the myths here.

 

Setting the ECD facts straight

Svetlana DonevaBlog1 Comment

You have probably come across these common misconceptions about Early Childhood Development in South Africa at some point. Maybe on social media, maybe in the comment section of a news site, or maybe during a heated argument at a social gathering.  We decided set the facts straight by gathering the evidence to debunk 10 stubborn ECD myths.  Have we missed out anything? Let us know in the comments. 

MythIntroslide
« 1 of 11 »

Myth 1: Social grants are a waste of tax payers’ money.

The Fact: The number of children living in poverty in SA has declined from 79% in 2003 to 63% in 2014 – largely as a result of the expansion of social grants.  Poverty has serious lifelong consequences on the development of young children, due to their increased nutritional needs and greater risk of infection.  Research has found that early access to the Child Support Grant reduces likelihood of illness in children, as well as stunting, which has lifelong negative implications on people’s health.  Children who receive the CSG early in life, complete significantly more grades of schooling, compared to children who accessed the grant after age 6 or not at all.  These children also scored higher on mathematics and literacy tests, proving that the CSG impacts positively on school performance.

Myth 2: Poor people keep having more and more children, SA’s tax payer base cannot just keep on supporting them.

The Fact: The population of young children in South Africa has not grown substantially over the past decade – showing that poor households are not, in fact, having increasing numbers of children. The number of children under 6 years in SA, is steady at around 6 million.  The number of births per women in SA is 2.4 – just under the 2.5 world average, and far lower than 5 birth/woman average in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Myth 3: Parents claim the child support grant for children who are not even living with them.

The Fact: The Centre for Social Development in Africa found that the overwhelming majority (92.2%) of Child Support Grant beneficiaries are in fact living with the caregiver who is claiming the grant.  A separate study found that moms accessing the CSG are actually more involved in the day to day lives of their children – which is known to have positive social, emotional and cognitive benefits for kids.

Myth 4: People spend the Child Support Grant on alcohol!

The Fact: People who receive the Child Support Grant are most likely going to spend it on food, school fees, school uniforms and electricity – in that order. This review of the grant explains in detail.

Myth 5: The Child Support Grant incentivises teenage girls to fall pregnant.

The Fact: Health Systems Trust research found that only 20% of teenage moms are actually claiming the child support grant. The report also found that only 5% of all grant recipients are teenage mothers – disproportionate when one considers the national percentage of teenage vs non-teenage mothers.  A Health Systems Trust survey also found that just 2% of pregnant women aged 15 – 24, cited the CSG as an incentive.  South Africa’s high – but decreasing – rate of teenage pregnancy is more accurately attributed to low levels of education around contraception and gender based violence.

Myth 6: Poor people have children just so they can access the child support grant

The Fact: Child Support Grant uptake is low for qualifying infants < 1 year, around 60% nationally , despite the fact that it takes just 3 days to process grant applications and caregivers can begin accessing the grant in the first month of their baby’s life.  If the assumption that people have children just so they can access the grant is true, then uptake in the first year of life would be much higher.

Myth 7: The achievement gap in schools is inevitable and can’t be helped. People have different abilities.

The Fact: Arguing the case of an inevitable achievement gap in school would be fair if all children started Grade R on an equal footing. Quality mental stimulation before children enter formal schooling is essential for laying the cognitive and linguistic foundations for all later learning.  In SA, access to early learning programmes is unequal across income groups, with only 57% of 3 – 5 year olds from the poorest quintile enrolled in a programme compared to 84% of their peers in the richest quintile[5].  This means that 1 million children from the most vulnerable households in South Africa are not attending any kind of early learning programme at all. These children start the first day of Grade R at a learning disadvantage and the gap between them and their peers widens over time.  Recent research analysed data from the Annual National Assessments to find that Grade 4 learning outcome patterns closely mimic those in the final year of formal schooling, Grade 12, and reflect long-lasting disadvantage of students who have fallen behind early in their schooling careers. The study also found that schooling performance is closely linked to income quintile.  In fact, more than 50% of pupils in the poorer income quintiles have already fallen behind the benchmark in Grade 2. The achievement gap in SA school must be considered in this context, until all children are given an equal start in formal schooling.

Myth 8: The South African fiscus is at breaking point! We cannot afford to fund expensive ECD programmes right now – subsidised day care is a nice-to-have for developed economies.

The Fact: The Harvard School of Public Health recently estimated the lost potential life-time earnings of children born in Sub-Saharan Africa this year to be over $34.2bn – directly as a result of lack of quality ECD, specifically nutrition and physical delays.  Children who receive quality ECD stay in school for longer and earn considerably higher than their peers; they enjoy better health and remain outside the criminal justice system.  Their life long contribution to the economy is far higher than an individual who did not benefit from good quality ECD.  Every rand spent on ECD today is an investment with a high return and a multiplier effect once individuals enter the job market.

Myth 9: Poverty is a fact of life in South Africa.  We can’t solve the problem in our lifetime.

The Fact: Poverty is deeply entrenched in South African society – the product of decades of divisive policy, structural dysfunction and a myriad of societal factors. Poverty is a cycle.  Children from poor households fail to receive adequate education and repeat the economic behaviours of their parents. While alleviating poverty on a national scale is a complex issue, requiring the action of multiple parties, it is possible to break the poverty cycle of individuals by offering them good quality ECD during the early years. Benefiting from quality ECD means these individuals stay in school for longer, are more employable, earn more than their peers, and are more likely to make better health choices. Children who have received good quality ECD are more likely to offer it to their children – this is where the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty lies.

Myth 10: I don’t even have kids. Subsidised ECD services are not my problem.

The Fact: All society – including childless adults – benefits from quality ECD services provided to children from disadvantaged households.  Investment in quality ECD results in economic expansion, safer and more stable societies and less strain on the health system.

[5] General Household Survey 2014, analysis by the Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town.

 

Let’s all get along: notes on NGO and corporate partnerships

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs, ECD NewsLeave a Comment

Relationships between corporates and NGOs are often fraught with misunderstanding; which is unsurprising, when one considers the differing motivations of the parties involved.  This interesting report on the subject, summarises it simply: most corporates enter partnerships with NGOs to improve their reputation and their credibility; NGOs enter partnerships with corporates to access funds.  Now, add vastly different operating styles, organisational structures and success metrics into the mix.  Is it any surprise we struggle to understand each other?

We want to see this change.  Especially when it comes to ECD.  In order to create mass change and improve the early life opportunities of South African children for the better, we need partnerships between NGOs and corporates to extend beyond the money/reputation exchange.  Our recent work with RCL FOODS demonstrates how this can work and, in the spirit of knowledge sharing, we have jotted down some of the lessons here.

RCL FOODS is one of South Africa’s biggest food producers – makers of pantry stalwarts like Nola Mayonnaise, Ouma Rusks, Rainbow Chicken, and YumYum Peanut Butter. They also produce a third of the country’s total sugar output through their sugar milling division, which is headlined by the Selati brand. One of the strongholds of Selati Sugar is in Nkomazi village, Mpumalanga.  Nature enthusiasts may have driven through Nkomazi on their way to the Malelane Gate of the Kruger National Park.

Nkomazi is surrounded by rolling sugar cane fields. On its outskirts, sits the imposing sugar processing mill. The entire operation makes up a major part of the Nkomazi economy, but like many small agricultural towns in South Africa, the majority of its residents live in poverty.  Nkomazi is beautiful but very resource constrained.  RCL FOODS identified ECD as a priority intervention for the community, under an initiative called “Leave No Young Child Behind”.

The sugar mill at Komati, Nkomazi (Photo credit: Selati)

The sugar mill at Komati, Nkomazi (Photo credit: Selati)

We have participated in “Leave No Young Child Behind” in two ways. The first is a skills share workshop with the staff of Nkomazi FM – a local community radio station which holds an extraordinary amount of potential in increasing parents’ understanding of their role in their children’s early development.  The second was a course, run by our KZN partners TREE, aimed at social workers and Department of Basic Education subject advisors for Grade R. The training upskilled these government staff in assessing ECD programmes – both centre and non-centre based – for quality; with the end goal of improving these programmes’ performance.

Photo of radio training at Nkomazi FM

Studio training with the Nkomazi FM team

Throughout our exchange with RCL FOODS, we have noted the commitment of the staff in investing time in learning about the ECD sector. They are regulars at ECD meetings and conferences, with strong links to the sector’s individual thought leaders.  The level of understanding of the challenges that they have acquired through this process has had a major influence on the projects they are spearheading under “Leave No Young Child Behind”.

Another factor is RCL FOODS’s systemic approach to change, which acknowledges the necessary participation of all stakeholders in the delivery of quality ECD services.  Most significant is their negotiations with government on public sector participation in “Leave No Young Child Behind”.  For example, attendance at our training of social workers and education staff was impressive, and we would have struggled to obtain a similar level of support alone.

RCL FOODS’ ECD work extends beyond the direct benefit of their staff, and focuses on stabilising the social and economic environment of the community in which they operate.  We believe that its NGO-corporate partnerships like this one that can create change at scale, as they introduce new skill sets and points of influence into our relatively small ECD sector.  We will continue to work on this in 2017 and hope that we will see more corporates considering the investment case of ECD as core to the long term longevity of their business.

Policy Post: Where does ECD feature in the MTBPS 2016/17?

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs, The Policy PostLeave a Comment

Photo of Minister Gordhan delivering the MTBPS to Parliament on 26 October

Gordhan delivers the MTBPS to Parliament on 26 October

This Wednesday, Minister Pravin Gordhan presented South Africa’s annual mini budget – or the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement, as it goes by formally.  The MTBPS is crucially important for the country, and for the ECD sector, as it gives an indication of what government is prioritising for spending in the next 3 years (the medium term).Read More

Policy Post: Does Parliament really understand the ECD policy?

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs, ECD News, The Policy PostLeave a Comment

Photo of parliament

On 6 September 2016, the Departments of Social Development (DSD) and Basic Education (DBE) made another presentation to the Basic Education Parliamentary Portfolio Committee. The minutes of the briefing and Q&A can be viewed here.

The Departments noted that they, along with the Department of Health (DoH), were the primary duty-bearers, (supported by other departments as well as local government) for the implementation of ECD as per the newly adopted National Integrated Policy for ECD.

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Sinovuyo Caring Families Project takes flight

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs, ECD News, News, ParentingLeave a Comment

Sinovuyo parenting workshop in Cape Town

It’s been just over three years since the Sinovuyo Caring Families Project was piloted with 68 families in Khayalitsha, Cape Town.  The programme, which recently completed a two year randomised control trial supported by Ilifa Labantwana, has attracted a great amount of international attention and is being implemented in Kenya, South Sudan, the DRC and the Philippines this year alone. We spoke to Dr Jamie Lachman about the project and the journey to scale.       

Q: First things first, what is Sinovuyo Caring Families Project?

The Sinovuyo Caring Families Project for Young Children (we also have a programme for parents and teens) is a parenting programme developed in South Africa, focusing on the highest-risk families with children aged 2-9. These families are typically affected by HIV/Aids or intimate partner violence.  Sinovuyo’s goal is to prevent child maltreatment and conduct problems, and to improve family dynamics.

Q: Tell me about the origin of the Sinovuyo.

Sinovuyo began as a collaboration between the Universities of Cape Town, Oxford, and Bangor. The focus was to develop and evaluate a parenting programme to reduce violence against children in South Africa and other low-resource settings. Many of the existing evidence-based programmes available were either too expensive to deliver in South Africa at scale or too restrictive to culturally adapt for local families. The team realised the need to develop a South African programme that was similar to these other programmes but appropriate for the local context and most importantly, economical to scale up. At the same time, I was working on a parenting programme at Clowns Without Borders SA (CWBSA) in KZN at the time and we jumped at the opportunity to expand our programme while also deepening our understanding of its impact on families and children. UCT and CWBSA teamed up and I went to study at Oxford University, where I met Professor Lucie Cluver, and the design of the Sinovuyo Caring Families Project began in earnest.

Q: What factors did you take into consideration for the design?

We started off by looking at the commonalities for effective family programmes globally and identifying the components.  We wanted Sinovuyo to be culturally relevant for its context and we visited six Cape Flats communities, speaking to parents and service providers in focus groups and interviews about their needs from a parenting intervention. Finally, our goal from the very start, was to create a programme that is easily scalable at a minimal cost in low-resource countries. We knew that Sinovuyo needed to be widely available with no licensing fees and free for parents to attend.

Q: How did Sinovuyo evolve?

With initial funding from the World Health Organization, the programme manual was developed at the end of 2012.  We had designed a 12-week, group-based programme, delivered by community workers trained to model parenting techniques.  We then piloted the programme in the following year with 68 families in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.  In 2014, Ilifa, along with the ApexHi Charitable Trust, funded a randomised controlled of trial (RCT) of the programme with 296 families in Khayelitsha and neighbouring Nyanga. The RCT, which ended in March this year, will provide robust evidence on whether Sinovuyo reduces abuse and harsh parenting, improves family relationships and reduces caregiver and child levels of depression and toxic stress.

Q: Towards the end of last year Sinovuyo started attracting a lot of attention. Were you ready?

We wanted the RCT to be complete before taking the programme overseas but it didn’t work out exactly like that.  Our presentations at conferences and our journal articles caught the attention of various organisation. By the start of 2016, we were already working with AMPATH Kenya’s project for young mothers in Western Kenya.

Q: So, Kenya is Sinovuyo’s first international application?

Yes. It’s been highly rewarding to see community health workers delivering Sinovuyo in rural Kenya, which is an environment even more resource-poor than the Cape Flats.  AMPATH Kenya had a first 1000 days programme for 600 new mothers. As the babies approached age 2, the moms had a lot of questions about parenting and dealing with challenging behaviour. This is why Sinovuyo was introduced. The moms come with their children and sit in a big circle under a tree.  A lot of them have had new babies since the initial first 1000 days programme started, and they put them in the centre of the circle to sleep and play while they do the programme.  It’s been almost surreal to see Sinovuyo applied to this wholly different context.

Parenting workshop in Western Kenya

Parenting workshop in Western Kenya

Q: Have you had any big problems in the roll-out?

The biggest challenge is to retain a degree of control on the quality as the programme moves further away from its source. It’s difficult for us to monitor and support quality delivery remotely. For example, we often have to conduct supervision via Skype with interpreters but many of the valuable nuances get lost in the translation.

Q: How you are dealing with it?

We have developed a certification process for the facilitators. This will include assessments from peer reviews, supervisors, and video recordings of the sessions. All these things should help strengthen competencies and quality of delivery. We are also learning to build support structures to help the programme fly. For example, we aren’t just training the facilitators, we are also training their supervisors and other supporting staff members.

Q: What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you started on this process?

One thing I still don’t know but I wish I did, is whether Sinovuyo is the most effective, economic and scalable programme, or intervention package, it can be.  During discussion with scaling up partners, I am frequently asked “What will happen if we reduce the dosage by one session?” or “What will happen if we omit this part?” We just don’t know the answers to those questions.  If I had to do this all again, I would do more innovative testing of the programme design, before embarking on the RCT.

Q: The growth of Sinovuyo is still very exciting though.

Yes, absolutely. It’s so difficult to visualise the end goal when you are in the thick of planning and designing a programme. We often felt that way with Sinovuyo. To see it go to scale over the past year has been quite amazing.

Q: What do you have planned next?

Later this month, we are going to be rolling out the programme in South Sudan, working with Catholic Relief Services, and funded by USAID. We are also busy adapting Sinovuyo in the Philippines to be rolled out with a conditional cash transfer system, which is really exciting.  We have been working with the Philippine Ambulatory Paediatric Association on that since last year. Almost every week we get requests from more and more places – Egypt, Thailand, Syrian refugees, who knows what’s next!

Dr Jamie Lachman was interviewed by Ilifa Labantwana in September 2016. For more information on Sinovuyo check out Clowns Without Borders or email on Jamie at Jamie@cwbsa.org. 

For more details on the Sinovuyo programme, take a look at this Lessons from the Field report

Progress in measuring outcomes from early learning

Svetlana DonevaBlog, ECD News6 Comments

Research indicates that while children from better-off homes make good progress following Grade R, children from poor households do not, and the gap between these two groups widens with age. Quality preschool programmes enable poor children to be ready to benefit from Grade R. However, South Africa lacks a reliable and valid instrument to assess how early learning programmes perform in preparing children for this level of education.

This is changing! Social innovation platform Innovation Edge, supported by Ilifa, has developed an Early Learning Outcomes Measure (ELOM).  ELOM is the first South African pre-school child assessment tool, rigorously standardised, culturally fair and simple to administer that indicates if early childhood development (ECD) programmes are effective in preparing children for Grade R, and identifies areas for improvement.

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After the promises: a guide to ECD post the local government elections 2016

Svetlana DonevaBlog, The Policy PostLeave a Comment

Photo credit: The Guardian
(Photo credit: The Guardian)

Well, the local government elections, and hopefully the celebratory or remorse hangovers, are now behind us. The newly elected administrations now face the hard work of making the many promises a reality and creating better communities and livelihoods for the people in their constituencies.

This fresh start represents a wonderfully unique opportunity to get ECD firmly on the agenda of the new local administrations.  However, making the most of this opportunity requires careful and strategic planning and advocacy. There are 278 municipalities in South Africa, comprising eight metropolitan, 44 district and 226 local municipalities. They are focused on growing local economies and providing infrastructure and service. If well-planned, the ECD sector can make significant shifts happen at local government level – that is if the sector uses the new space strategically and systematically to ensure that all 278 municipalities place ECD at the centre of their rights and development vision as captured in their IDPs and budgets.

Engaging with municipalities one at a time is not likely to unlock the required universal and systemic commitment and changes we need to see across all municipalities. Even if we were to engage with one municipality at a time, who will do this engagement, will such engagement happen quickly enough in the small window we have now in the post-election period, and how will we ensure consistency across the various advocacy initiatives?

The ECD policy in fact provides a strategic and systemic solution to ensure universal and effective fulfillment of local governments’ ECD responsibilities. The ECD sector must put their collective weight behind it to ensure it is actioned without delay.

The new ECD policy clarifies and expands, for the first time in South Africa’s policy history, a set of focused and clear local government ECD responsibilities. It provides that:

  • District municipalities are responsible for effective coordination of ECD in each district within their mandates.
  • Local and metro municipalities must participate in planning of ECD services. They are responsible for supporting child care facilities to meet minimum infrastructural, health and safety standards, registration of child minding services, development of new ECD service provision infrastructure, and auditing and identification of available infrastructure that may be used for the expansion of early leaning services and programmes in areas of need.
  • Where capacity exists, the Department of Social Development may assign responsibility to local governments to provide (register, regulate and deliver) ECD programmes and services.
  • Local government is responsible for the equitable provision of play and recreation facilities for young children.
  • District, local and metro municipalities are required to establish coordinating structures to support the planning, coordination and monitoring of ECD services and programmes.
  • These responsibilities must be planned for and reflected in all Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) and their supporting budgets.

It is very unlikely, that without some systematic and strategic overarching local government plan of action that is supported by adequate resources, that all municipalities (all of which are at very different stages of development with huge variations in capacity, resources and understanding to engage in ECD provisioning) will be able to, and indeed fulfil these responsibilities.

Realistically, to ensure that all municipalities know, understand and effectively action their ECD responsibilities in the election honeymoon period, we need to reach all of them at the same time, with the same messages, the same tools and support for planning, budgeting and implementation, as well as same monitoring, evaluation and reporting requirements.

The ECD policy provides a vehicle or mechanism to do just that.

The policy embeds a mechanism for the systemic activation, support, monitoring and oversight of local government’s ECD responsibilities. It assigns an overarching role to the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA).

The policy assigns responsibility to COGTA for:

  • Funding and promoting fulfillment of municipal responsibility for development of early learning facilities;
  • Synergising the Expanded Public works Programme and Community Work Programme with the community-based human resource provisioning for ECD
  • Providing guidance and capacity development to municipalities in respect of their ECD responsibilities and obligations, in particular the inclusion of ECD in their IDPs.

However, over and above the lack of local government knowledge and capacity is a much bigger overarching problem – there is a lack of ECD awareness, capacity, knowledge, and expertise within COGTA. In addition, there is not a well-developed relationship with clear pathways for communication and cooperation between COGTA and the ECD sector. This deficiency must be remedied if local government is to fulfil its ECD potential.

There is an urgent need to unlock this stream of support for local government. This will require the development, by COGTA, of a national local government ECD capacitation and support plan which identifies the challenges in capacity, resources and accountability at local level and puts in place the necessary programmes providing planning support and tools as well as monitoring and reporting mechanisms. The plan must be adequately resourced as well.

This step will not be possible unless the ECD planning, human resourcing and monitoring capacity in COGTA is improved. COGTA needs expert ECD leadership, infrastructure and support staff.

The ECD sector must mobilise behind this innovation as a matter of urgency to ensure the current post-election window of opportunity is used strategically.

Editor’s note: Ilifa, along with various partners, is pioneering a delivery model for early learning playgroups through COGTA’s community work programme. Read it here.  

A cartoon image of Patricia Martin, blog authorThe Policy Post is written by Patricia Martin, the director of Advocacy Aid, a consultancy that provides advocacy support to the development sector. Patricia has worked as a child rights advocate and policy analyst for more than a decade and has a special interest in ECD policy and programme development and monitoring.

 

SA’s first ECD centre registration helpdesk

Svetlana DonevaBlog, ECD News8 Comments

Registration with the Department of Social Development is a challenge for many ECD centres in SA.

Registration with the Department of Social Development is a challenge for many ECD centres in SA.

One of the biggest challenges for the thousands of ECD centres dotted around informal communities in South Africa, is registration with the Department of Social Development (DSD).

The registration process is complex and lengthy; while the norms and standards that need to be met are often unattainable given how the resource requirements match up against the reality.  The end goal –  a stamp of approval from DSD and, possibly, access the early learning subsidy – is fleeting. For many ECD centre managers, or principals as they are known in the sector, the entire procedure can feel like an intricate and exhausting sports game, the rules of which are never fully explained.

It is with this in mind that Ikamva Labantu, a community welfare non-profit organisation, set about creating South Africa’s first ECD centre registration helpdesk. The helpdesk project was born from a similar initiative led by DSD over the course of a year back in 2009.

“When the work with DSD ended in 2010, we understood the huge need for a service like this in communities,” says Ntombokhanyo Singata, who co-ordinates the help desk project at Ikamva.

“We started out big, with eight community-based workers working across nine areas in the Cape Town metro; and even with little marketing, we have had a great demand for the service.  So far, we have 387 educares on our database and we have helped 56 to register, while another 36 are in the process.”

The chief goal of the helpdesk is to assist ECD centres to navigate the DSD registration process by aligning to the norms and standards.  ECD centre principals visit Ikamva on open door days (Tuesdays and Fridays in Khayelitsha, Wednesdays in Gugulethu) and log their concerns.  Over the course of the following weeks, community workers visit the centre, advising the principal on how to go about overcoming the various hurdles they face en route to compliance.  “For example, we may assist them with receiving zoning clearance. There are a lot of misconceptions around zoning in residential areas, so we would assist the centre in dealing with the City of Cape Town,” says Ntombokhanyo.

The helpdesk is being funded by DSD, and is supported through relationships with other key government bodies in the registration process such as the Department of Fire and Safety, Department of Health and the Department of Land Use. Meanwhile, the City of Cape Town ECD Directorate assists with First Aid Training and the South African Revenue Services provides an information sharing session.

Ntombokhanyo Singata coordinates Ikamva Labantu's ECD registration helpdesk.

Ntombokhanyo Singata coordinates Ikamva Labantu’s ECD registration helpdesk.

These links with government prompted Ntombokhanyo to initiate twice-yearly imbizos, which bring the ECD centres and government together to discuss issues and educate.

“The imbizos also inform our advocacy work,” she says. “We see so many centres’ principals getting very frustrated with the compliance requirements because they simply cannot meet them.  We began collecting all the complaints and we are using them to argue for greater leniency for centre registration.”

“Circumstances should be taken into consideration when a centre is assessed for registration. We know of many educares who are providing a quality early learning services but have no hope of meeting the norms and standards because they are operating from a wooden structure as opposed to the required bricks and mortar one; or where structures are required to be painted with a fire retardant material – which is extremely costly.  Our hope is for centres to access the subsidy and further improve their early learning service through their ability to provide quality nutrition and the  retention of practitioners who are trained to deliver age-appropriate activities according to registered learning programmes.

In addition to the structural challenges, there are too few dedicated government staff for ECD, meaning that people are too thinly spread out and the turnaround time for site assessments and provision of reports are extremely protracted. This plays a pertinent factor in the drawn out registration process.

To find out more about the ECD centre registration helpdesk, contact Ntombokhanyo Singata at Ikamva Labantu, on +27213610909 or Ntombokhanyo@ikamva.co.za. 

Philani Mentor Mothers: Screening for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders by non-medical community workers

Svetlana DonevaResearch and Policy BriefsLeave a Comment

South Africa has the highest prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) in the world yet many women have no access to clinic care or to physicians in their communities. The shortage of physicians trained in the diagnosis of FASD is even more severe. Thus there is a need to train community workers to assist in the delivery of health care.

This study reports on the effectiveness of training community workers, in the Philani Mentor Mothers programme, to screen for a possible diagnosis of a FASD.

Community workers in Cape Town, South Africa were trained to screen for FASD in 139, 18-month-old toddlers with prenatal alcohol exposure. Children were assessed according to the salient characteristics of individuals with PAE using height, weight, head circumference (OFC), philtrum, and lip measurements according to criteria set forth by the Institute of Medicine. Screen-positive children were referred for diagnostic assessment to a pediatrician reliably trained in the diagnosis of FASD.

Authors: Mary J. O’Connor (Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California at Los Angeles), Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus (Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California at Los Angeles), Mark Tomlinson (Department of Psychology, Stellenbosch University), Claudine Bill (Philani Nutrition and Development Project), Ingrid M. LeRoux MD (Philani Nutrition and Development Project, Jackie Stewart (Department of Psychology, Stellenbosch University)

To access the full report, please contact svetlana@ilifalabantwana.co.za or markt@sun.ac.za.

Predictors of alcohol use prior to pregnancy recognition among township women in Cape Town, South Africa

Svetlana DonevaResearch and Policy BriefsLeave a Comment

South Africa has the highest prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) in the world. The purpose of this study was to identify high risk factors associated with drinking alcohol prior to pregnancy recognition in 24 neighborhoods in the Cape Flats outside Cape Town, South Africa. An interviewer assessed risk among 619 pregnant Black/African women between the ages of 18 and 41 years. Logistic regression analyses explored factors associated with drinking alcohol post conception but prior to pregnancy recognition.

Forced multiple logistic regression analysis revealed that drinking prior to pregnancy recognition was associated with being younger, single, having better living conditions, smoking, having a longer gestation prior to pregnancy recognition, having a greater number of sexual partners, and a higher incidence of intimate partner violence. Depressive symptoms tended to be higher among alcohol users. These risk factors were consistent with other research on the characteristics of South African women having children with a diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and/or of non pregnant women at high risk for an alcohol-exposed pregnancy.

These findings highlight the need for women of child-bearing age to be routinely screened for alcohol use and its associated risk factors. Intervention efforts could be integrated into health initiatives already present in South Africa including the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malnutrition. Preconception care is particularly important since pregnancy recognition often occurs several weeks to months following conception and could be implemented by South African community health workers. These endeavors should facilitate national goals of healthier pregnancies and the elimination of FASDs in South Africa.

Authors: Mary J. O’Connor (Department of Psychiatry, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California), Mark Tomlinson (Department of Psychology, Stellenbosch University, Matieland, Stellenbosch, South Africa), Ingrid M. LeRoux (Philani Maternal, Child Health and Nutrition Programme, Elonwabeni, Cape Town, South Africa), Jacqueline Stewart (Department of Psychology, Stellenbosch University, Matieland, Stellenbosch, South Africa), Erin Greco (Department of Psychiatry, David Geffen School of Medicine,  University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California), Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus (Department of Psychiatry, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California)

To access the full report, please contact svetlana@ilifalabantwana.co.za or markt@sun.ac.za.

Philani Mentor Mothers: outcomes of home visits for pregnant mothers and their infants

Svetlana DonevaResearch and Policy BriefsLeave a Comment

The Philani Mentor Mothers Project aims to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable pregnant mothers and infants from low-income households, through a strategy of home visits by specially trained para-professional community health workers or “mentor mothers”.  The objective of this research is to evaluate the effect of home visits by community health workers (CHWs) on maternal and infant well being from pregnancy through the first 6 months of life for women living with HIV (WLH) and all neighborhood mothers.

In a cluster randomised controlled trial in Cape Town townships, neighborhoods were randomized within matched pairs to either standard care, comprehensive healthcare at clinics; or Philani Mentor Mothers Intervention Program, home visits by CHWs in addition to standard care . Participants were assessed during pregnancy (2% refusal) and reassessed at 1 week (92%) and 6
months (88%) postbirth. The research analyzed PIP’s effect on 28 measures of maternal and infant well being among WLH and among all mothers using random effects regression models. For each group, PIP’s overall effectiveness was evaluated using a binomial test for correlated outcomes.

Authors: Ingrid M. le Roux (Philani Maternal, Child Health and Nutrition Programme, Elonwabeni, Cape Town, South Africa), Mark Tomlinson (Department of Psychology, Stellenbosch University, Matieland, Stellenbosch, South Africa), Jessica M. Harwood (Center for Community Health, University of California, Los Angeles), Mary J. O’Connor (Department of Psychiatry, David
Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California), Carol M. Worthman (Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA), Nokwanele Mbewu (Philani Maternal, Child Health and Nutrition Programme, Elonwabeni, Cape Town, South Africa), Jacqueline Stewart (Stellenbosch University, Matieland, South Africa), Mary Hartley (Stellenbosch University, Matieland, South Africa), Dallas Swendeman (Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles), W. Scott Comuladag (Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles), Robert E. Weiss (Department of Biostatistics, Fielding School of Public Health) and Mary Jane Rotheram-Borusi (Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute, University of California at Los Angeles).

To access the full report, please contact svetlana@ilifalabantwana.co.za or markt@sun.ac.za.

Multiple Risk Factors During Pregnancy in South Africa: The Need for a Horizontal Approach to Perinatal Care

Svetlana DonevaResearch and Policy BriefsLeave a Comment

South African children’s long-term health and well-being is jeopardized during their mothers’ pregnancies by the intersecting epidemics of HIV, alcohol use, low birth weight (LBW; <2,500 g) related to poor nutrition, and depressed mood. This research examines these overlapping risk factors among 1,145 pregnant Xhosa women living in 24 township neighborhoods in Cape Town, South Africa.

Results revealed that 66 % of pregnant women experienced at least one risk factor. In descending order of prevalence, 37 % reported depressed mood, 29 % were HIV+, 25 % used alcohol prior to knowing that they were pregnant, and 15 % had a previous childbirth with a LBW infant. Approximately 27 % of women had more than one risk factor: depressed mood was significantly associated with alcohol use and LBW, with a trend to significance with HIV+. In addition, alcohol use was significantly related to HIV+. These results suggest the importance of intervening across multiple risks to maternal and child health, and particularly with depression and alcohol use, to positively impact multiple maternal and infant outcomes.

Authors: Mark Tomlinson, PhD, (Department of Psychology, Stellenbosch University, Matieland, Stellenbosch, South Africa), Mary O’Connor (Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute, University of California at Los Angeles), Ingrid Le Roux, MD, (Philani Maternal, Child Health and Nutrition Programme, Elonwabeni, Cape Town, South Africa), Jacqueline Stewart (Department of Psychology, Stellenbosch University, Matieland, Stellenbosch, South Africa). Nokwanele Mbewu (Philani Maternal, Child Health and Nutrition Programme, Elonwabeni, Cape Town, South Africa), Jessica Harwood (Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute, University of California at Los Angeles), and Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus, PhD (Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute, University of California at Los Angeles)

To access the full report, please contact svetlana@ilifalabantwana.co.za or markt@sun.ac.za.

 

Intimate Partner Violence and Depression Symptom Severity among South African Women during Pregnancy and Postpartum

Svetlana DonevaResearch and Policy BriefsLeave a Comment

Violence against women by intimate partners remains unacceptably common worldwide. The evidence base for the assumed psychological impacts of intimate partner violence (IPV) is derived primarily from studies conducted in high-income countries. A recently published systematic review identified 13 studies linking IPV to incident depression, none of which were conducted in sub-Saharan Africa. To address this gap in the literature, we analysed longitudinal data collected during the course of a 3-y cluster-randomized trial with the aim of estimating the association between IPV and depression symptom severity.

The research conducted a secondary analysis of population-based, longitudinal data collected from 1,238 pregnant women during a 3-y cluster-randomized trial of a home visiting intervention
in Cape Town, South Africa – Philani Mentor Mothers Programme. Surveys were conducted at baseline, 6 mo, 18 mo, and 36 mo (85% retention). The primary explanatory variable of interest was exposure to four types of physical IPV in the past year. Depression symptom severity was measured using the Xhosa version of the ten-item Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale.

Authors: Alexander C. Tsai (Massachusetts General Hospital, MGH Global Health, Boston, USA), Mark Tomlinson, PhD, (Department of Psychology, Stellenbosch University, Matieland, Stellenbosch, South Africa), W Scott Comulada (Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California at Los Angeles, LosAngeles, USA),  Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus, PhD (Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute, University of California at Los Angeles)

To access the full report, please contact svetlana@ilifalabantwana.co.za or markt@sun.ac.za

Food insufficiency, depression, and the modifying role of social support

Svetlana DonevaResearch and Policy BriefsLeave a Comment

Food insecurity has emerged as an important, and potentially modifiable, risk factor for depression. Few studies have brought longitudinal data to bear on investigating this association in sub-Saharan Africa.

The objective of this research was to estimate the association between food insufficiency and depression symptom severity, and to determine the extent to which any observed associations were modified by social support. The research team conducted a secondary analysis of population-based, longitudinal data collected from 1238 pregnant women during a three-year cluster-randomized trial of a home visiting intervention in Cape Town, South Africa – Philani Mentor Mothers. Surveys were conducted at baseline, 6 months, 18 months, and 36 months (85% retention). A validated, single-item food insufficiency measure inquired about the number of days of hunger in the past week. Depression symptom severity was measured using the Xhosa version of the 10-item Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale.

Authors: Alexander C. Tsai (Massachusetts General Hospital, MGH Global Health, Boston, USA), Mark Tomlinson, PhD, (Department of Psychology, Stellenbosch University, Matieland, Stellenbosch, South Africa), W Scott Comulada (Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California at Los Angeles, LosAngeles, USA),  Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus, PhD (Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute, University of California at Los Angeles)

To access the full report, please contact svetlana@ilifalabantwana.co.za or markt@sun.ac.za

Cluster Randomised Controlled Effectiveness Trial Evaluating Perinatal Home Visiting among South African Mothers/Infants

Svetlana DonevaResearch and Policy BriefsLeave a Comment

Interventions are needed to reduce poor perinatal health. We trained community health workers as home visitors to address maternal/infant risks.

In a cluster randomised controlled trial in Cape Town townships, neighbourhoods were randomised within matched pairs to 1) the control, healthcare at clinics , or 2) a home visiting intervention by CBW trained in cognitive-behavioural strategies to address health risks (by the Philani Maternal, Child Health and Nutrition Programme), in addition to clinic care.  The Philani Mentor Mothers Project aims to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable pregnant mothers and infants from low-income households, through a strategy of home visits by specially trained para-professional “mentor mothers”.

Participants were assessed during pregnancy (2% refusal) and 92% were reassessed at two weeks post-birth, 88% at six months and 84% at 18 months later. We analysed 32 measures of maternal/infant well-being over the 18 month follow-up period using longitudinal random effects regressions. A binomial test for correlated outcomes evaluated overall effectiveness over time. The 18 month post-birth assessment outcomes also were examined alone and as a function of the number of home visits received.

Authors: Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus, PhD (Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute, University of California at Los Angeles), Mark Tomlinson, PhD, (Department of Psychology, Stellenbosch University, Matieland, Stellenbosch, South Africa), Ingrid Le Roux, MD, (Philani Maternal, Child Health and Nutrition Programme, Elonwabeni, Cape Town, South Africa), Jessica Harwood (Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute, University of California at Los Angeles), Scott Comulada (Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute, University of California at Los Angeles), Mary O’Connor (Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute, University of California at Los Angeles), Robert Weiss and Carol Worthman (Department of Anthropology, Emory University, Atlanta, USA).

To access the full report, please contact svetlana@ilifalabantwana.co.za or markt@sun.ac.za.

Philani Mentor Mothers: Depressed mood in pregnancy: Prevalence and correlates in two Cape Town peri-urban settlements

Svetlana DonevaResearch and Policy BriefsLeave a Comment

The disability associated with depression and its impact on maternal and child health has important implications for public health policy. While the prevalence of postnatal depression is high, there are no prevalence data on antenatal depression in South Africa. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence and correlates of depressed mood in pregnancy in Cape Town peri-urban settlements.

This study reports on baseline data collected from the Philani Mentor Mothers Project, a community-based, cluster-randomized controlled trial on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa. The PMMP aims to evaluate the effectiveness of a home-based intervention for preventing and managing illnesses related to HIV, TB, alcohol use and malnutrition in pregnant mothers and their infants. Participants were 1062 pregnant women from Khayelitsha and Mfuleni, Cape Town. Measures included the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), the Derived AUDIT-C, indices for social support with regards to partner and parents, and questions concerning sociodemographics,intimate partner violence, and the current pregnancy. Data were analysed using bivariate analyses followed by logistic regression.

Authors: Mary Hartley (Department of Psychology, Stellenbosch University, Matieland, Stellenbosch, South Africa), Mark Tomlinson, PhD, (Department of Psychology, Stellenbosch University, Matieland, Stellenbosch, South Africa), Erin Greco (Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, Center for Community Health, University of California, Los Angeles, USA),  W Scott Comulada (Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, Center for Community Health, University of California, Los Angeles, USA), Jacqueline Stewart ((Department of Psychology, Stellenbosch University, Matieland, Stellenbosch, South Africa) , Ingrid Le Roux, MD, (Philani Maternal, Child Health and Nutrition Programme, Elonwabeni, Cape Town, South Africa), Nokwanele Mbewu (Philani Maternal, Child Health and Nutrition Programme, Elonwabeni, Cape Town, South Africa), Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus, PhD (Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute, University of California at Los Angeles).

To the access the full report, please contact svetlana@ilifalabantwana.co.za or markt@sun.ac.za.

Community health workers can improve child growth of antenatally-depressed SA mothers

Svetlana DonevaResearch and Policy BriefsLeave a Comment

The Philani Mentor Mothers Project aims to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable pregnant mothers and infants from low-income households, through a strategy of home visits by specially trained para-professional “mentor mothers”.

Maternal antenatal depression has long-term consequences for children’s health. This research assesses whether home visits by community health workers can improve growth outcomes for children of mothers who are antenatally depressed.

A cluster randomized controlled trial of all pregnant, neighbourhood women in Cape Town, South Africa.  Almost all pregnant women (98 %, N = 1238) were recruited and assessed during pregnancy, two weeks post-birth (92 %) and 6 months post-birth (88 %). Pregnant women were randomized to either: 1) Standard Care (SC), which provided routine antenatal care; or 2) an intervention, The Philani Intervention Program (PIP), which included SC and home visits by CHW trained as generalists (M = 11 visits). Child standardized weight, length, and weight by
length over 6 months based on maternal antenatal depression and intervention condition

Authors: Mark Tomlinson, PhD, (Department of Psychology, Stellenbosch University, Matieland, Stellenbosch, South Africa), Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus, PhD (Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute, University of California at Los Angeles), Jessica Harwood (Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute, University of California at Los Angeles), Ingrid Le Roux, MD, (Philani Maternal, Child Health and Nutrition Programme, Elonwabeni, Cape Town, South Africa), Mary O’Connor (Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute, University of California at Los Angeles) and Carol Worthman (Department of Anthropology, Emory University, Atlanta, USA).

To access the full report, please contact svetlana@ilifalabantwana.co.za or markt@sun.ac.za.

Philani Mentor Mothers: Alcohol Use, Partner Violence, and Depression

Svetlana DonevaResearch and Policy BriefsLeave a Comment

Philani Mentor MothersThe Philani Mentor Mothers Project aims to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable pregnant mothers and infants from low-income households, through a strategy of home visits by specially trained para-professional “mentor mothers”.

Pregnant South African women with histories of drinking alcohol, abuse by violent partners, depression, and living with HIV are likely to have their post-birth trajectories over 36 months significantly influenced by these risks.  This intervention employs home visiting included prenatal and postnatal visits by community health workers or mentor mothers, focusing on general maternal and child health, HIV/tuberculosis, alcohol use, and nutrition.

Mothers were assessed in pregnancy and at 18 and 36 months post birth: 80.6% of mothers completed all assessments between 2009 and 2014 and were included in these analyses performed in 2014. Longitudinal structural equation modeling examined alcohol use, partner violence, and depression at the baseline and 18-month interviews as predictors of maternal outcomes at 36 months post birth.

Authors: Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus, PhD (Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute, University of California at Los Angeles), Mark Tomlinson, PhD, (Department of Psychology, Stellenbosch University, Matieland, Stellenbosch, South Africa) Ingrid Le Roux, MD, (Philani Maternal, Child Health and Nutrition Programme, Elonwabeni, Cape Town, South Africa), and Judith A. Stein, PhD (Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute, University of California at Los Angeles).

To access the full report, please contact svetlana@ilifalabantwana.co.za or markt@sun.ac.za.

Parents of #LovePlayTalk: Njabulo’s Story

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Parents of #LovePlayTalkLeave a Comment

photo of Njabulo Songo and his son, Unathi

 

“Parents of #LovePlayTalk” is a Ilifa Labantwana original photo-series, celebrating South African parents who capture the spirit of the #LovePlayTalk parenting campaign. 

We met Njabulo Songo during our travels through KZN’s most rural district – Ugu. This is his story.

My name is Njabulo Songo, i am 25 years old and I live in Gcima, close to Margate in KwaZulu Natal.
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Parents of #LovePlayTalk: Nana’s Story

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Parents of #LovePlayTalkLeave a Comment

IMG_9003

“Parents of #LovePlayTalk” is a Ilifa Labantwana original photo-series, celebrating South African parents who capture the spirit of the #LovePlayTalk parenting campaign. 

Nana is 32 and lives in Gcilima, just outside the holiday town of Margate in KwaZulu-Natal’s Ugu district.

I am Nana and I live in Gcina with my mom and my two sons.
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Celebrating Mandela Day 2016

Svetlana Doneva#LovePlayTalk News, BlogLeave a Comment

#Camu

Cape Town Embrace is a social justice project focusing on opening opportunities for the Mother City’s youngest citizens.  We have a lot of love for their work and we were thrilled when they asked us to join their Mandela Day 2016 initiative: a pop-up play day in Delft – an informal settlement situated half an hour’s drive from the city centre.

We set up a #LovePlayTalk photo booth, which we used at the launch of Child Protection Week in the North West earlier this year with great success.  All the photos we take at the event are instantly printed and given back to parents in a photoframe, which is printed with some ideas of simple everyday actions of loving, playing and talking parents of young children can incorporate into their routine.

Here are some photos of the pop-up play day 🙂

The #LovePlayTalk photo booth

The #LovePlayTalk photo booth

IMG_0488

Posing for pictures in the #LovePlayTalk photo booth

Posing for pictures in the #LovePlayTalk photo booth

 

ECD and disability: Urgent priority and action are needed

Svetlana DonevaBlog, The Policy PostLeave a Comment

Ilifa Labantwana inclusive ECD hubs in KZN train practitioners to include children with disability in everyday learning and play activities.

Ilifa Labantwana inclusive ECD hubs in KZN train practitioners to include children with disability in everyday learning and play activities.

There is a compelling rights-based case for the prioritisation of programme development and the allocation of resources for the delivery of inclusive ECD services for children with disabilities and/or developmental delays. Numerous polices, including the most recent national ECD policy, recognise that children with disabilities have a right to equal access to inclusive quality ECD services. Moreover, there is an equally compelling economic case for the prioritisation of inclusive ECD services for children with disabilities. The Department of Social Development recently published a report on Elements of the Financial and Economic Costs of Disability to Households in South Africa. The report concludes that persons with disabilities have a lower educational status and lower earning capacity and that households with persons with disabilities have less income, and that this is particularly true in households with children with disabilities. The lower household income and lower educational status are, in large measure, attributable to Government’s failure to honour its international and Constitutional commitments to children with disabilities and their parents across their life cycles, starting in their early development years.

Disability rights according to the policy

The new national ECD Policy guarantees the provision of comprehensive early childhood development services to all children. It further calls for the prioritisation of resources and programming initiatives to ensure that children with disabilities or developmental delays enjoy equal access to inclusive early childhood development services. The Children’s Act similarly calls for the prioritisation of prevention and early intervention services to children with disabilities and their caregivers. The very recent Framework and Strategy for Disability and Rehabilitation Services in South Africa 2015 – 2020 and the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2015), and its implementation matrix, recognise and seek to give effect to the full and equal enjoyment of the rights of all persons with disabilities. Both policies recognise that the full enjoyment of their rights and their development and social and economic inclusion throughout their lives, fundamentally depends on children with disabilities accessing quality early childhood development services and programmes. The White Paper recognises these as  providing the ideal opportunity for the “prevention, early identification and timely provision of assistance and support for children with disabilities …[that] Access to [ECD] services across government departments and spheres of government, and inclusive early childhood development opportunities, is required to unlock the potential of children with disabilities.” The White Paper specifically commits to ensuring that children with disabilities have equitable access to all ECD programmes and facilities, that disability-specific interventions and support are developed, and to developing a national integrated referral and tracking system to identify and provide appropriate support to high risk children.

The vision vs the reality 

Unfortunately, there is much work to be done by all government departments and spheres of government to honour these commitments. As noted in the report on the economic costs of disability to households in South Africa, the development and inclusion of people with disabilities is severely curtailed at a great cost to them, their families and the country as a result of their inability to access essential services. Their exclusion from services that are essential to reducing their economic vulnerability start in their early and foundational years. Notable services which children with disabilities are denied, which lay the foundations for their development and social and economic inclusion as children, and later as adults, are education (starting with early education from birth); parenting support (psycho-social and material) to the caregivers of children with disabilities; and the provision of assistive devices and support to children identified with disabilities. The lack of access to appropriate services is caused by multiple factors, including inappropriate programming, inadequate resource allocation, as well as institutional weaknesses, such as the lack of effective coordination of health services.

The ECD policy is clear in the duty it places on all government departments and spheres of government. They are to ensure appropriate programme design and allocation of additional resources to ensure that all children with disabilities receive quality services from conception until they enter formal schooling. The policy recognises that the task is complex and that the government agencies will require support in fulfilling their responsibilities. It therefore commits to the development, by 2017, of a national multi-sectoral early childhood development guideline to secure universal availability and equitable access to quality inclusive ECD services. The guideline is to be rooted in prevention, early screening and intervention, appropriate support, and early learning and development opportunities. It is intended to, inter alia, provide direction to government departments and spheres of government on the development and design of appropriate programmes and services so as to ensure they are indeed developed, are of a high quality, and are available and accessible to all children with disabilities.

The legal and developmental urgency and enormity of the task of giving effect to the numerous policy  commitments to ensure ECD services for all children with disabilities requires that the spotlight be placed on the development of the guidelines sooner rather than later. Moreover, given the cross-cutting character of the guidelines and diversity of experience that will be required to shape meaningful, cost-effective and realistically attainable programmes for children with disabilities, experts and representatives drawn from the full ECD sector cutting across all development domains must be involved in the conceptualisation, testing, implementation and oversight of the guidelines.

2017 is only 6 months away and work must begin in earnest – sooner rather than later. It would be most welcome if the work were to be begin under the leadership of a multi-sectoral groups of experts drawn from both government and non-government organisations within a time-bound plan of action for the development of the guidelines.

A cartoon image of Patricia Martin, blog authorThe Policy Post is written by Patricia Martin, the director of Advocacy Aid, a consultancy that provides advocacy support to the development sector. Patricia has worked as a child rights advocate and policy analyst for more than a decade and has a special interest in ECD policy and programme development and monitoring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Community Works: early learning playgroups in the North West

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs, NewsLeave a Comment

Club Coach and playgroupIlifa Labantwana’s early learning playgroup programme was introduced in the North West province in early 2015 as an alternative to centre based early learning for children who were previously not attending any programme.

The programme is private-public partnership involving the co-ordination of multiple partners and roles, including Cotlands, LIMA Rural Development Foundation, SmartStart Social Franchising, The DG Murray Trust, Seriti Institute, Dhladhla Foundation, the North West Department of Social Development, and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs’s Community Works Programme (CWP).

In just over a year of operation the early learning playgroup programme has changed the learning opportunities of young children in the North West, as well as the working opportunities of the CWP participants who are facilitating the playgroups.

When Community Works tells the human stories behind the programme.  Download it here.

We are hiring

Svetlana DonevaBlog, ECD News, NewsLeave a Comment

Ilifa Labantwana is looking for an Executive Director and an ECD Financing Director. The details are below. Interested? Please send your CV and a cover letter to rina@ilifalabantwana.co.za before 30th June 2016.

Job Ad for Ilifa Executive Director

 

job ad for ECD financing director

Where is ECD in the national departmental budget vote speeches?

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs, The Policy Post2 Comments

Photo of parliament

Budget Vote Season: Parliament of RSA in Cape Town

Ilifa Labantwana’s recently published South African Early Childhood Review provides a welcome statistical overview of how well the government is meeting its duties to young children and their caregivers. The review notes that there is a legal and urgent duty on government to provide an essential package of ECD services. The draft National ECD Policy seeks to give effect to this duty by placing responsibility on a range of government departments to ensure the provision of services, including water and sanitation, birth registration, stimulation for early learning, parenting support and the provision of quality health and nutritional care and support.

The Review surfaces large gaps which must be addressed as a matter of urgency if the current generation of newborns and young children are to develop to their full potential:

  • Nearly 2 million children under the age of 6 years (31%) do not have access to adequate water
  • More than 1 and half million (26%) use poor sanitation
  • 3 million do not live close to a health facility
  • 10 percent do not get immunised against entirely preventable diseases
  • 22 percent of children under 5 are stunted – largely due to food insecurity and poor parental dietary knowledge and practices
  • 1 million children between the ages of 3 and 5 do not participate in early learning programmes

Perhaps more alarming is the near-total absence of data on how many parents and children are accessing key services such as mental health screening, developmental screening, access to community learning resources such as book and toy libraries, child protection services, and the quality of health care. The lack of data points to very poorly developed systems and programmes for delivery of these essential services.

The remediation of these gaps must be a priority for the responsible departments. This issue of the Policy Post looks at a number of key departmental budget vote speeches – a valuable short-cut to identifying departmental priorities – with a view to assessing if ECD is afforded appropriate priority status. As is discussed below, the Department of Social Development (DSD) and to some extent the Departments of Home Affairs (DHA), Basic Education (DBE) and Health (DOH) prioritise interventions to address crucial gaps. However, many other responsible departments remain silent, and presumably to some extent, ignorant of their responsibilities and the need to prioritise these in the coming Medium Term Expenditure Framework.

The DSD’s Budget Vote Speech

The Minister of Social Development, Ms Bathabile Dlamini, presented the DSD’s speech on 10 May 2016 in support of its R 148 billion budget. She placed ECD at the forefront of the department’s priorities. She observed that the DSD has allocated an R 810 million conditional grant to the nine provinces over the MTEF, and this shows that the DSD “remains true to [its] commitment [to] ECD as a public good.” She noted further that “ECD is the cornerstone of any Human Resource Development Strategy of a country.” In addition to the R 810 million investment to increase access to effective early learning and care services, the DSD will be prioritising a key food security and nutrition intervention which may impact positively on the health of young children (although the linage with ECD was not made by the Minister).

The Household Food and Nutrition Security Strategy is “at the apex” of the department’s priorities and will be implemented through Community Nutrition Development Centres run by corporates and NPOs. 166 have been opened, and this will increase to 200 in the current financial year. Further nutritional support measures in place are the Social Relief of Distress Benefit and the DSD will be hosting a conference in the second half of the year to develop a comprehensive strategy to deal with issues of food security and malnutrition.

The DBE’s Budget Vote Speech

Minister Angie Motshekga opened the DBE’s speech on 10 May 2016 with the affirmation that “the right to basic education is limitless and unqualified”. She committed to use the DBE’s R 22.270 billion budget to advance “improved quality basic education [which] is the apex priority of government ….[and ] improved learner achievements and school performance.” ECD is recognised as deserving of priority attention within this framework. The Minister undertook to work with sister departments to formalise Grade R and ensure the provisioning of appropriately qualified and experienced ECD practitioners, as well as age-appropriate learning and teaching support materials.

The DOH’s Budget Vote Speech

In his speech, the Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi, emphasised the need to scale up quality systems and programmes to reduce the quadruple burden of disease facing South Africa, which includes:

  • HIV and TB
  • Maternal and child mortality
  • Non-communicable diseases
  • Injury, violence and trauma

Specific departmental priorities to which the department’s R 38.563 budget will be put include the National Health Insurance plan. At a programmatic level, the one intervention that has been prioritized and will make an indirect impact on the health and well-being of young children is a 3-year HIV and AIDS-prevention campaign targeted at young girls and women between the ages of 15 and 24 and the “men who are infecting and impregnating them”. The campaign will be rolled out at a cost of R 3 billion and will, amongst other objectives, strive to decrease teen pregnancy, sexual and GBV, decrease HIV infections in young women, increase their economic opportunities and keep girls in school until matric.

Other than these, there was no mention of key ECD priorities, including measures to strengthen developmental screening of children or mental health screening. However, the Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla made a speech too, in which he observed the gap in mental health services and committed to remedying budget deficits in the coming MTF.

The DHA’s Budget Vote Speech

The Minister of Home Affairs made a very encouraging speech in which he noted that attaining the department’s responsibility of universal civil registration requires, on the one hand, universal early registration of births within 30 days, and on the other, the provision of identity documents to all adults. There has been good progress in early registrations which increased from 39 percent in 2010/11 to 67 percent in 2015/16. He committed to increase this to 100 percent through the strengthened implementation of programmes such as birth registration in health facilities and policy innovations which will be driven through a Green and White paper process during the current financial year.

The Departments of Water and Sanitation (DWS); Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF); and Arts and Culture’s (DAC) Budget Vote Speeches

These three departments have a critical role to play in meeting the country’s ECD responsibilities. The DWS has prioritised plans to increase access to water and sanitation which it recognizes as a “cross-cutting enabler for the development of South Africa”. These include infrastructure development plans as well as plans to strengthen local government’s delivery capacity. The department does not however make any mention of plans for ensuring that young children access these essential services.

The DAFF is a leading role player in ensuring food security and has prioritised agricultural support as the lever to achieve this. As in the case of the DWS, it does not indicate how its priority initiatives will be designed or prioritised to address child malnutrition.

The DAC is responsible for the provisioning of toy and book libraries – services that are in very short supply. The absence of these services is a major impediment to the availability of ECD programmes for marginalized children. The DAC’s speech focuses on issues of arts and culture as well as social inclusion, but is silent on its ECD responsibilities.

A cartoon image of Patricia Martin, blog author

The Policy Post is written by Patricia Martin, the director of Advocacy Aid, a consultancy that provides advocacy support to the development sector. Patricia has worked as a child rights advocate and policy analyst for more than a decade and has a special interest in ECD policy and programme development and monitoring.

 

 

 

 

 

Unlocking the economic value of young children

Svetlana DonevaBlog, BlogsLeave a Comment

A baby laughing while mom plays with himBy David Harrison

Most business people are hard-nosed and soft-hearted. This has been my experience in trying to galvanise corporate support for social development over the past 25 years. These are exactly the attributes needed to find economically sound solutions to the country’s social problems. However, corporate professionals often act as if head and heart were disconnected: they give generously in the face of human need, but don’t apply enough of their business mind and muscle to bring about fundamental social change.

Our country needs more acts of compassion, but it also needs a better reticulation of social development and economic practice. Nowhere is the case more compelling than in support for young children, who are the source of human capital and hold the key to long-term economic success. Investing in their well-being and early learning is the most powerful investment in human capital formation that a nation can make, but young children need champions who can speak up for them. They don’t have the vote and don’t burn buildings, yet they hold the greatest power to make our country prosperous – if only we unlocked their economic potential instead of wasting so much of it.

The great thing about the business sector is that it sees opportunity where others see deficit.  Arguably, our neglect of young children is the single biggest reason for unemployment and unemployability in South Africa today. If we paid attention to their basic needs – food, love, safety and stimulation – our long-term economic prospects would be far brighter. The cost of that investment is small relative to the returns. For instance, the Global Child Development Steering Group found that every rand spent enabling a child to thrive before they go to school generates at least ten rand back.

This significant opportunity is well illustrated by the South African Early Childhood Review published in early May 2016. It showed that children’s lives are generally getting better, but not enough to effect the tipping points that the country so desperately needs. Roughly one million babies will be born in South Africa this year. By 2019 – just three years from now – a quarter of them will be nutritionally stunted i.e. short-for-age. A study published in the Lancet in 2008 followed cohorts of children into adulthood in five different countries (including South Africa). It found that children’s height at two years of age was the best predictor of adult human capital. Stunted children performed worse at school and were less economically productive as adults. But encouragingly, if they got extra food and intellectual stimulation, their earnings potential increased by 25-40%.

A common refrain from financial investment managers is that the 3.5% of GDP spent on social grants is a drain on national productivity. While it does represent a significant social wage, the child support grant is the main reason for the decline in the proportion of children living in poverty (from 79% in 2003 to 63% in 2014).  At R350 per child per month, the grant is still below the food poverty line deemed to be the absolute minimum required for sufficient nutrition.

Early learning represents another significant opportunity to reshape South Africa’s economic future.  If young children participate regularly in early learning playgroups or centres, their brains develop better and they do better at school. They experience compounding cognitive and linguistic gains that describe an exponential path towards adult achievement and productivity. A 2010 study by the Department of Economics at the University of Stellenbosch found that the GDP in South Africa would be about R550 billion higher if all South Africans were sufficiently literate to participate in the formal economy. Even half that projected benefit would still equal the total annual public spending on education. Yet only 50% of children under five in South Africa participate in out-of-home early learning programmes. If the other half had similar opportunity, they would enter school primed to learn and dropout rates would decline sharply over the next decade.

The benefits of early childhood development extend beyond education and economic growth. The self-regulation that it produces results in significantly less crime, less adolescent risk-taking and greater public safety.  In consequence, it promotes social stability and reduces the cost of doing business.

As our nation looks to get out of the current social and economic mire, we can no longer ignore the economic value of young children. Over the past decade, the corporate sector has invested considerably in schools, and recently we have seen big business galvanize in support of higher education. These commitments signify a growing convergence of public and private interest in the future of the country. But any hard-nosed assessment of their potential impact will show that these substantial capital outlays will be largely wasted if we do not invest properly in young children at the same time.

No serious captain of industry would build his or her company’s future on an inadequate foundation. Yet young children continue to live in our nation’s collective blind spot. In the United States, over 100 top chief executives are part of ‘Ready Nation’ which aims to improve business competitiveness by helping children get a good start in life. Similarly, senior business leaders in South Africa need to rise to the challenge.

Imagine one hundred corporate leaders on a mission to:

  • achieve zero stunting of children under five within the next ten years;
  • bring one million more 3-5 year olds into early learning programmes; and
  • mobilise a national network of care and support to the quarter of a million babies at greatest risk.

Gradual changes in the state of education and economic possibility for young people may not be enough to prevent South Africa from becoming trapped in a low-growth, low productivity state.  We now need tipping points, not incremental progress over decades. A new mission for young children – driven by business leaders – may be just the impetus we need.

David Harrison is the CEO of the DG Murray Trust. This article was first published in the Business Day.  

South African Early Childhood Review 2016

Svetlana DonevaFlagship Products, Publications3 Comments

Cover image of ECR 2016The South African Early Childhood Review 2016 presents information on essential components of the comprehensive package of Early Childhood Development (ECD) services.

The review includes data and commentary on over 40 carefully selected indicators on the status of children under six, and service delivery progress across 5 domains:

  • maternal and child health,
  • nutritional support,
  • support for primary caregivers,
  • social services and grants, and
  • stimulation for early learning.

The South African Early Childhood Review is a collaboration between Ilifa Labantwana, the Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation in The Presidency.

 

The full publication is available for download here.

A shortened version of the publication is available for download in brochure format here.

The human resources SA needs for quality ECD

Svetlana DonevaBlog, The Policy PostLeave a Comment

ECD practitioner working in a day care centre in North West province

ECD practitioner working in a day care centre in North West province

The Minister of Higher Education and Training has published a Draft Policy on Minimum Requirements for Programmes Leading to Qualifications in Higher Education for Practitioners and Educators in Early Childhood Care and Education for public comment. Written submissions may be made by 15 May 2016 to Green.w@dhet.gov.za

This policy represents one of the first steps towards putting in place a stronger enabling legal framework to fill key gaps preventing the realization of the policy objectives.  The draft document states that government aims, by 2029, to ensure the provision of a universally available comprehensive package of quality ECD services for all children in the country, from birth until they enter Grade R. Two significant changes must take place to realise this goal: the number and quality of ECD services, notably early childhood care and education (ECCE) services, need to increase substantially.

Increasing the availability and quality of ECCE services is dependent on having adequate ECD human resources in pace. The draft ECD Policy commits to the development of appropriate cadres of ECD practitioners in sufficient numbers with sufficient skills to support the implementation of the ECD Policy. It recognises that this requires changes in several areas, including the area of qualifications.

There are a number of fundamental problems with the current qualifications framework, which if not remedied, will make it impossible to honour the policy commitments. Notably, the qualifications that are currently available are not aligned, and do not meet the needs of the new ECD policy. Secondly, the number of qualified ECD practitioners is far too low to meet demand and provide a foundation for quality care and learning support.

An underlying major flaw in the current qualifications framework is neatly summarised by Linda Biersteker in this document, prepared for a multi-stakeholder consultation on strengthening the qualifications framework. She notes that the “ECD qualifications currently on offer or in development for those working directly with children under school going age are either occupational or vocational and … that there is currently no training which allows for specialist capacity for the Essential Package as a whole”.

What this means is that the current qualifications and the teaching curriculum for students wanting to be ECD practitioners focusses almost exclusively on centre-based early childhood care and education for older children, and does not equip practitioners to provide a continuum of early care and education from birth in homes, communities and partial care facilities. The current qualifications are not aligned with the new 0-4 ECD Curriculum Framework. Therefore, the current ECD educator programme  – both diplomas and degrees –  are not producing the number or kinds of teachers with the knowledge and skills they need to meet the ECD policy vision and objectives. In addition, the number of ECD practitioners that are qualified, even in terms of the current inadequate qualifications framework, is wholly inadequate. The recent ECD audit conducted by the Department of Social Development revealed that only 5 percent of ECD centre principals have a post-matric diploma and only 2 percent of ECD practitioners have a post-matric qualification.

Quality is closely associated with the levels of qualification and supervision and mentoring of ECD practitioners. Qualifications and or training of teachers/practitioners have been found to be associated with improved child outcomes over a range of countries and contexts and are often used as an indicator of service quality.[i]  However, qualifications alone do not necessarily  make  a difference;[ii] oversight and support from relevant Departments and facility managers is central to quality improvement and successful programme delivery.[iii]

Sufficient numbers of appropriately qualified workers are required to provide:

There are a number of SAQA accredited qualifications for ECD practitioners who work directly with children, and Community Development qualifications with ECD specialisations which address some of the needs of practitioners working directly with parents. All unit standards and qualifications which are NQF registered are structured according to learning outcomes to be achieved and associated assessment criteria. Training providers design their curricula or learning programmes on this basis and they are submitted for accreditation to the relevant qualifications body. It is essential for the scaling up of ECD services that current qualifications are aligned with the EP content. All relevant line departments should participate in development of qualifications to ensure an appropriate curriculum/learning programme.

A cartoon image of Patricia Martin, blog author

The Policy Post is written by Patricia Martin, the director of Advocacy Aid, a consultancy that provides advocacy support to the development sector. Patricia has worked as a child rights advocate and policy analyst for more than a decade and has a special interest in ECD policy and programme development and monitoring.

 

 

[i] UNESCO (2007) Strong Foundations Early Childhood Care and Education, Global Monitoring Report,  Paris: UNESCO;  Fukkink, R. G. & Lont, A. (2007). Does training matter? A meta-analysis and review of caregiver training studies. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 22, 294-311; Biersteker, L. & Dawes, A. (2008). Early Childhood Development. In A. Kraak & K. Press (Eds.), HRD Review 2008: Education, Employment and Skills (pp. 185–205). Cape Town: HSRC Press.

[ii] Early, DM, Maxwell, KL, Burchinal, M, Alva, S, Bender, RH, & Bryant, D (2007). Teachers’ education, classroom quality, and young children’s academic skills: results from seven studies of preschool programs. Child Development, 78, 558–580.

[iii] OECD 2007 Starting Strong II: Early childhood education and care.  OECD, Paris. Britto, P, Yoshikawa, H & Boller K. (2010) Quality of Early Childhood Development Programs in Global Contexts Rationale for Investment, Conceptual Framework and Implications for Equity. Social Policy Report, Volume 25 Number 2.

An evaluation of the Sobambisana Initiative

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SCover of Sobambisana Initiativeobambisana, initiated in 2008, is the first attempt in South Africa to develop a local evidence base for interventions aimed at improving ECD, particularly those relevant to rollouts under the National Integrated Plan.

Five non-profit resource and training organisations (RTOs) active in Early Childhood Development (ECD) were contracted to implement high quality models of ECD provision that would improve the access of children younger than six to developmental opportunities, and smooth their transition to their first schools.
These organisations were the Centre for Early Childhood Development (CECD) and Early Learning Resource Unit (ELRU), based in the Western Cape; the Khululeka Community Education Development Centre (KCECD), based in the Eastern Cape; Ntataise, based in the Free State; and Training Resources for Early Education (TREE), based in KwaZulu-Natal.

A research team led by the Department of Psychology of the University of Cape Town in partnership with ELRU was appointed to undertake four tasks:

1. Design systems for monitoring and evaluating the various interventions, and instil a culture of M&E in the partner organisations.
2. Monitor and evaluate programme implementation by each partner.
3. Evaluate the outcomes of interventions implemented by each partner.
4. Evaluate the impact of these programmes on children by the time they reach Grade R.
Programmes were implemented by four partners in six communities in four provinces: Indaka in KwaZulu-Natal; Grabouw and Vredenburg in the Western Cape; Lusikisiki and the Queenstown area in the Eastern Cape; and the Viljoenskroon/ Rammulotsi area in the Free State. All these sites are characterised by high levels of poverty and deprivation.

The results of the evaluation of this initiative are available in Towards Integrated Early Childhood Development: an evaluation of the Sobambisana Initiative. Download it here.

The individual partner evaluation are also available for download:

Department of Basic Education: where it stands on ECD

Svetlana DonevaBlog, The Policy Post2 Comments

The Department of Basic Education Annual Report for the 2014/15 period documents a number of measures implemented to address the challenges in the quality of ECD for children aged 0-4 and Grade R highlighted in ECD audit conducted by the DSD in 2013 as well as the report on “The Impact of the Introduction of Grade R on Learning Outcomes”. Notably it:

  • Is working towards Grade R becoming compulsory by 2019
  • Has sought to expand the availability of the National Curriculum Framework for children aged 0-4 among registered ECD centres
  • Has engaged in a consultative review of the occupational competencies for a new level 4 ECD qualification
  • Has, in the case of Grade R, sought to strengthen the enabling policy and resourcing environment to ensure the full integration of this year of pre-school education into the formal education system.

The DBE notes that at the end of the 2015 financial year, progress has been made. However, quality remains an ongoing problem. Thus, its 2015/16 – 2019/20 Strategic Plan aims specifically to improve the quality of ECD with a focus on improving access to Grade R through the improved supply of learning materials and improving the qualifications of Grade R teachers.

Notably it will be working to:

  • Improve the quality of teachers in the Foundation Phase and Grade R
  • Provide Grade R workbooks
  • Improve access and support for learners with disabilities
  • Improve monitoring of reading in the Foundation Phase.

Article by Patricia Martin, advocacyaid.com

DoH on ECD: in a nutshell

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The Department of Health’s Annual Report and Annual Performance Plan for the period 2016/17 – 2018/19 notes significant improvements and ongoing challenges to the survival of children in South Africa. It notes that the under-five mortality rate has dropped from 56 down to 39 deaths per 1000 live births by 2014. The reduction is attributable in part to measures aimed at addressing the leading causes of child death, notably the roll out of immunizations that have prevented respiratory diseases and diarrhea brought about by the Rotavirus. In addition, improvements have been brought about by the implementation of the re-engineered PHC model, especially the 6-day post-natal visits to mothers in their homes by the ward-based outreach teams.

Looking forward, the DOH commits to work through its Maternal and Child Health Programme to both minimize maternal and child mortality and morbidity and to optimize the good health of children. However, when it comes to the latter, the Annual Performance Plan is thin on detail and targets.

The ECD policy allocates a significant child development role to the DOH, including the provision of early childhood education services for children under the age of two years. In effect, the policy calls for the adoption of a strong and target-driven health promotive approach. This is an increasingly important role that will have to be picked up more robustly by the DOH in its next planning cycle, particularly to equalize the opportunities for the many more children who will now survive because of the success of the strong historical child-survival focus, but with developmental challenges and disabilities.

Article by Patricia Martin, advocacyaid.com

DSD and ECD: what the policy says

Svetlana DonevaBlog, The Policy Post1 Comment

In the Department of Social Development (DSD’) s Annual Report for the year ended 31 March 2015, the Minister of Social Development introduces the shift in the developmental importance and prioritization of ECD in her statement that “ECD lies at the heart of our plans to combat the inter-generational transmission of poverty [and that] … the new policy will pave the way for the provision of ECD as a public good.” In line with this shift, she notes that universal access to ECD services is of paramount concern to the department.

Key ECD achievements highlighted in the report include:

  • The development and approval of the draft ECD policy by Cabinet; and
  • An increase in the number of centres registered from 21 847 in 2013/14 to 24 199 in 2014/15. Of particular note is the increase in the registration of centres that have, for the most part, previously been excluded because of difficulties in meeting national norms and standards, particularly those related to infrastructure. They have been able to register as a result of the development of guidelines for conditional registration.
  • An increase in the number of children in centres receiving the ECD subsidy form 620 402 to 704 798.
  • A partnership with the National Lottery will enable the building of 60 ECD centres across the country, the training of ECD practitioners on NQF 4 level, and provide learning and support materials.

Further achievements that are pertinent to ECD, but listed under different programme headings include:

  • More than 400 000 households accessed food through the DSD’s community development feeding programmes
  • South Africa’s Child Support Grant has been recognized as one of the top five global initiatives in this category by the World Bank. The DSD has, for some time now, recognized the limitations in the development potential of the grant brought about by the low take-up rates in young children under the age of one year. It has therefore rolled out a range of community projects targeted at various wards with the objective of finding and registering children as early as possible. As a result, over 114 000 children under the age of one have been registered for the CSG.

Two issues that should be flagged and addressed by the DSD in its next planning cycle, the resolution of which are required and supported by the ECD policy are:

  1. The skewed emphasis on centre-based ECD and the near-complete neglect of home and community-based early learning and parenting support programmes for the youngest and most vulnerable young children and their families; and
  2. The need for systemic solutions for ensuring universal access to key services such as the CSG. Outreach programmes and projects are great, but do not guarantee that all eligible children will be reached and, as a matter of routine business, be registered for the grant from birth. The policy requires early birth registration through collaboration with the Department of Health and it is critical that attention turn to developing integrated universal programmatic solutions that meet this imperative.

Article by Patricia Martin, advocacyaid.com

SA’s ECD policies are changing: now what?

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Looking back, it is clear from the recently published 2014/15 annual reports and strategic plans for the core ECD departments of Health, Social Development and Basic Education, that a number of important policy shifts have taken place. ECD is at the forefront of the national development agenda, and this is reflected in the prioritisation of programmes for the health, well-being and development of young children.

This is good news indeed. However, when viewed together with the budget limits in this year’s national allocations for ECD, it is clear that the shifts have not been robust enough to address some of the core challenges and gaps sought to be remedied by the new draft ECD policy. This is not unexpected, given that the draft policy is yet to be published in its final form. The Department of Social Development (DSD) has advised that this should be happening any day now.

When the shifts are unpacked against the policy, it is clear that there will have to be a more focused engagement by all line departments. The policy requires bigger budgets and programmes, so that:

  • Not only that infants survive, but also that they thrive;
  • That the youngest children under the age of two, and the most vulnerable children and their families have access to home- and community-based parenting support and early learning programmes;
  • That children have access to enough nutrition to ensure they survive and thrive;
  • That the quality of early learning and care programmes improve substantially so as to equalise opportunities for the development and learning of especially vulnerable children; and
  • That all ECD programmes not only accommodate, but also provide quality services to children with developmental delays or disabilities.

The early learning and care shifts to date have very much taken place within the old centre-based ECD paradigm and the shifts in the health sector have not effected a decisive move towards child development – it is still primarily concerned with child survival.

The DSD will be conducting orientation workshops across all nine provinces once the policy is published in its final format. It is important that these workshops focus on laying the foundations for the necessary shifts in thinking at a line department level to ensure that the next planning cycle focusses on the ECD priorities highlighted in the policy and above.

Read what the Department of Social Development says on ECD here.

Read what the Department of Basic Education says on ECD here.

Read what the Department of Health says on ECD here.

 

A cartoon image of Patricia Martin, blog author

The Policy Post is written by Patricia Martin, the director of Advocacy Aid, a consultancy that provides advocacy support to the development sector. Patricia has worked as a child rights advocate and policy analyst for more than a decade and has a special interest in ECD policy and programme development and monitoring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting on with the business of ECD

Svetlana DonevaBlog, The Policy PostLeave a Comment

Things have been rather quiet on the policy front over the past fortnight. However, the many ECD role players have been quietly and steadily carrying on with the business of ECD. This week’s policy shares a few policy initiatives with a bearing on ECD as well as some examples of recent programmes and projects.

Draft National Sanitation Policy published for comment

The Department of Water and Sanitation has published a draft Water and Sanitation policy for public comment, which builds on previous policies governing the provision of water and sanitation services. The intention is fill gaps and address previous inadequacies, as well as clarify roles and responsibilities across departments, as well as the different levels of government – national, provincial and local.

What is of concern is that the policy, despite seeking to align with and further national priorities, does not highlight the link between improved access to sanitation, the achievement of national ECD goals and ultimately overarching national and Sustainable Development Goals. Under the principles, the policy recognises the universal right of all to basic sanitation. However, contrary to the requirements of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, and the National Development Plan, does not recognise the immediacy and urgency of the right, and the need for prioritisation of access for children, especially the youngest children – not only is sanitation a guaranteed right for children, but of particular importance to their survival and development given that poor sanitation is a leading cause of many avoidable child deaths in South Africa. Equally problematic then is the policy’s limited prioritisation of services for “vulnerable people and unserved households” and its failure to expressly require and mandate prioritisation of sanitation services for young children.

DBE publishes a National School Safety Framework

The DBE has launched a National School Safety Framework (NSSF) – an “all-inclusive strategy to guide the national department as well as the provincial education departments in a coordinated effort” to take all necessary steps to create a safe and supportive learning environment in all schools. The focus of the NSSF is on managing the very high levels of violence that are a feature of schools across the country. To this end, “the overall aim of the Framework is to create a safe, violence and threat-free, supportive learning environment for learners, educators, principals, school governing bodies and administration.”

The NSSF is a comprehensive document that is meant to guide schools, districts, provinces and national government – to “ensure a common understanding of, and approach to, school safety.” It is thus made of different parts. Part A provides a conceptual framework for a common approach and part B is made up of a manual and implementation tools. The NSSF covers all forms of violence, including bullying, cyber violence, xenophobia, homophobia, corporal punishment and sexual and gender-based violence.

The NSSF adopts an ecological approach to achieving its objectives and thus places a big emphasis on prevention of violence through primary, secondary and tertiary interventions. It is in the context of prevention that ECD features strongly in the strategy. The NSSF promotes the adoption, resourcing and implementation of interventions that would “prevent and violent or criminal behaviour before it occurs… [including] the provision of early childhood development services and parent-skills training”.

DBE forges ahead to strengthen the quality of foundation phase teaching

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has implemented a programme for strengthening the quality of learning and teaching in the foundation phase (Grade R -1). The rationale for the focus on the foundation phase is explained by the Director of LTSM Policy Development and Innovation, Ms Kulula Manona, as follows:  “The Foundation Phase lays the foundations for further learning. It therefore makes sense that we target this phase, particularly when one considers the range of materials and components used in this phase.”

The focus of the initiative is to strengthen the use, by foundation phase teachers, of Learning and Teaching Support Materials. The DBE has developed Guidelines for the Utilisation of LTSM. The Guidelines seek to “show teachers in a user-friendly and engaging way, how they could make the best use of their textbooks and other teaching and learning materials.” The DBE trained 61 Foundation Phase Subject Advisors from across the nine provinces in the use of the Guidelines, with the aim of providing systemic support for improving the use of LTSM in the Foundation Phase.

The Subject Advisors will be part of a National Core Training Team which will train Foundation Phase teachers in all the provinces.

“We are grateful to provinces for their support. This collaboration is critical because it will culminate in this training being used to the benefit of learners in the classroom,” remarked Ms Manona.  She also reminded the subject advisers of the Read to Lead Campaign, which was launched to cultivate a culture of reading. Ms Manona emphasised to the Subject Advisers what the campaign aims to achieve and what role they can play in realising this objective.

Read more here.

DBE launches a national school deworming programme

On 16 February 2016, the DBE joined hands with the Departments of Health and Social Development, as well as development partners Johnson and Johnson and the World Health Organisation to launch the National School Deworming Programme at Zimasa Community School in Cape Town.

The Programme, which will reach over 6 million learners from Grade R to 7 in quintiles 1-3 primary schools, is part of the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP).  It aims to “improve children’s health, reduce health barriers to learning and assist learners to stay in school and to receive quality education. The Programme further intends to promote attitudes and behaviours that will positively impact on the current and future health of learners.”

Children are very often infected by worms (soil-transmitted helminths), and if the condition is not reversed, it can cause serious illness and development delays, and impacts negatively on children’s nutritional well-being and school performance.

The programme is an essential component of the Integrated School Health Programme, and in line with the ISHP’s strategic approach, provides a combination of:

  • Health education – including information on the type of worms, the way in which transmission takes place and the prevention measures that can be taken;
  • Hand washing integrated into the workbooks;
  • Regular deworming of children in schools; and
  • The provision of adequate sanitation and safe water

Read more here.

DSD provides ECD through Community Care Centres in under-served rural communities

On 26 February 2016, the DSD handed over the first of 18 Community Care Centres in Charlestown in KwaZulu-Natal.

DSD will be working with the German Development Bank to build a further 17 centres in three provinces, KZN, Limpopo and the North West province. They represent a new model of integrated one-stop-shop services for vulnerable families and children. The centres are made up of different facilities, including early childhood development services; youth and skills development programmes; clinic facilities; a library; a computer lab; private rooms for counselling and support; activity rooms for youth clubs and pensioner clubs; a food garden; a playground, and an amphitheatre to allow for demonstrations; educational talks and will even serve as a stage for artists to perform for the community.

Read more here.

Patricia Martin

The Policy Post is written by Patricia Martin, the director of Advocacy Aid, a consultancy that provides advocacy support to the development sector. Patricia has worked as a child rights advocate and policy analyst for more than a decade and has a special interest in ECD policy and programme development and monitoring.

Ilifa Labantwana Annual Report July 2014 – June 2015

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Ilifa Labantwana Annual Report Front CoverIlifa Labantwana’s Annual Report for the period 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015 outlines the work done by the programme during this period. Areas of focus which are discussed include:

  • Information access and use
  • Early childhood care and education delivery models
  • Early childhood development regulatory, funding and human resource systems
  • Engagement with government
  • Engaging the public
  • The Innovation Edge
  • Financial report

Download it here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SA Budget 2016/17: ECD needs action, not just words

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs, ECD News, The Policy Post1 Comment

Pravin Gordhan delivering the 2016/17 Budget

Minister Gordhan delivers SA’s 2016/17 Budget

Many commentators have called Financed Minister Pravin Gordhan’s 2016/17 National Budget the most difficult balancing act of the minister’s political career.  Minister Gordhan matched an overwhelming amount of demands against constrained resources – all within a fiscally depressed economic climate.

Minister Gordhan’s budget maps out government’s plans for the next three years. Given the constraints, complexity and competing demands, the foundations of the plan are limited to a focused number of priority areas which the current administration regard as meriting investment.

Minister Gordhan explained that the choices in the budget are informed by “an inclusive and social contract, encompassing an equal burden of tax and a progressive programme of expenditures”. He went on to elaborate that inclusivity is “about both prosperity and equity”; it is about ensuring the country’s resources are used to create opportunities for all whilst pursuing economic growth and development through trade and industry.

In short, inclusive growth requires a balanced approach to development which gives equal priority to human social development alongside business development, particularly those areas and aspects of human social development that equalise opportunities for South Africa’s historically marginalised communities.

When faced with having to make hard decisions about what areas of social development we should invest in to yield the most sustainable and equitable foundations for human and economic development, the evidence is clear. Equitable access to quality Early Childhood Development services must be prioritised as it is an essential developmental lever with the capacity to equalise opportunities at a time when it matters.

The National Development Plan, the ECD Diagnostic Review and the draft National ECD policy are unanimous in their recognition of the catalytic development value of ECD. There is no doubt that ECD must be a strategic priority of government’s immediate three year plan. Minister Gordhan’s budget does, in a very limited way, act on this directive.

However the ECD-development paradigm informing decisions about the allocation of our country’s resources is inadequate and the resulting investments insufficient to give effect to the national ECD vision and make sure, that, in the words of Minister

There is high level political and academic consensus, not only that we need to prioritise ECD, but also that to ensure an inclusive, equity-driven developmental platform, that priority must be given to certain specific ECD services and programmes.

In the longer-term, the comprehensive ECD plan and programme envisaged by the policy must be resourced. However, if we are to see substantial and sustained returns in the term of the NDP, we must prioritise those ECD service and programmes that are necessary to include and equalise opportunities for the most marginalised pregnant women and young children. Notably, there must be a massive increase in availability and access to nutritional services, parenting support and out-of-centre programmes providing quality early childhood care and education for the youngest children and children living in under-serviced vulnerable communities and households.

These ECD areas have been neglected at a programming and funding level. The policy commits to restoring the balance and prioritising the roll out of programmes, at scale, in these neglected areas. However, to make sure we see, in the words of Minster Gordhan, “action [and] not just words” the policy commitments must be supported by a substantial increase in allocations of the public purse to implement these essential, non-negotiable foundations of equitable human development.

The current budget do not deliver the resource-commitments needed to translate the policy from words into action.

Whilst Minister Gordhan recognises the need for investments in social developmental initiatives, the focus of the budget is on trade and industrial innovation. The social developmental initiatives are given a few bare paragraphs committing to increasing investments in education infrastructure, residential services in metropolitan municipalities, improving health and education infrastructure. In amongst this sketch, the budget recognises the importance of early childhood education and proposes an very minimal R 813 million to increase the number of children in ECD centres by 104 000 in the MTEF period.

This falls very short of the required levels and scope of investment necessary to secure universal availability and equitable access to the non-negotiable services that must be in place to catalyse equitable development. The commitment simply does not cover the non-negotiables: Nutrition, parenting support and out-of-centre early childhood care and education, leaving a vacuum between policy intent and what we can possibly action, based on the allocations in in the current MTEF.

Patricia MartinThe Policy Post is written by Patricia Martin, the director of Advocacy Aid, a consultancy that provides advocacy support to the development sector. Patricia has worked as a child rights advocate and policy analyst for more than a decade and has a special interest in ECD policy and programme development and monitoring.

 

 

 

 

 

Policy Post: Why ECD did not feature in SONA 2016 and what our sector needs to do about it

Svetlana DonevaBlog, The Policy Post1 Comment

Last Thursday, 11th of Feb, President Jacob Zuma presented his State of the Nation Address (SONA) to Parliament. The SONA traditionally provides a comprehensive overview of the key gains made in the previous year. The President has always used the opportunity to highlight the upcoming year’s policy and programmatic priorities cutting across social and economic sectors, as well as an indication of how these priorities link up with the country’s goals and objectives.

jacobzumasona

President Jacob Zuma delivers his SONA in Parliament, 11th Feb

Not so this year. This year’s SONA appears to be an exercise in retrospective damage-control rather than an instrument for charting the way forward for government as a whole. It focuses almost exclusively on a short-term plan, the details of which are deferred to the Minister of Finance, for achieving a “resilient and fast-growing economy” which is earmarked as lying at “the heart of our radical economic transformation agenda and our National Development Plan”.

The emphasis of the SONA is on how the damage done to the country’s economy last year can be reversed quickly, specifically by making South Africa attractive to investors. The plan for the coming year comes in the wake of “sustained economic turmoil and pressures” and is driven by the imperative for speedy solutions. The year will be about crafting an effective “turnaround plan”; it will be “doing things differently and also acting on what may not have been acted upon quickly before”.

The SONA is almost exclusively concerned with short-term solutions on the economic front. Other than committing to the limitation of wasteful expenditure, “but without compromising on the core business of government and the provision of services”, the SONA is silent on what those core services are, and which will be prioritised in this time of fiscal constraint. It leaves the country in the dark as to the current administration’s medium-to-long term social development plan to bring about the “radical economic transformation” which the President identified as the goal for the current year.

The lasting impression left after the speech is that government will support the investment of energy and funds in those areas which will yield fast and tangible economic returns, and those areas with a high quotient of political volatility. Of all the social pressures that could have been mentioned and prioritised, the President focused almost exclusively on the resolution of the demand for affordable tertiary education.

So, where does this leave Early Childhood Development?

Early Childhood Development does not fit into the fast turnaround paradigm of the SONA. It is undoubtedly a key ingredient in bringing about a radical economic transformation. However, it is a long-term initiative which requires considered planning and patience. As mentioned in the last Policy Post, the pressure on government to find a “quick-fix” to the country’s economic crises raises the risk of demoting the policy and political importance of the longer-term social development vision of the country which calls for the prioritisation of investments from the bottom-up. The SONA certainly seems to be setting the scene for this risk to become a reality.

This means that, as a sector, we need to be robust in our advocacy and relentless in the pressure we exert on government. We must ensure that the national ECD policy’s recognition of the provision of quality services to pregnant women and young children and their families as the long-term and sustainable engine of the NDP receives the policy and financial priority it merits in 2016.

Patricia Martin

The Policy Post is written by Patricia Martin, the director of Advocacy Aid, a consultancy that provides advocacy support to the development sector. Patricia has worked as a child rights advocate and policy analyst for more than a decade and has a special interest in ECD policy and programme development and monitoring.

 

 

 

 

 

Funding of learnerships for ECD practitioners

Svetlana DonevaPublications, Research and Policy Briefs11 Comments

Data from the General Household Survey (2014) shows an increase in access to ECCE (early childhood care and education) services since 2012. However, it also points to increasing inequality in access between children occupying different income quintiles, with children in quintile 5 being 2.5 times more likely to have access to early learning opportunities than children in quintile 1. Key to bridging this gap is addressing the quantity and quality of trained ECD practitioners. And one of the ways in which Government seeks to do this is through the provision of state funded ECD learnerships.

In 2015, Ilifa commissioned a review of the various funding sources for ECD learnerships for practitioners working with children aged 0-4 years. This research uses available literature, budget documents and interviews to map out sources, channels, methods and amounts related to the funding of ECD learnerships in three provinces.

The research reveals a complex web of actors, and substantial disparities in the administration of learnerships, funding and provision of training and support, reporting structures and co-ordination across training institutions and government departments in the provincial and national spheres. The complexity of the organisation, execution and funding of ECD learnerships in South Africa currently has a negative impact on the country’s prioritisation of ECD.  Lack of co-ordination of the wide range of actors responsible for various aspects of the learnership programme is undermining efforts to strengthen the pool of qualified ECD practitioners. Addressing this is essential for improved access to and quality of ECD services for all young children in SA.

The report was researched and written by Debbie Budlender, Sultana Mapker and Penny Parenzee.  Download it here.

ECD in 2016: all the policy dates and events you need to know

Svetlana DonevaBlog, The Policy Post2 Comments

Welcome to the first Policy Post of 2016! 2015 ended on a high note for ECD, with the approval by Cabinet of a national ECD policy. What worries us is that a number of less positive developments in the country at the end of last year raise the risk of overshadowing ECD.

As a sector, we need to raise our collective voice to ensure that ECD is prioritised and receives the necessary political, resourcing and programmatic attention to realise the country’s shared vision of universal access to quality ECD from birth – especially for the most marginalised.

So, without further delay, here are the most important advocacy opportunities for the coming months.

The Opening of Parliament and State of the Nation Address

ParlyZAR Parliament will formally open on 11 February 2016 with the delivery of the President Zuma’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) to a joint sitting of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces. The SONA reviews the highs and lows of the last year and sets out key policy objectives and deliverables which will form the basis for executive action for the coming year. A few days after the address, the SONA is debated in the National Assembly (on the 16th and 17th of February), with the President afforded an opportunity to reply to debate issues and questions on the 18th of February. The debate is led by Members of Parliament who are given an opportunity to comment and raise question on matters addressed in the SONA.

Given the approval of the ECD policy at the end of 2015, it should be prominent in the SONA and at the forefront of the policy agenda for 2016. However, as mentioned previously, it may be overshadowed by matters that have been highly visible and hotly debated in the past month or two, including the weak rand, the change in leadership of the national Treasury, and the #feesmustfall campaign.

The children’s sector should expect some clarity, in the SONA, on the adoption of the ECD policy and a clear directive to the Executive on the need to prioritise its resourcing and implementation. Should these expectations not be met, the sector should make as much use of the SONA debating space, by sharing their concerns and questions for the President with opposition party MPs, especially those in the relevant portfolio committees, with the request that they raise them on the 16th and 17th of February.

The national Budget Speech

Shortly after the opening of Parliament, the Minister of Finance will present the national budget for 2016/17 to the National Assembly at 2pm on the 24th of February. This will be followed by aPravinGordhan debate in the National Assembly on the Fiscal Framework on 9 March 2016.

The budget documents, including Estimates of National Expenditure and the Budget Review and Budget Speech may be purchased at a cost of around R 100 each. Orders may be placed in advance with Beatrix Geldenhuys (Cell: 082 806 8272) and collected from the State Printers from 2pm on the 24th of February.

As in the case of the SONA, we would expect to see a clear commitment to, and a sizeable investment in making the ECD policy a reality, especially for the most marginalised young children in the country. Ilifa Labantwana will be reviewing the budget documents and sharing its insights and concerns with its readers as well as national Treasury and MPs with the objective of stimulating debate on the issue in the post-budget speech period.

National Assembly review of all laws passed since 1994

The Speaker of the National Assembly has announced the establishment of an “Independent Advisory Panel on the ‘Acceleration of Change and Transformation’” in South Africa. The Panel, which will be chaired by the former President Kgalema Motlanthe, will assess the impact of all laws passed since 1994 on either impeding or promoting, amongst other issues, the reduction of poverty, unemployment and inequality; improvements in the quality of life; enjoyment of our constitutionally-protected social and economic rights; and nation building and cohesion.

The objective of the review will be to identify legislative weaknesses and make recommendations for amendments and innovations to fill identified gaps.

The Panel will conduct its work through public outreach and other research processes such as public submissions, provincial outreach and public hearings.

Given the centrality of ECD to the country’s developmental and equity-focused imperatives, the ECD sector should engage actively and robustly in this review.

We will share information about the process and associated opportunities.

Local elections

Local elections will be held this year which will shape the face of local government leadership. Given the active and positive role that local government plays in making ECD services available at a local level, and given the fact that for many local governments this mandate remains under-developed, the elections present a unique opportunity to drive ECD access for the most marginalised children.

No date has yet been set for the elections. However they must take place between 18 May and 16 August 2016. The actual date will be announced by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

As in the case of the other opportunities discussed, we will keep an eye on and report on developments as and when they emerge.

Patricia MartinThe Policy Post is written by Patricia Martin, the director of Advocacy Aid, a consultancy that provides advocacy support to the development sector. Patricia has worked as a child rights advocate and policy analyst for more than a decade and has a special interest in ECD policy and programme development and monitoring.

 

 

 

 

Taking ECD to Zululand

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs1 Comment

By: Jacqui Khumalo, KZN Co-ordinator, Ilifa

Early Childhood Development Seminar KZN1

Jacqui Khumalo kicks of Zululand’s activation workshop

Our work towards the massification of quality ECD services in KwaZulu Natal has scaled up over the past few months. We have entered two new districts –  Zululand and UMkhanyakude – since the start of November and put in pl ace the frameworks which will determine the channels of delivery of ECD services to the children who need them most.

Typically, the entry into a new district is marked with a so-called activation workshop which brings government workers across departments and service levels together in one room and sets them with the task of evaluating the current level of services provided and the scale up of resources required to reach all children – otherwise known as population-based planning.   Read More

Refilwe and the Early Learning Playgroup

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IMG-20151203-WA0005

Refilwe sitting in the “fantasy play” corner of her playgroup

By Lisa Cohen

Her name is Refilwe* and she is three years old. She lives in Ngobi village – a small, lonely fleck on the dusty North West landscape.  Refilwe and I meet in the early learning playgroup she attends three days a week.  She is the quietest child in the group and immediately gravitates to the playgroup’s ‘fantasy play’ corner when given the opportunity for unstructured playtime.

I sidle over to her and compliment her blue sun hat – no response, not even a smile. But I am not easily deterred.  I start playing pretend with a plastic doll and show Refilwe how to rock and put a baby to sleep. She imitates me and we play in companionable silence for a few minutes. When I ask if I can take her picture, she gives me a nod too serious for a three-year-old and just the tiniest of smiles. Refilwe is beautiful and I’m smitten.

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Ilifa Insights Issue 2 – Systems change for ECD

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CoverImageInsights2Systems thinking is increasingly being used to tackle challenges in a wide variety of fields such as manufacturing, computing, engineering, information science and conservation. Ilifa has adopted systems thinking in our approach to enhancing access and quality of ECD services in South Africa.

Ilifa Phase II (2013-2016) aims to build implementation evidence for ECD services; and identify and explore mechanisms for scaling these services. For the most part, scale involves working closely with government departments at all levels to facilitate enhancements to existing systems as well as assisting to support the development of new systems where necessary.

In Ilifa Insights Issue 2, we highlight several projects underway in Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and North West which illustrate our systemic approach to change.

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Ilifa Insights Issue 3 – Our Parenting Lessons

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Insights 3 coverNurturance, security, stimulation and love delivered through the parent-child relationship is where early childhood development begins.  The social structures around the parent-child relationship, however, are of profound importance because the support, or in adverse instances – the neglect or hostility – they impart will affect the ability of the primary caregiver to nurture her child, impacting the quality of the relationship between them, and consequently the development of the child.Read More

The DSD acts on household food and nutrition security

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs, ECD News, The Policy PostLeave a Comment

O N E  D R O P

The national Department of Social Development this week published a Terms of Reference for the Appointment of a Service Provider for the Implementation of the Household Food and Nutrition Security Programme for 2015/16.

The purpose of the TOR is “solicit proposals from NPOs to facilitate implementation of an integrated Household Food and Nutrition Security Programme for the Department of Social Development in the financial year 2015/16 in the Northern Cape Province”.

One of the desired programme outcomes is to decrease severe malnutrition among children under five years. This objective is included among broader household food security and production objective.

Below is the envisaged methodology for achieving the project goals:

  1. Establishment of a Provincial Food Distribution Centre and an integrated provincial coordination forum which would appear to be responsible for driving the establishment of the food distribution centre.
  2. Support the development, management and development of a data base of community food depots.
  3. Bulk procurement and project administration.

The deliverables thus focus on a specific strategy and food delivery model – provincial and community food distribution centres.

The project is conceptualised within, and will presumably be implemented within the framework of the governing National Food and Nutrition Security Policy and Household Food and Nutrition Strategy. Given previous concerns expressed in the April edition of the Policy Post about the inadequacy of these guiding documents vis-à-vis the food and nutritional needs of young children, similar concerns arise with regards to the likelihood or ability of the narrow TORs to contribute meaningfully to decrease severe malnutrition among young children.

Neither of the two governing documents make any mention of, nor address the findings of the national ECD food and nutrition policy review which was commissioned by the Department of Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation. The essence of the review findings was that our national food security programmes are not sensitive or responsive to the needs of young children – a factor contributing to the very high and increasing levels of malnutrition and stunting among children under the age of three in the country. The documents provide no guidance on what measures should be taken to ensure young-child sensitive strategies and interventions.

The ECD sector in the country and the Northern Cape should take heed and ensure that there is close engagement with the DSD and the implementing NGO so as to ensure the necessary levels of technical support and guidance to make optimal use of this opportunity to strengthen food and nutrition security for young children in the country.

Moreover, given the prioritisation within the draft national ECD policy of the need to develop effective young child sensitive interventions, there should be close cooperation with the DSD’s ECD directorate in the selection of the service provider and in the ongoing support provided to the relevant service provider. The TOR indicates that a project steering committee, made up of a number of line function and supporting directorates, will be established to evaluate the proposals and provide ongoing support. The TOR lists a number of directorates: the ECD directorate is not listed as one of the proposed steering committee members. This should be remedied as a matter of urgency.

Patricia Martin

 

The Policy Post is written by Patricia Martin, the director of Advocacy Aid, a consultancy that provides advocacy support to the development sector. Patricia has worked as a child rights advocate and policy analyst for more than a decade and has a special interest in ECD policy and programme development and monitoring.

 

How can we prioritise ECD expenditure?

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs, ECD News, The Policy PostLeave a Comment

O N E  D R O P

The approval of a revised national ECD policy is, we are led to believe, imminent. Once Cabinet approves the policy, our hard work starts. As a country, we will have to increase our investment, in terms of both money, time, people and political buy-in; we will have to agree on a programme of action to translate the national ECD vision and priorities into reality on the ground for all young children and their parents, especially those who are the hardest to reach; and we will have to make sure that, in the financially constrained climate in South Africa, that sufficient funds are allocated and used for the most strategic interventions that will lay the foundation for a strong system and programmes that will drive development of children, the country as a whole, as well as social inclusion and equality.

In the next active stage of the building of a national ECD system, the country, politicians, Ministers, administrators, NGOs, and development partners are going to be tasked with making some hard choices. The package envisaged by the ECD policy is comprehensive. We are not going to be in a position to do everything at once. We are going to have to prioritise how we direct our money and energy.

Based on the recently published Medium Term Budget Policy Statement, there are worrying indications that investment and spending choices may prove to be at odds with the progressive developmental vision of the draft national ECD policy. In moving forward we need to see a shift in our thinking and priorities. The limited funding and implementation paradigm must shift; we must shift the discussion from why it is important to invest more in ECD, to a discussion about how much is enough and what we should be putting our increased resources into to yield the most significant and lasting returns.

A recent report published by the World Bank – Investing in Early Childhood Development: Review of the World Bank’s Recent Experience – provides some very useful and tested guidance in making these decisions and prioritising. The report provides an overview of its investments in ECD over the past decade and distills out those strategies and practices which have strengthened large-scale programmes and specifically the reach, efficiency, developmental and equity outcomes we aspire to in terms of the draft national ECD policy.

The report highlights the following features that we should consider prioritising, promoting and resourcing in the start-up phase of the new integrated national ECD policy:

  1. Coordination is key. Integrated ECD programmes of action were more effectively delivered where effective coordination mechanisms were in place from the start of the process to provide strategic communication and overall management of multi-sectoral ECD activities.
  2. Coordination was strengthened where there was meaningful political ownership of and commitment to the ECD programme by all relevant ministries as well as clearly defined roles of the different government departments and different levels of government.
  3. Coordination was further strengthened where it was replicated at regional and local levels through technical committees and working groups.
  4. The effective reach into the most marginalised communities is better secured through the active involvement of local government in planning, implementation, monitoring and quality improvement by local government. Local governments know their constituencies and the local context and need to be met, and as such are central to responsive and equitable ECD programming. However, the successful involvement of local government requires that they are adequately funded, mandated, and capacitated to fulfil their designated roles.
  5. Identifying and reaching the most marginalised communities is effectively achieved where local-level mapping of population needs and gaps takes place.
  6. Parental involvement in, and by association, demand for activities, yields higher returns on ECD programmes. Parenting education is more effective if fathers are included.
  7. Investments in collaborative home and community-based early screening identification and early interventions yield long-term and tangible returns. Programmes have successfully achieved population wide coverage through the collaborative development and implementation of coordinating tools such as a Child Health Development Passport. The tool is given to all children at birth and tracks children until the turn 17 years of age providing a central record of the child’s medical history, nutritional and oral health, childhood illnesses, injuries, referrals, parenting and safety tips, and school readiness assessment records.
  8. Disbursements linked to concrete targets constitute an effective funding mechanism.
  9. Building capacity in the lead ministry to regulate early childhood education is a lever for improved quality of services.
  10. Teacher training is useful, but limited in its impact on quality in the absence of quality control measures and continual assessment processes.
  11. For many, if left to their own devices, the default choice is to invest in centre-based programmes. Advocacy and education on the value of, and the incentivisation of non-centre-based early stimulation programmes for children under 4 years of age is often required.
  12. A national multi-sectoral ECD programmes requires a carefully designed single and comprehensive M & E framework that links role players across all sectors and levels of government and that clearly spells out the various data sources and the associated roles of all stakeholders. The framework should incorporate both process and outcome indicators.

Patricia Martin

 

The Policy Post is written by Patricia Martin, the director of Advocacy Aid, a consultancy that provides advocacy support to the development sector. Patricia has worked as a child rights advocate and policy analyst for more than a decade and has a special interest in ECD policy and programme development and monitoring.

 

 

 

Government’s Budgeting Framework for next 3 years Cause for Concern for ECD

Svetlana DonevaUncategorized2 Comments

 

O N E  D R O P

On the 27th of September 2015, South Africa, together with the other UN Member States committed to achieve 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. As a country, we have committed to take action in areas that underpin sustainable social, economic and environmental development and realisation of the human rights of all.

Early Childhood Development is one of the essential sustainable development and human rights focus areas. It cuts across a number of the SDGs, but receives focused attention in SDG 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote learning opportunities for all. South Africa has agreed to achieve SDG 4.2 in the next fifteen years; that is to say it has agreed:

By 2030, ensure that all boys and girls have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.

The countdown to 2030 started on 27 September 2015 with the adoption of the collective SDG declaration Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

To achieve this goal and ensure that the foundations of sustainable and equitable human development are built from the bottom up, our government has to build and fund a strong ECD system that:

  • Reaches tens of thousands more children than currently is the case, especially the most marginalised, from birth until they enter the formal schooling system, through a combination of home, community and centre-based ECD programmes; and
  • guarantees the delivery of quality ECD services, especially for the most marginalised.

The task is huge, but we are already tackling it on the policy and programming front through focused efforts by key departments. ECD is a multi-sectoral enterprise and requires synergised efforts by the child welfare, education and health sectors, amongst others.

Two of the relevant departments recently reported on the steps that have been taken in the past year towards achieving SG 4.2.

The Department of Social Development’s 2014/15 Annual Report is unambiguous in the priority status afforded ECD in the national programme of action and the associated commitment to drive its realisation through a strong systemic approach. The Minister of Social Development introduces the report with the recognition that “Early Childhood Development (ECD) lies at the heart of our plans to combat the inter-generational transmission of poverty. The steady growth in the number of children who benefit from ECD services underline our commitment to provide our children with an early start for a better future. Cabinet approved the Draft ECD Policy for public comments. The policy will pave the way for the provision of ECD as a public good.”

The report summarises the steps taken this year and progress made. In fulfiment of its commitment to provide universal “care and early stimulation of children in the temporary absence of their parents or adult caregivers” the DSD reports that it has:

  • Developed a draft ECD Policy through a vigorous consultative process with key stakeholders.
  • Developed a Comprehensive ECD Programme concurrently with the policy which will be finalised, along with an implementation plan, after approval of the policy.
  • Merged the National Integrated Plan for Early Childhood Development Review Plan, the ECD Diagnostic Improvement Plan and the ECD Conference Action Plan into one document – the South African Integrated Programme of Action for Early Childhood Development – Moving Ahead, 2013–2016.
  • Completed an ECD Audit which provides the basis for finalising the draft ECD Policy.
  • Established a partnership with the National Lottery to support the building of 60 ECD centres across the country, to train ECD Practitioners on NQF level 4, and to provide learning and support materials.
  • Has, in an effort to increase the registration of ECD centres, developed guidelines facilitating conditional registration. The number of registered ECD centres increased by 10%, from 21 847 in 2013/14 to 24  191 in 2014/15.
  • Increased the number of children who received the ECD subsidy by 12%, from 620 402 in 2013/14 to 704 798 in 2014/15.

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) records, in its 2014/15 Annual Report that great “strides were made in relation to access to Grade R and in strengthening the entire ECD sector. However, quality remained a challenge in respect of the lack of a coherent legislative framework; unqualified and under-qualified teachers working under challenging conditions of service in some instances; varied quality of curriculum implementation; and funding for Grade R.”

In response, the DBE collaborated with others, notably the DSD to strengthen the policy and legislative framework for ECD:

  • Develop The South African Integrated Programme of Action for Early Childhood Development –Moving Ahead (2013/14– 2016/17) which allocates responsibility to the DBE for human resource and curriculum development.
  • Develop the National Curriculum Framework for Children from Birth to Four (NCF) together with an implementation plan (approved in September 2014).
  • Develop an interim Grade R policy which was submitted to Cabinet with all relevant legislation amended to ensure that all aspects of Grade R implementation have a solid legislative basis and are fully integrated into the schooling system.
  • Establish a training and curriculum subcommittee (with key stakeholders) to address broader human resource development issues.

In furtherance of the DBE’s responsibility for expanding access to Early Childhood Development and improvement of the quality of Grade R, with support for pre-Grade R provision, it:

  • Sought to improve resourcing by enrolling 3 860 practitioners for different qualifications. 77% of the targeted 5 000 practitioners were enrolled in either B.Ed or the Diploma in Grade R teaching. A total of 21 542 Grade R practitioners have ECD qualifications in all provinces excluding North West which employs qualified teachers. The totals per level of ECD qualifications are as follows: 10 933 are at level 4, 4 619 at level 5, 4 191 at level 6 and 1 799 above level 6 as at the end of the 2014/15 financial year.
  • Is working towards ensuring that Grade R becomes compulsory by 2019.
  • Distributed copies of the National Curriculum Framework for Children Birth to Four (NCF) to all PEDs for distribution to registered ECD centres.
  • The NCF, which provides information on the development and implementation of publicly funded ECD programmes to ensure that all children have an opportunity to access the essential package of ECD services, is being implemented in pilot centres.
  • Grade R resource packs aligned to CAPS were developed. 3 700 980 Grade R workbooks were delivered to 16 063 schools.

As we near the end of 2015, these departments are to be congratulated on the commitment and progress made in putting in place the policy and programmatic building blocks of a strong ECD system.

It is not enough to have good policies, these will need to be adequately resourced and efficiently implemented in the next few years. This will largely depend on whether enough financial resources are allocated by government.

During the course of this past week, the Minister of Finance shared the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) which is a “government policy document that communicates to Parliament and the country … [the government’s] spending priorities over the next three year expenditure period.”

A key message in this year’s MTBPS is fiscal restraint. South Africa has witnessed slower-than-projected economic growth. Given the ensuing fiscal constraints, in moving forward there “is little room for new spending priorities over the next three years.” However, despite these constraints, the government will “allocate additional resources to core areas of need, including projects that address urgent social priorities.”

It is indeed encouraging to see that ECD is recognised as one of these core areas.  Together, health, education and social protection receive 43% of the total budget thus reflecting the government’s continued prioritisation of funding for the social sector.

In the context of early childhood care and education, the MTBPS prioritises and directs additional resources towards strengthening Grade R. Specially, the universalisation of Grade R access within the next three years and upgrading the qualifications of Grade R practitioners.

The MTBPS also places the spotlight on, and allocates additional resources for the younger cohort of children in the pre-Grade R years. The MTBPS recognises that a “well-developed early childhood development system enhances educational outcomes.” Whilst the MTBPS expressly allocates additional resources, the interventions supported by the increase appear too limited in focus and impact to guarantee the shifts in access and quality necessary to unlock the developmental and equalising potential of ECD.

The draft ECD policy emphasises the need for growth in non-centre based ECD programmes and highlights the inadequacy of the current subsidy design and amount to meet this imperative, or to meet the urgent need for improvements in the quality of services provided. It commits to rolling out an expanded home and community-based ECD system supported by adequate funds that are not limited to centre-based provisioning.

The MTBPS does not appear to support the realisation of this vision. It is limited in its allocation of additional resources, and the intervention supported, to increasing the number of ECD subsidies paid for children participating in registered ECD centres. The document makes no mention of increasing the sum of the subsidy or expanding its coverage to include non-centre based ECD programmes. The MTBPS priorities are limited to increasing the number of children receiving the ECD subsidy by 127 000, and possibly making funding available for “minor facility upgrades to about 4 000 ECD sites.”

If the MTBPS sets the policy priority framework for the next three years, this limited focus is cause for concern. There must be a shift, within the next three year funding cycle, in how we frame our ECD funding priorities and budget allocations to ensure that our new policies will be translated into meaningful change and lay the foundations for achieving the SDGs from the bottom up.

Patricia Martin

 

The Policy Post is written by Patricia Martin. Patricia is the director of Advocacy Aid, a consultancy that provides advocacy support to the development sector. She has   worked as a child rights advocate and policy analyst for more than a decade and has a special interest in ECD policy and programme development and monitoring.

 

 

 

 

Strengthening ECD Registration Systems key to Massification of ECD services

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs, The Policy Post2 Comments

 

O N E  D R O P

Three significant challenges to universal ECD services, particularly are:

  1. Insufficient ECD facilities in sufficiently close proximity to the children in question
  2. Where facilities do exist, children often are excluded as a result of access barriers such as cost and unsuitable facilities
  3. Poor quality services.

In order to achieve the national ECD goals of universal ECD, especially for the most vulnerable children in the country, these three issues must be addressed as a matter of urgency. But tackling these issues requires that the many underlying issues be addressed first.  It’s not likely that all can be addressed immediately and in moving forward, the government will have to prioritise a select number of the underlying issues – notably those that will have the most wide-ranging, strategic and systemic impact and will expedite the expansion of quality services in areas of greatest need.

The vast quantity of literature on ECD in the country, and the most recent , provide clear direction on which underlying issues should be prioritised. The most strategically relevant issues that, if addressed, will simultaneously improve availability, access and quality are:

  1. Infrastructure
  2. Provincial and district-level information management and planning systems; and
  3. Funding

The effective resolution of these issues in turn depends on the resolution of a fundamental cross-cutting systemic issue – the slow and incomplete registration of many ECD centres and programmes with the Department of Social Development (DSD).

If addressed adequately and appropriately, registration provides, in principle, a systemic entry point for improved funding, quality and infrastructure, as well as the entry point for population-level planning targeting under-serviced children.

In principle, once registered, or even conditionally registered, ECD centres can access funding to improve their infrastructure, purchase more support material, and improve the skills and qualifications of their staff. At the same time, full registration of all sites will allow DSD, in principle, to know where ECD services are being provided, monitor quality, and perhaps more importantly, know where there are no services and where quality is inadequate, thus allowing for evidence-driven, population-based planning towards achievement of the national ECD policy goals.

The rationale for prioritising improving the ECD registration system is sound but it also relies on the strengthening of core supporting features of the ECD matrix within which that registration system nests.

From the recent ECD audit we know that at present large numbers of centres are not registered (less than half of the audited sites were registered). We also know that most are not registered because they do not comply with the prescribed infrastructure, equipment, support materials and practitioner skills norms and standards, and ultimately, because they do not have enough money to remedy the registration barriers because they cannot access ECD subsidy funding until they are registered.

Thus, the DSD has already prioritised and is in the process of developing a process for expedited and scaled up registration of sites at different graded levels – gold, silver and bronze – thus allowing preliminary access to funds and other forms of support, as well as routine monitoring, to improve availability and quality.

However, as illustrated by the ECD audit, the roll out of the registration and conditional registration system is being hampered by:

  1. Cumbersome and unclear registration processes and requirements – with many sites not knowing their status and not knowing what they can or should do to comply with norms and standards.
  2. Inadequate resources, even when the subsidy is made available, for improving infrastructure, purchasing adequate support materials and providing adequate equipment and skilled staff. Most of the income is spent on staff salaries and food, leaving little for key components of a quality early learning and care services.
  3. Insufficient direction and guidance on what infrastructure and equipment etc. should look like for children with disabilities.
  4. Poor information management and communication systems within provincial departments of social development resulting in multiple, conflicting, and often outdated lists of registered centres and an inability to contact and communicate with registered centres. Thus, the current information and communication systems undo the potential planning value of the registration system.

There is no doubt that the registration system must be expedited and made simpler so that we, at a minimum, achieve universal registration (or conditional registration) and can paint a clear picture with the aid of a complete registration data base, of what and where services are provided.

Will this be enough to address the key issues of infrastructure, accessibility and quality? The answer is no. The current funding policy, departmental information management systems and processes, and absent disability-specific norms and standards need to be changed to improve availability, access and quality for the most marginalised.

In the case of funding, the current subsidy is not adequate to enable substantial infrastructure improvements. There are a number of proposals on the table to remedy this situation. The draft ECD policy suggests that the government fund the building and maintenance of public ECD sites in under-serviced areas, and that it provide financial support for improved infrastructure in privately-run ECD sites servicing poor and other marginalised children through ECD programme funding (calculated to make better provision for the real needs of a quality, safe and appropriate service-delivery site). There is however concern that this proposal is too limited to achieve the ECD policy goals given that the most ECD sites in under-serviced communities are in fact run privately from people’s homes. The concern is that the scale of infrastructure and related developments that need to take place in these centres are too substantial to be accommodated through programme funding. The ECD audit recommends that these and other centres be provided with a dedicated infrastructure grant. The question that arises in this context is: Should an infrastructure grant be implemented, what mechanisms can the government use to ensure that the grant is not used to benefit privately owned-premises, but rather to sustainably benefit the broader targeted population?

In the case of guidance for improved infrastructure, there are currently no guidelines as to what ECD sites should look like to be accessible to children with disabilities. As noted by the audit, there is a pressing need for infrastructure norms and standards for sites so as to ensure the accommodation of children with disabilities.

In the case of the provincial department’s information management and communication systems, it is critical that these be strengthened so that as the registration system is strengthened, the ECD sector has a access to reliable information for planning and budgeting purposes.

We need to prioritise the resolution of these issues in the short-term so that the current efforts by the DSD to expedite registration and conditional registration may yield the benefits necessary to make substantial progress towards universal availability and equitable access to quality early learning and care services for the most marginalised young children in South Africa.

Patricia Martin

The Policy Post is written by Patricia Martin. Patricia is the director of Advocacy Aid, a consultancy that provides advocacy support to the development sector. She has   worked as a child rights advocate and policy analyst for more than a decade and has a special interest in ECD policy and programme development and monitoring.

 

 

 

 

 

Policy Post: ECD is only long term solution to SA’s education inequities

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs, News, The Policy PostLeave a Comment

O N E  D R O P

Once again, we have come to that time of the year where all eyes turn to the Annual National Assessments (ANAs) and National Senior Certificate Examinations. Traditionally, these are viewed as the two leading indicators of the progress we are making as a country to turn our poor education record around.

The ANAs will be written next week and 8,6million children in Grades 1 – 9 will be tested on their language and maths knowledge.

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) recently briefed the Education Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on preparations for the exams and ANAs.

The concerns raised were ones we have heard over and over again: persistent inequities in educational outcomes across quintiles and provinces, and the pressure on educators to promote children who are not ready to the next grade, which only serves to compound these inequities.

DBE responded with information about measures to support poor-performing learners and learners that have progressed before they are ready to do so. Whilst these measures are of course all very welcome, it’s a case of too little, too late.  The real solution is long-term and foundational.

We are NOT going to see fundamental shifts in patterns in educational inequities until we have a strong publicly-funded, equity-driven national ECD system offering.  Perhaps even more importantly, we need guaranteed access to ECD services of the highest quality by children experiencing the greatest disadvantages in their early years.

This is recognised at the highest policy level in South Africa and has driven and sustained the momentum behind the national ECD policy currently in development. However, insights provided by the recently published Auditor-General’s (AG) Education Sector Report, point to a persistent gap between our country’s high-level policy recognition, aspirations, and priorities, and the practices we are seeing on the ground at provincial, local and school level.

The draft ECD policy and the education sector’s White Paper 5 and related policies recognise the need for quality early learning services and support for children living in the poorest and most under-serviced provinces and quintiles. Yet, the reality for these children is far-removed from this ideal position. Despite clear policy statements and promises, the resources and interventions necessary to improve the quality of early learning services for children living in the poorest and most under-serviced provinces and quintiles are not receiving the priority attention necessary to make the necessary shifts.

The AG’s report gives us clear insight into the gap between policy intent and the reality on the ground, as well as the consequences for education in the country. The policy-based Grade R target was that, by 2013, 92 percent of Grade 1 learners should have attended Grade R in 2012. The audited public school Grade R enrolment figures are not only substantially lower, but in fact dropped between 2012 and 2013 from 69 to 65 percent between 2011 and 2013. Why? These are just some of the reasons:

  • Inadequate public awareness about Grade R
  • Lack of resources, staff and infrastructure
  • An inadequate Grade R policy framework.

When one delves into the figures behind these conclusions, it is evident that the inadequacies remain more pronounced in historically disadvantaged provinces and quintiles. For example, whilst 56 percent of Gauteng’s Grade R teachers did not have the minimum qualification, in provinces such as  KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), the Eastern Cape and Limpopo, the percentages are much higher – ranging from 83 percent in KZN to 100 percent in Limpopo – where none of the Grade R teachers have a minimum qualification to teach Grade R.

Similarly, when one looks at the budget per Grade R learner, not only does one see that across all (but one) provinces, the budgeted amount declined between 2012 and 2013, but that there are huge inequities across the provinces, with much higher amounts allocated in wealthier provinces and low amounts allocated where the need is the highest. For example, Gauteng spent just under R6000 per Grade R learner in 2013, whereas the Eastern Cape spent less than R 2500 and KZN less than R 2 000 per learner. The one exception to this pattern is the North West province, where not only did the province spend the same per child as the Gauteng province, but it also dramatically increased its Grade R spend between 2012 and 2013.

Clearly this situation needs to change through real increases in Grade R advocacy, Grade R per-learner budgets and training of practitioners at a provincial level, and from a system’s perspective, mechanisms must be put in place to guarantee provincial equity and accountability to national policy priorities and targets.

On another level, these lessons emerging from the Grade R experience must be heard and taken to heart in the development and implementation of the national ECD system. Unlike the Grade R roll out, the emerging national ECD system does not have the benefit of an existing system and infrastructure to build on, and thus the margin for error is much wider. The systems that are built to support the national ECD system must be stronger and sufficiently robust to ensure that we do not see a massive gap between policy intent and the reality on the ground.

 Patricia MartinThe Policy Post is written by Patricia Martin. Patricia is the director of Advocacy Aid, a consultancy that provides advocacy support to the development sector. She has   worked as a child rights advocate and policy analyst for more than a decade and has a special interest in ECD policy and programme development and monitoring.

 

 

 

 

Want to work for Ilifa Labantwana? We are hiring!

Svetlana DonevaUncategorized4 Comments

Do you want the opportunity to make a difference? We are looking for a Campaign Manager to drive awareness and engagement in our Love Play Talk parenting campaign across multiple channels and among multiple audiences, with the long term goal of positively influencing parenting habits in South Africa.  Our ideal candidate will have passion, initiative and imagination, a creative problem-solver who wants the chance to help shape the future. No prior experience in early learning or ECD is necessary but some campaign management experience is essential.

Key Responsibility Areas:

  • Develop integrated communication campaign strategy and activity plans against a budget
  • Manage the implementation and tracking of the campaign across multiple channels
  • Ensure campaign has clear performance metrics
  • Measuring and evaluating the performance of the campaign
  • Work with key stakeholders on a national basis to implement the campaign activities and identify collaborative opportunities
  • Manage relationships with external service providers such vendors, creative and digital agencies
  • Work with finance manager to plan and track the campaign budget
  • Work with communication manager to brainstorm, write and edit copy for a range of materials including website copy and brochures
  • Work with communication manager to brainstorm, write and edit press releases around campaign
  • Liaise with public via website and social media channels
  • Work with communication manager to build and foster key media relationships
  • Produce and source campaign materials
  • Social media channel management
  • Organise and manage campaign events
  • Deliver bi-weekly campaign reporting

You must have proven ability in the following:

  • Managing multi-channel media campaigns and meeting objectives and campaign deadlines
  • At least 4 years’ experience having taken the lead in organising/ planning / executing / and reflecting from campaigns at national and/or provincial level to bring about clear changes
  • Excellent knowledge of the South African media landscape including radio, outdoor, TV and print
  • Tertiary degree or similar in media, marketing or social science
  • Experience with social impact programmes or behaviour change campaign a distinct advantage

Personal characteristics:

  • Attentive to detail
  • Good facilitator and excellent written and oral communicator
  • Collaborative worker who is good at building and maintaining effective relationships
  • Creative thinker who is innovative in developing and implementing campaign strategies
  • Passionate about children’s rights, the importance of early childhood development and the importance of positive parenting

If you think you have what we’re looking for, please email us a brief letter of motivation and a copy of your CV (maximum 3 pages, NO certificates please).  Applications can be sent to rina@ilifalabantwana.co.za and must reach us by close of business on the 15th September.

Policy Post: The unrealised potential of the Road to Health

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs, ECD News, The Policy Post1 Comment

O N E  D R O P

The ECD diagnostic review conducted in 2013 and the draft national ECD policy have drawn attention to the critical importance of providing support in the very earliest years for equalizing and securing the development of children to their full potential. At the same time, these two documents highlight that it is precisely young children in this age group, and notably those living in poverty and under-serviced areas, that are not accessing services that are necessary to promote their health growth and development.

We must find ways to fill this gap so as to ensure that all children and their parents consistently access high quality services that support and promote their development. Whatever the mechanism we use at the end of the day, they must be integrated into government systems that reach pregnant women and children on a consistent basis, they must be adequately resourced, must be monitored through public information management systems, must routinely and regularly reach children in the most remote areas of the country, and must provide a platform for delivery of an essential package of services.

Do we need to create the required mechanism from scratch? No.

There is already a mechanism in place that has been designed to meet many of these criteria but which has NOT realised its full potential – the Road to Health Booklet (RtHB).

What is the Road to Health Booklet?

The RtHB is a health system’s tool that has evolved from a weight-measurement instrument to a platform for the provision of a comprehensive suite of developmental and preventative interventions. The booklet is meant to be provided to every mother and child upon the child’s birth and then serve as a tool for both parents and health-care workers to provide and monitor the provision of care and services from birth until the child reaches about the age of five years necessary to ensure the child’s healthy development. It currently covers, in principle, the provision by Primary Health Care workers (including home and community-based health care workers) of:

  • Parental education on health, nutrition and children’s development;
  • Promotive services such as immunisation, weight monitoring, and micro-nutrient supplementation;
  • education on, and the provision of preventative measures such as developmental screening for vision, hearing and general developmental milestones;
  • treatment at a primary care level of childhood illnesses and referral of children in need of secondary and tertiary-level services.

Given the near-universal access by young children and their caregivers to the primary health care system in the ante- and post-natal periods, it is very likely that the majority of infants do in fact receive the Road to Health Booklet early in life. So, the majority of infants should be receiving the full package of essential ECD services contained inside. This is not the case.

Whilst there has been no systemic evaluation of the use of the Road to Health booklet, a number of small-scale studies have been undertaken. They are unanimous in their findings: The RtHB is poorly used and implemented by parents, community and facility-based health care workers.

Independent Report Identifies Value of RtHB

The recent 2nd Triennial Report of the Committee on Morbidity and Mortality in Children under 5 years (CoMMIC) (2014) observes that many cases of child illness and child death are avoidable, and that 30% of the modifiable factors are attributable to parental behaviour and attitudes at home, and that 70% are attributable to health personnel conduct. The report concludes with a number of recommendations. A central recommendation is that the Road to Health Booklet should be substantially strengthened to tackle and reduce poor, yet entirely avoidable health outcomes for children, by serving as a platform for integrated solutions that bring together a continuum of health promotive and preventative interventions.

This recommendation has been actioned by the Department of Health – it has recognised that the RtHB is an ideal platform for the delivery of an essential package of services for the healthy development, growth and wellness of young children.

The first and fundamental step towards unlocking its potential has seen the transfer of responsibility for the tool from the Nutrition, to the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) directorate. This is a significant move, as under the Nutrition directorate, the tool tended to be limited. A Maternal and Child Health directorate representative told us that it will, in due course, be launching a campaign to promote the demand and supply-side use of the tool as the platform for making available and securing access to an essential package of services for the survival and health development of children.

Whilst this is good news indeed, there is some uncertainty as to the scope of the campaign. Given the current resource, capacity and related constraints within the MCH directorate, and some design limitations in the booklet, it may be that the initiative will focus more strongly on services linked to survival, and not sufficiently on issues that are critical to the development of young children. The historical implementation context means that the current cadre of health personnel are perhaps not adequately trained and resourced to deliver on the developmental components of the booklet, and indeed given their current work-load, may not have enough time and energy to do so.

Moreover, the current booklet is designed so as to be implemented only once the baby is born. In the case of the developmental components, it is very cursory in the steps required, as well as the direction and guidance provided for implementation and monitoring of the relevant services.

Opportunities to expand the usefulness of the RtHB

There is a very strong argument to be made for the ECD sector as a whole, and not just the Department of Health, to support this initiative and together, strengthen the design, implementation and resourcing of the tool so as to make it the central platform for delivery of a comprehensive suite of services for pregnant women and the very youngest children.

This will require a number of changes to the card, including for example, the distribution of it during the ante-natal period, rather than only once the infant is born, and the augmentation and strengthening of the early development and learning component of the tool.

In addition, the cadre of workers using the tool should be expanded beyond health care workers to include all early childhood development practitioners in all sectors, including social development and education. In so doing, the Road to Health booklet could indeed become the central ECD tool in the country around which collective planning, resourcing and monitoring required for delivery of a comprehensive package for the youngest children could become a reality.

 Patricia Martin

The Policy Post is written by Patricia Martin. Patricia is the director of Advocacy Aid, a consultancy that provides advocacy support to the development sector. She has worked as a child rights   advocate and policy analyst for more than a decade and has a special interest in ECD policy and programme development and monitoring.

National ECD Centre Audit Released

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs, ECD News, The Policy Post1 Comment

The Department of Social Development (DSD) has issued the results of its national audit of ECD centres, conducted during 2013, which includes centres with conditional registration as well as unregistered centres.

The audit serves the purpose of providing information on the nature and extent of ECD provisioning, services, resources and infrastructure across all nine provinces: in total 19 971 ECD centres across South Africa were audited.

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The report is structured around various themes, these are:

  • Infrastructure

Key finding: The majority of ECD centres are located either in formal structures built to serve as ECD centres or in houses.

  • Operations

Key finding: Centres appear to have been inspected regularly by the DSD with the majority having been inspected in the last two years.

  • Human Resources

Key finding: General qualifications are lacking for most staff at registered ECD centres with over 35% of principals/matrons and 40% of practitioners having not completed Grade 12.

  • ECD Programmes

Key finding: The audit found mixed results of ECD programming with most centres using their own curricula which likely affect the quality of the programme and the intended skill development.

  • Health and Safety

Key finding: Centres do very well in certain aspects of preparedness, such as having a list of emergency contact details and having a fire extinguisher, but are lacking in other key areas such as having a health and safety officer on site.

  • Nutrition and Food

Key finding: The food served at the centres during the day of the spot check suggests that it is well-balanced.

  • Transportation

Key finding: Few centres have transport policies and less than 10% provide transport to children.

To read the full report click here.

The Policy Post: Rounding up South Africa’s recent ECD policies and programmes

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs, ECD News, The Policy Post5 Comments

O N E  D R O P

This week’s policy post provides a brief overview and update on the status of a number of recent policy, programme and research initiatives relevant to ECD in South Africa.

At the centre is the national ECD policy and programme of action under the leadership of the Department of Social Development (DSD). However, there are a number of additional initiatives under the leadership of other departments which impact on the development of young children, access to and the delivery of ECD services. Some of these are cognisant of, and aligned to the current ECD policy process, others are not.

The resulting policy anomalies speak to the need for a shared national understanding of ECD as a cross-cutting issue to be considered and advanced by all government departments and spheres of government.

The national ECD policy and Integrated Programme of Action for ECD

The draft National ECD policy was published for public comment earlier this year. The DSD is currently in the process of amending the policy document to address the many submissions received. The Policy Post was advised by a departmental spokesperson that the aim is for the policy to be finalised and approved by September 2015.

In the interim, work is continuing in implementing a number of activities contained in the DSD’s Integrated Programme of Action for ECD which provides the current operational framework for accelerating access to quality ECD services and programmes. Significant interventions underway targeting some of biggest obstacles to universal access to quality ECD services include the following:

  • Harmonisation of ECD laws, regulations and municipal by-laws: A consultant will be appointed shortly to conduct an ECD audit and analysis of all local government policy documents.
  • A feasibility study on inter-sectoral management and coordination options for ECD: A consultant has been appointed to conduct a feasibility study and costing of various structural options.
  • Development of an ECD human resources development plan for each sector, of a revised National Qualifications Framework (NQF) to address gaps, and development and implementation of a new ECD occupational certificate qualification: An ECD human resources audit across all relevant departments has been commissioned; a revised HR qualifications framework has been developed. The sector has been consulted on the newly developed occupational certificate and the aim is to have it registered by the end of September.
  • Development of an inter-sectoral awareness-raising and communications strategy: A draft communications strategy has been developed.
  • An audit of all ECD infrastructure, the identification of models of good infrastructure provisioning, and the amendment and consolidation of spatial norms and standards for ECD infrastructure: The national ECD infrastructure audit has been completed and is published on the DSD’s website (details of the audit are documented later in this post).

A number of interventions that must still be undertaken have not yet been started or completed because they depend on what the final ECD policy contains. They are:

  • Adoption of a funding policy, norms and standards
  • Amendment and consolidation of the ECD infrastructure norms and standards
  • Development of an integrated monitoring and evaluation framework for ECD
  • Development of new norms and standards for differentiated ECD programmes.

Further details on progress may be viewed in Presentation at the DPME/DSD Roundtable on emerging evidence on impact of programmes on wellbeing of young children.  

Children’s Act amendment process

The Children’s Amendment Bill and Second Children’s Amendment Bill have been approved by Cabinet and presented to the Social Development Portfolio Committee (read them here).

The first and second amendment Bills deal with urgent child protection matters such as the definition of a sexual offence, clarification of the requirements for finding and orphaned or abandoned child in need of care and protection, and various amendments related to the adoption process and other alternative placement procedures.

Many of the ECD developments that have been put on hold pending the finalisation of the ECD policy will be enacted into law through the next, or third, Children’s Amendment Bill.

The DSD’s national ECD infrastructure audit report

The DSD’s  Audit of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres, conducted in 2014, provides information on the nature and extent of ECD provisioning, services, resources and infrastructure across all nine provinces in respect of registered, conditionally registered and unregistered ECD sites.  The audit is particularly important from a policy perspective as it will serve as a baseline for future audits, inform the establishment of national benchmarks for the variables used, and will inform ECD infrastructure policy and planning.

The audit report confirms that the bulk of unregistered centres are located in low income urban areas and that the biggest obstacle to their registration is their failure to comply with the onerous norms and standards prescribed by the Children’s Act.

Other key findings from the audit include the following:

  • ECD practitioners and principals are inadequately qualified
  • ECD centres are not following accredited curricula or standardised progress assessments for their children
  • Parents are not routinely provided with progress reports
  • ECD infrastructure, learning and teaching support materials and programmes do not cater for children with disabilities and other special needs
  • Learning and teaching support materials are inadequate in many centres to secure quality early learning and stimulation
  • A substantial number of centres do not take any concrete action when they identify malnourished children
  • Basic safety, water and sanitation are not available in many centres.

The report makes a number of recommendations including the overarching recommendation that the remediation of the problem requires a significant increase in public investment in ECD funding, notably through an infrastructure grant to ECD centres.

The report notes that many of the ECD sites needing funds to improve infrastructure are located in private homes. The report does not address the possible legal issues that may arise if public funds are paid to the mostly privately-run centres which are located in these homes. This is a critical issue that needs to be addressed in the finalised ECD funding policy. Ilifa Labantwana has commissioned research on the possibilities and options in this regard and will share the outcomes with the sector and the DSD and Treasury once available.

Municipalities fail to use ring-fenced funds for sport, recreation and ECD facilities

The ECD infrastructure audit report places the spotlight on the inadequacy of the current public funding levels to support adequate ECD infrastructure. It is thus particularly alarming to note that municipalities have failed to spend the full 5% of the R 14,6 billion Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) budget ring-fenced for sport and recreation facilities and ECD infrastructure.

The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs recently reported to the Portfolio Committee on Sports and Recreation that in the past financial year, at a national level, only 3% of this allocated budget was spent, rather than the full 5%.

The reasons for the under-spending, and resulting failure to improve local facilities that are key to early childhood development, are many. Critically however, the issue is that, even if funds are ring-fenced, this is no guarantee that municipalities will spend the money as required. There is still an element of discretion involved. In the future, ensuring that municipalities spend these substantial funds on pro-ECD infrastructure, recreational and sporting facilities, will require the pro-active involvement of the relevant departments, such as DSD, and the ECD sector in the early stages of the municipal IDP planning processes, as well as broader national MIG planning and review processes.

Minimum norms and standards for provincial and district teacher development institutes published for comment

A further observation made in the ECD audit report is the lack of quality teaching practices in ECD centres, including Grade R classes.

The DBE recently published for public comment, the norms and standards for its soon-to-be-established provincial and district teacher development centres. The objective of the norms and standards is to ensure that these centres, which have been established to support teacher development at a district and provincial level, have adequate resources, infrastructure and materials to make a meaningful contribution to strengthening teacher development where it is needed.

A review of the norms and standards show a marked absence of infrastructure norms and standards that will adequately support improvements in the quality of teaching practices and qualifications of Grade R and pre-Grade R teachers.

The Minister of Public Service and Administration published the Draft Public Service Regulations for public comment

The Minister of Public Service and Administration has published Draft Public Service Regulations for public comment. These require that all departments providing public services take a number of steps to, inter alia, ensure the provision of quality services, and the development of adequate and appropriately qualified personnel.  Given that the draft ECD policy recognises ECD as a public service, the implication is that the obligations in the draft regulations will apply to ECD services as well.

The question that arises in the context of the current draft regulations, is how and to what extent the duties created can and should be applicable to the DSD and other departments where the services are provided through a public-private partnership. The manner in which the duties are currently framed by the regulations suggest that the drafters have not contemplated this service delivery scenario.

 

Patricia MartinThe Policy Post is written by Patricia Martin. Patricia is the director of Advocacy Aid, a consultancy that provides advocacy support to the development sector. She has worked as a child rights   advocate and policy analyst for more than a decade and has a special interest in ECD policy and programme development and monitoring.

Paving the way for non-centre based ECD programmes

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs2 Comments

Ilifa’s early learning playgroup programme in the North West demonstrate the value of non-centre based early learning environments – especially for children who, for whatever reason, cannot access creches and day-care centres.

The playgroup facilitators are sourced from government’s Community Works Programme (CWP), which pays job seekers a stipend to do useful work on a part time basis, and are coached for the task of running playgroups by our facilitators employed by our partner Cotlands, who come equipped with considerable ECD expertise.

We recently met with the North West Department of Social Development to plan a way forward for the integration of the playgroups into the department’s budgets, human resource plans and other structures. In order to celebrate this exciting milestone, we are sharing the personal experience of a Cotlands early learning playgroup facilitator trainer with the programme, as well some photos we love from the project. Enjoy and please leave any comments or questions in the comment section below!

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My name is Julia Shoke and I live in Boikhutso village, outside Venterdorp in North West province. I have been working as an ECD facilitator for eight years. There is nothing I enjoy more than working with children. I teach children but you will be surprised at how much you learn from them if you just give them the opportunity to show you.

Currently, I am a mentor trainer for the Cotlands’ early learning playgroup facilitators from government’s Community Works Programme (CWP). When I first entered the programme back in April, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. We were training CWP workers, some of who did not have much experience working with children. 

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The transformation of the CWP early learning playgroup facilitators has been very encouraging to watch, though. They are more professional now and they carry themselves better and express themselves better.  I think it’s the ongoing training and mentoring that is actually making the difference – the facilitators feel supported throughout the process and they have a place to share ideas and teach each other.

We still have some challenges – some of the venues are temporary and the facilities for preparing the snacks are not always ideas, but we are working on sorting those out.

What makes this all worthwhile is hearing the appreciation from the parents. Most of these moms and dads don’t have money to send their kids to a day care or they just live too far from one. The playgroups give their kids an opportunity to interact with other children and learn. They are not falling behind in their development and that is the most important thing.

Local government population-based ECD planning must happen now

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs, The Policy Post1 Comment

O N E  D R O P

There is growing scientifically-driven consensus that ECD-investments are the most cost-effective route to sustainable development of children and the communities in which they live.

UNICEF’s recent Building Better Brains: New Frontiers in Early Childhood Development provides a summary of the most recent science on the link between ECD and development. It confirms that the development of children born into extreme poverty, into violent households which use corporal punishment, that do not have access to basic health care, services and food and nutrition, who do not enjoy close, nurturing and stimulating parenting, and quality early childhood education is likely to be compromised.

Their development is at risk because these factors impact negatively on the growth of their brains.

Equally so, poor outcomes are not inevitable for the county’s most vulnerable young children if their environments are changed by making sure they are provided with the correct bundle of services at the right stage of their development – that is in the first three years, starting from before birth.

What are essential ECD services and who is receiving them?

Key services for quality ECD are:

  • nutritional education and support
  • sanitation and water
  • safety
  • positive and nurturing parenting by mothers and fathers
  • stimulating play and early learning from birth in the home, community and in early childhood education centres

These ECD services for the most vulnerable children are key to turning the tide against poverty and inequality as they provide the building blocks of socially and economically healthy communities.

The evidence, however, shows that in South Africa, the majority of children in the poorest and most under-serviced communities, where the need for quality ECD services is highest so as to equalise their opportunities and to lay the foundations for a change towards positive growth and community development, do not receive essential and quality ECD services – locking them into a negative cycle of inequality and poverty.

The Department of Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation’s recent Report of the Seminar on Evidence and Children, June 2015 confirms again that children living in under-serviced rural areas are far more likely to be excluded from ECD services.

The draft National ECD policy seeks to remedy this by prioritising the public provisioning of ECD services to children living in poverty and in under-serviced areas. However, the policy has not yet been adopted, and there is an urgent need for these children to be provided with essential ECD services as soon as possible. They cannot and should not wait until we have a policy and the associated machinery is put in place.

There is no need to wait for the policy – local government is the answer

There is a clear and strong constitutional and legislative mandate already in place for local governments to provide or support the provision of a number of key ECD services, especially in poor and under-serviced communities. Local government is obligated to plan for, resource and provide services for the social and economic development of its communities, including the parents, caregivers and children in these communities, basic water and sanitation services, day care services, play parks and recreation facilities, and book and toy libraries.

As such they are duty-bound and it is in their interest to secure the provision of key ECD services for all, especially the most impoverished children, through their local planning and budgeting processes articulated in the overarching local Integrated Development Plan (IDP).

It is essential that all IDPs in South Africa recognise and make the connection between local government’s developmental mandate and the need for universal provision, by local government of key ECD services which it has the power to provide.

Few IDPs do so at present.

It is essential that the IDPs make the connection and provide the imperative for population-based planning and provisioning of ECD services. This means, that at a minimum, IDPs should reflect the number and location of young children and their specific ECD needs and the associated services that local government must provide.

ECD has to be elevated to a priority issue on local government’s political agenda – but how?

There is a crucial window of opportunity right now. Local government elections take place next year and the ECD sector should work together to ensure that ECD is on the election platform and that ECD promises are made and carried through in the IDP planning processes.

How do we influence the local government election agenda?

There are multiple routes – direct engagement with ward councilors and ward committees, as well as nominees that are up for election; using local media such as newspapers and local radio stations; and catalyzing advocacy by local ECD forums.

An advocacy entry or pressure point often overlooked, and which is especially influential in determining the local government agenda and priorities in rural under-serviced areas, is the local traditional leadership structures. Traditional leaders play a very influential role in determining what is prioritised by local government, the prevailing local and parental attitudes, and in the allocation of local resources. Traditional leaders must become partners in the promotion of the public provisioning of ECD services if we are to meet the policy imperative to prioritise ECD services for children living in poverty in rural areas.

Building this partnership will require conveying and convincing traditional and local leaders of the un-preceded value of ECD for their constituency’s sustainable growth and development. This requires clear and convincing communication of the developmental value of ECD and the associated need for population-based planning for the provision of key ECD services by local government and its traditional partners

Patricia MartinThe Policy Post is written by Patricia Martin. Patricia is the director of Advocacy Aid, a consultancy that provides advocacy support to the development sector. She has worked as a child rights advocate and policy analyst for more than a decade and has a special interest in ECD policy and programme development and monitoring.

Nal’ibali: Learning through play and stories

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs, ECD News, Projects1 Comment

Nal’ibali travelled to North West province last week to offer our Storyplay training in Phokeng. The Nal’ibali Storyplay workshops are highly interactive and fun. We focus on experiential learning, as we integrate stories and play in an informally structured early literacy curriculum that the practitioners attending will themselves offer to children.  All the related talking, thinking and other activities center around the powerful processes of story reading and telling, as well as writing down personal stories and acting out each other’s stories.

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The Magic Carpet in action: play-acting stories at Nal’ibali’s workshop

 

Much of this happens on the Magic Carpet, an imaginative space where adults interact with children as they come to know and explore stories. The workshop provides valuable information and activities to address early literacy and book behaviour. We inspire, motivate, and provide information as well as practical ideas that will assist teachers to approach literacy in a fun, easy and enjoyable way in their classrooms.

The training took place over four days and 31 practitioners from 24 early learning sites attended. Time was spent discussing the details and components of how young children learn to read and write in multi-lingual settings. Then, the real fun began – we made our own books, told stories and acted out these stories. When adults do this, they come to recognise and appreciate how significant informal learning takes place. We debated, we agreed, we disagreed and we laughed.

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Who says learning isn’t fun? Here are some of the works of art produced through Nal’ibali’s interactive Storyplay workshops.

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Many of the women at the workshop came to us asking if they could invite more women, as they were incredibly excited about the knowledge they were gaining and the experience they were having.  They asked to meet regularly so that they can share and learn from one another and deepen their new practice after everything they had learned. Our intention is to help empower practitioners to build a community of Storyplay practice in North West, and they evidently want the same! We left inspired and are looking forward to spending the next few months learning from one another.
The scope of the project is that it will run for one year.  We’ll train the same 31 women from 20 early learning sites and more than 1400 children will be affected by the project in the various types of sites where the women work. Finally, we hope to grow the network if there is an interest.

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This blog post was written by Nadia Lubowski. Nadia is the Storyplay Co-ordinator for the Nal’ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign, and is responsible for the implementation  of the campaign’s early literacy development approach

The Policy Post: Laying the Foundation for Effective Implementation of the ECD Policy

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O N E  D R O P

As famous as South Africa is for its good child rights policies; it is equally infamous for the weak implementation of those policies. The disjuncture between policy intent and actual outcomes is clear in child well-being returns which don’t match the size of investment of public resources in, for example, child health and education systems.

The Draft National ECD Policy – what it means for children

South Africa has most recently developed a draft national early childhood development (ECD) policy which recognises ECD as a universal right and ECD services as central to the development of children and society as a whole.

The policy commits the government to invest sufficient public resources and develop systems to ensure it meets its public provisioning responsibilities. The ECD policy also seeks to lay a sound legal foundation for the transition from good policy intentions to effective outcomes for young children in South Africa.

The policy provides a road map for government to guarantee the universal availability of, and equitable access to all ECD services for all children, especially the most marginalised – the very youngest children, those living in poverty. It is founded on laws such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, as well as the latest evidence on what works for ensuring good early childhood outcomes. Further, it was developed through a consultative process which cut across sectors and ECD disciplines of health, social welfare, nutrition and early learning.

Hearts and Minds Implementation

The question that we face now is: is this enough to ensure effective implementation? To ensure that the responsibilities articulated in the policy are fulfilled to secure good ECD outcomes for all children from conception, especially those living in poverty, in under-serviced areas and those with disabilities?

Given what we have learned from our past experiences as to what makes for an effective policy or programme of action, the answer to this question depends on:

  • Collective ownership of the policy, and acceptance of assigned responsibilities by all role players in all branches of government (executive, legislative and judicial), at all levels of government (national, provincial and local), within all departments, and by civil society;
  • Acceptance by all role players of the policy as an authoritative statement of their collective commitments; and
  • Effective accountability mechanisms within parliament, the courts and human rights structures that will monitor compliance and ensure that the assigned public provisioning responsibilities are duly fulfilled.

In short, what is required is the “hearts and minds” adoption of the policy, not only at a national and provincial executive or administrative level, but also at a political, judicial, civil, local and traditional leadership level.

Lack of Input and Understanding Pose Challenges

So, where we are now? Up until this point, there has been consultation on the policy, but this has mostly been at a national and provincial executive or administrative level and with civil society. There has been little, if any, parliamentary, local government or traditional leadership engagement in the development of the policy, or more broadly, in cultivating an understanding at these levels of the key role these stakeholders have to play in planning, implementation and accountability for the public provisioning responsibilities in the draft ECD policy.

There is evidence of low levels of understanding among these stakeholders of the rights and developmental imperative of ECD, the roles and responsibilities of different departments, and how they can and should actively support the shaping of a strong national ECD framework for the country.

For example, many of local government’s Integrated Development Plans remain silent on ECD and a review of parliamentary debates and committee deliberations reveal that there is little, if any, ECD debate and interrogation on matters that are of critical importance to the optimal early development of children in South Africa.

The draft policy has been through a process of executive or administration scrutiny and public commentary, but has not yet been subjected to robust parliamentary, local government or traditional leadership involvement or scrutiny: processes that are critical to secure the necessary levels of understanding, political buy-in and accountability – if the policy is to be an effective vehicle for securing young children’s rights and development.

The Road Ahead

The next phase of the policy development process must include robust engagement with key political leaders, structures and institutions. However, this will require preparatory and ongoing advocacy by civil society, the technical experts, and the administrative government structures which have driven the process so far, to cultivate a deeper understanding of the rights and developmental importance of ECD.

It is essential that this advocacy take place among parliamentarians at a national and provincial level, local government leaders, administrators, and traditional leaders, amongst others.

This is necessary so that ECD can become a routine item on the political and leadership agenda of the country, and so that there is meaningful and robust engagement with, and ultimately ownership of the national ECD policy by all responsible role players.

Patricia MartinThe Policy Post is written by Patricia Martin. Patricia is the director of Advocacy Aid, a consultancy that provides advocacy support to the development sector. She has    worked as a child rights advocate and policy analyst for more than a decade and has a special interest in ECD policy and programme development and monitoring.

 

UPSI-5 tool finds quarter of SA children face psychosocial problems

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The Dutch developed UPSI-5 has undergone an initial round of testing in South Africa and the findings indicate that it can be used as an advocacy aid to increase support to the psychosocial wellbeing of local children.

The UPSI-5 is a diagnostic tool, developed by non-profit organization ICDI, which tests a child’s psychosocial functioning by means of 29 question checklist.  The tool is not intended as an individual diagnostic tool but rather, an indicator on the psychosocial wellbeing of large populations of children with the goal to make this wellbeing a central issue of concern for policy, intervention and research.

Dr Nico van Oudenhoven and Dr Margaret Kernan recently presented the findings of their study on the refining and testing of the UPSI-5 tool in South Africa.

The tool was tested specifically with a five year old cohort in four provinces – East Cape, Western Cape, Free State and KwaZulu Natal.

The sample group which included 1003 girls and 1084 boys, came from 42 urban, 17 rural and 31 semi-rural schools. The studies were undertaken by local non-governmental organisations in each of the provinces, including Khululeka, TREE, Lesedi and ELRU.

The findings indicate that in addition to nutritional and health care services, children need psychosocial care and support.  According to their findings, at least 23.6% of the children who formed part of the sample group are at risk and in need of additional psychosocial support.  The status of children across the four provinces reflect some significant differences EC – 36.7%, FS – 27%, KZN – 20.2% and  WC – 11.2%.

The future steps of the study could be to draft a policy brief using these findings to advocate for psychosocial support for children, as well as to formulate a submission on the gazetted policy. Further information will be shared with early childhood development networks and forums nationally and provincially.

The full first report on the implementation of the UPSI-5 tool in South Africa and its relevance to the country is here.

 

Hacking for ECD

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs, ECD News, Innovation Edge, News2 Comments

What happens when you place a group of computer programmers in the same room as a group of ECD professionals and ask them to brainstorm solutions for early learning challenges in South Africa?

For a start, you get a lot of tweets. The first ever hackathon for ECD, which took place in Cape Town’s Bertha Centre during the last weekend in June, was the most talked about topic on Twitter that day. The commotion on Twitter was only a pale reflection of the level of excitement in the room!

Secondly, you get a wealth of cost-effective, practical and, most importantly scalable, solutions to early learning challenges with the potential to affect real change for children.

The hackathon for ECD was a brain child of the of Professor Mark Tomlinson from Stellenbosch University and the Bertha Centre’s Camilla Swart, and was executed with the help of Ilifa’s Innovation Edge.  Ahead of the event, seven Cape Town-based ECD organisations were asked to put forward their biggest challenges which require solutions – anything from limited access to nutrition, lack of parental involvement, training for practitioners, and safety considerations.

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The one day event saw representatives from those seven organisations paired in teams with coders and competing for the best tech solutions.  Here’s what they came up with:

  • An app which alerts caregivers to potential developmental delays in children by sending through prompts based on the child’s age and allowing the user to interact in a quiz format.
  • An app, adapted from a medical application in the Eastern Cape, which places the knowledge and advice of a medical specialist in the palm of an ECD practitioner.
  • A digital platform, combined with a hard copy text, which offers messaging around the essential package in an easily digestible format.
  • A caregiver digital FAQ hub housed in community libraries, which is continually updated based on the input from the caregivers themselves.
  • A community engagement systems which allows ECD leaders, be they creches or individuals, to share knowledge and best practice how-to’s.

The winning team, made up by CodeX and the SA Education and Environmental Project, came up with an application dubbed as the “Tripadvisor for creches”. The app address the problems mothers looking for reliable childcare services in their communities face by creating a responsive mobile website which allows moms to find childcare and review the service – building a network of accountability.

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CodeX and SAEP took home the R10 000 prize, which they plan on spending to make the app a reality.

For more on the Hackathon for ECD, read the story in the Cape Times.

Home visitors in their own words

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Parenting, Projects4 Comments

By Lisa Cohen  (Project Lead: Home Visiting / Parenting interventions)

Last week, I visited the final round of home visitor training in two new districts in North West province and I was struck by the personal growth in the women enrolled in the programme.

I first met the home visitors – or family community motivators (FCMs) – when they had just embarked on their training in March. They seemed nervous and overwhelmed by the new knowledge that would challenge many of their pre-conceived notions about children and care giving.

Four months later, it’s hard to believe that these are the same FCMs. They are now self-proclaimed change-agents! The training room was alive with enthusiasm and energy and everyone was eager to share their personal experiences because they truly feel that they are making a positive difference to the 20 vulnerable families they have each recruited from their own communities.

Here are three of their stories – enjoy the read!

Lisa

Prudence’s Story

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Prudence from Boikhutso Village in Ventersdorp

I come from a middle-advantaged background but life was still a continuous struggle for us – especially after the death of my mother. This job has helped me so much.  I love being an FCM because I’m deeply in love with children. As an FCM, you get a chance to explore other people’s worlds. I have learned a lot in these last few months. Mostly, I didn’t know the different cultural practices that people do, especially when there are newborns in the home. I am learning about my own culture and about respect for families.

I’ve learnt that I can give hope to children and caregivers – especially those that need me due to the lack of documents like the birth certificates, child support grants (CSG), etc. For example, if it was wasn’t for me, one my caregivers wouldn’t have the birth certificate and the CCG and would not have gone to the clinic for the antenatal classes.

My dream is to become a geologist because I love nature – I love working with natural things. Maybe one day I will be able to do that. My wish for the FCM programme is that it can become a permanent feature in our community.

Tshegofatso’s Story 

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Tshegofatso from Ngobi Village in Moretele

I come from a very strict family in Ngobi. Education is most important to my family. Cleanliness is second. And respect above all!  When I first came here, I didn’t know what FCMs did but when I found out that we will be working with children then I was very excited.  I love working with children  because a child is not like an adult, they are more open to learning. Their minds develop so easily. I have my own child and I see how easily and fast they learn – they want to learn and copy whatever you do.

At first when I entered the households some mothers were very shy and didn’t want us there but I continued and got to know them better and now I can see that when I go in the homes they are so friendly they say “hello, come in”. I’ve really learnt how to be patient – some caregivers don’t even know how to write. I must write an S and an M and sign the forms for them. This makes me so very sad but at least I feel like I’m making a difference in the homes.  My biggest challenge is to convince caregivers to come to the monthly cluster workshops.
My village is very sad – you could also cry when you see some of the children I see. Some of the mothers are spending the grants on gambling and there’s… I just can’t explain it…shame. There’s too much shame. I can provide for my child and these families I am working with I can give support but some other child is not getting the support that I can give. It makes me emotional.

Tshepiso’s Story 

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Tshepiso from Ngobi Village in Moretele

I grew up in a family of four. It was a dysfunctional family whereby my mom and my dad were both alcoholics. They used to drink a lot. They used to fight a lot. I had to do the adult chores at a very young age.  I would go to school come back and find the house dirty and had to start cleaning. I guess I was a mother to my little sister and both of my parents would come home drunk.

It was a very difficult upbringing. I started becoming rebellious. And at 18 my mother chased me out of the house and I came to live with my grandmother in this village (Ngombi). I started volunteering and the FCM programme was recruiting volunteers. At first the FCM training was frightening but now, I feel I am changing some people’s lives although I know it will take time. One of my colleagues asked my caregivers at my workshops how am I as an FCM and they said: “she’s patient, she respects us, we really love her”.

There’s this family – the mothers are not the main caregivers and they neglect the children. The children are dirty, not wearing the appropriate clothes for the weather.  They receive the grants and don’t spend it on the children. There’s this one child who is very underweight and we are working with her.

I’ve seen that caregivers are now spending more time with their children, teaching them. They are not saying “you are just children and my only job for you is to wash and feed you and nothing else”. They give their children time now. I think with more hard work, I can change some more people’s minds.

I like being an FCM because it is helping me in my career as I am studying to be a social worker.

The FCM programme is being facilitated in North West province by ELRU . To read more about the project click here.

The “Ordinary Magic” of ECD

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs, ECD News, News, ParentingLeave a Comment

Why do some children thrive in difficult circumstances, and others not?

One of the most surprising findings from the many studies that have been done on levels of resilience in children is that resilience is not built through extraordinary interventions, but rather through ordinary, everyday quality interpersonal experiences.

Referring to decades of research on resilience, Ann Masten, professor of child development at the University of Minnesota, notes that what began as a quest to understand the extraordinary has revealed the power of the ordinary.

Resilience does not come from rare and special qualities, but from the everyday magic of ordinary human interactions. Ilifa Labantwana’s recently launched #LovePlayTalk campaign promotes this ordinary magic! Too often we equate early childhood development (ECD) to services that are provided TO children and families. While these services are important, the most important influence in early childhood is the quality and consistency of the relationship between the child and his/her caregiver(s). This is ECD at its magical best!

Written by Sonja Giese

Ilifa Labantwana Programme Leader

ECD: South Africa’s answer to curbing violence?

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Policy frameworks which inform implementation around Early Childhood Development and violence prevention are not integrated – but they should be. That is one of the key findings of a report, by the Institute of Security Studies (ISS) published in the SA Crime Quarterly (March 2015), which offers some interesting food for thought.

South Africa’s crime statistics are shocking. Homicide takes place at a rate of almost 33 out of 100 000 people, which is five times the global average during the 2013-2014 period under which the data was collected by the ISS. The authors of the report argue that violent behaviour develops over a period of time and the first exposure of an individual to violence takes place during the first 1000 days of their lives. National ECD programmes, such as those currently being developed by the Department of Social Development, should include preventative measures to reduce children’s exposure to violence.

First up is changing social norms to structure a society less inclined to use violence to resolve problems – this includes eliminating corporal punishment at home and schools as well as altering public values that find aggressive representations of masculinity as socially acceptable.

Secondly, the report calls for an inclusion of violence prevention initiatives in all comprehensive ECD programmes. That is on the basis that exposure to violence and the resultant stress and fear affect the cognitive development of children.

The full article, written by Joanne Phyfer and Lorenzo Wakefield, is HERE.

 

Ilifa Labantwana’s Submission on the Draft National ECD Policy

spikeBlogs, ECD News, News

IFC3-or-PlaygroupIlifa has submitted a number of proposals to the South African Draft National ECD Policy, which was published in the Government Gazette (No. 38558) on 15th March 2015.

The Draft ECD Policy is commended for recognising ECD as a public good and for the commitment of the Government of the Republic of South Africa towards building a national ECD system which will support the public provision of a comprehensive package of ECD services.

Ilifa has recommended the prioritisation of the following concerns in the quest to ensure scale, equity and quality of ECD services, especially to the most vulnerable and marginalised young children.

  • Quality ECD has long been recognised as requiring effective collaboration across sectors. However, there is little evidence of the development and funding of effective coordination mechanisms to support integrated ECD in South Africa. It is therefore critical that priority be given to the development and adequate resourcing of effective, appropriate and credible coordination mechanisms.
  • The draft policy envisages and requires massive increases in the availability and delivery of key ECD services. The envisaged increase in scale and complexity can only be achieved and sustained in the presence of sound and effective departmental systems, especially within the Department of Social Development. Therefore, it is critical that the development of appropriate departmental systems and capacity be prioritised to lay a sound foundation for the effective and sustained scale-up of delivery of quality services to realise the national ECD vision.
  • Among the systems that must be in place from the outset to support the realisation of the national ECD vision are effective monitoring and quality control processes. South Africa’s ECD landscape has been characterised by poor quality services, notably for the most marginalised and vulnerable children. ECD provisioning has, in many instances, thus served to perpetuate, rather than break the intergenerational cycle of poverty. Breaking this vicious cycle depends on the scaled-up provision of quality ECD services to the most vulnerable and marginalised, and this in turn requires the development of robust and effective quality control and improvement processes and systems right from the start.

Ilifa Labantwana’s full submission to the Draft National ECD Policy is available HERE

Paving the Way to Quality ECD: We Need More ECD Practitioners

spikeBlogs, ECD News, News

practitioners-april-2015Quality ECD services begin with trained and motivated practitioners. At the moment, skills supply is not meeting demand. In the Eastern Cape alone, the provincial development plan estimates that 30 000 caregivers and educators need to be trained to achieve universal access to ECD services by 2030 but existing colleges are ill-equipped to rise to the challenge.

Where do we go form here?
The Network of Early Childhood Training Agencies (NECTA), working with Ilifa Labantwana, initiated discussions with the TVET (Technical Vocation Education and Training) Colleges to find solutions to the problem. TVETs are a crucial ingredient to the mix as they are recipients of increasing amounts of public funding for ECD training.

Emerging from the discussion (hopefully the first of many) are the following opportunities for collaboration between non-profit organisations (NPOs) in ECD and TVETs.

  • Enhancing understanding
  • Build capacity at TVETs through short-term, non-formal workshops provided by NPOs for TVETs
  • NECTA should be assisting TVETs to identify suitable training providers
  • Advocacy in a bid to push for change at a policy government level
  • Create a space to share best practice

The next steps will be to garner buy-in from the senior management of both NPOs and TVETs; following which, the relationship will be formalised and the alliance will meet with the National Minister of the Department of Higher Education to discuss their partnership.

For more information:

Chris Murray cats@mail.ngo.za
Lucy O’Keeffe lucy@ubunyefoundation.co.za

Ilifa Labantwana’s Submission on the Review of the White Paper on Social Development

spikeECD News, News

untitled-2-5The White Paper on Social Development, first published in 1997, provides the framework for the development of a social welfare system that can unlock the potential of every person in SA, especially the most vulnerable and marginalised.

The document is currently under review and Ilifa Labantwana has submitted its contribution to the process last week.

Our key focus was to address the gaps in accessibility, availability and quality of the package of essential ECD services for marginalised children.

Central to these is the need to shift the ECD provisioning model from a private led to public. Ilifa is calling on government to revise the White Paper to recognise the legal and developmental duty on the state for the public provision of socially developmental services, including ECD. However, it should be noted that the private sector retains a vital role in provision of these services.

Additional gaps addressed in our submission target the inadequate levels of human resources in the ECD space; inadequate infrastructure – which is one of the main barriers to ECD centre registration; as well the lack of collective leaderships and commitment to the realisation of national ECD goals; and the lack of sufficient funding at various ECD nodes.

Our full submission to the Department of Social Delivery is readable HERE

ECD: South Africa’s answer to curbing violence?

spikeBlogs, ECD News, News

Journey-Journal-41-webversionPolicy frameworks which inform implementation around Early Childhood Development and violence prevention are not integrated – but they should be. That is one of the key findings of a report, by the Institute of Security Studies (ISS) published in the SA Crime Quarterly (March 2015), which offers some interesting food for thought.

South Africa’s crime statistics are shocking. Homicide takes place at a rate of almost 33 out of 100 000 people, which is five times the global average during the 2013-2014 period under which the data was collected by the ISS. The authors of the report argue that violent behaviour develops over a period of time and the first exposure of an individual to violence takes place during the first 1000 days of their lives. National ECD programmes, such as those currently being developed by the Department of Social Development, should include preventative measures to reduce children’s exposure to violence.

First up is changing social norms to structure a society less inclined to use violence to resolve problems – this includes eliminating corporal punishment at home and schools as well as altering public values that find aggressive representations of masculinity as socially acceptable.

Secondly, the report calls for an inclusion of violence prevention initiatives in all comprehensive ECD programmes. That is on the basis that exposure to violence and the resultant stress and fear affect the cognitive development of children.

The full article, written by Joanne Phyfer and Lorenzo Wakefield, is here

Urgent ECD Intervention Required in Africa

spikeECD News, News, Video

dave-harrisonAfrica stands to lose as much as 12% of GNP p.a. for the next 20-30 years if urgent child and mother nutrition needs are not addressed. GDMT CEO addressed the issue on CNBC Africa’s TV programme Open Exchange on World Health Day today. Source: cnbcafrica.com

More videos here

New innovation fund to catalyse change in early learning in South Africa

spikeECD News, News

innovation-edgeSeveral national, including Ilifa Labantwana, and international donors have joined forces to establish a new fund to support innovations in early learning in South Africa.  The R15 million fund, called the Innovation Edge, aims to inspire and enable bold new initiatives with the potential to transform early learning access and quality.

Details about the Innovation Edge [ HERE ]

The Edge is part of the R90 million Ilifa Labantwana programme. It was launched through a multi-donor consortium including the Ilifa funding partners – DG Murray Trust, the FirstRand Foundation, ELMA Foundation, UBS Optimus Foundation – and the Omidyar Network.

“The Innovation Edge will enable Ilifa to explore new frontiers in early learning that can then be incorporated into bigger programmes” says Sherri Le Mottee, programme leader of Ilifa Labantwana.

The focus of the Innovation Edge is on children from birth to six years living in marginalized communities. “Less than a quarter of preschool children in South Africa have the benefit of quality early learning programmes”, says Sonja Giese, Founding Director of the Innovation Edge.  “The prospect of exposing every child to creative learning experiences in their first few years of life is a major opportunity to reshape educational outcomes in South Africa”.

The fund builds on growing global interest in early childhood development as scientific findings have converged on its importance for education, economic productivity and social stability.  “The Edge provides a platform to test the feasibility and effectiveness of innovations that will help to realise the enormous potential of South Africa’s young children”, says Giese.  “We want to bring new ways of thinking to early learning by creating opportunities for people with diverse skills and experience to join the call to action”.

Bold ideas are invited from all sectors and may include anything from new delivery models or smarter financing mechanisms to innovation in the use of technology for training, early learning activities or parent interaction.

For more information, visit www.innovationedge.org.za or email Sonja@innovationedge.org.za.

Investing in ECD: CSI that works

spikeECD News

IlifaPublications1Funding for social development initiatives is set to change after the results of a research study commissioned by the FirstRand Foundation was presented at the Foundation’s fifth “CSI that Works” breakfast.

The study confirmed that investment in the first 1 000 days of a child, from conception until the age of two, is critical to ensure that interventions later in a child’s life have an optimal effect.

The study, called Laying the foundation for success: Lessons learnt from CSI-funded early childhood development programmes in South Africa, was conducted to highlight the lessons learnt from early childhood development (ECD) interventions in the country. The study found that inequality, unemployment and poverty remain the major obstacles to social and economic development, and that targeted investment in providing early childhood development reduces social and economic inequality.

Early childhood development refers to the provision of holistic policies and programmes for the physical, emotional, cognitive, spiritual and moral development of children from conception to the age of nine, with the active participation of their parents and caregivers.

The private sector in South Africa, government and non-governmental organisations have been working on early childhood development for many years. Working towards a common purpose led to the drafting and submission of the national ECD policy to parliament in April this year.

There has been significant improvement in the provision of healthcare for women and children, with more women accessing antenatal care (97%), more women giving birth at health care facilities (91%), more births registered (83%) and more children fully immunized (89%) than a decade ago.

However, more than 50% of South African children still live in poverty with inadequate access to health care, nutrition, education and social services. Access to ECD services remains far below national targets. Only 35% of children younger than 4 are enrolled in a centre and only 52% of 3 and 4-year olds have access to these services outside their homes. Access for children with disabilities is also severely limited, with only 1% enrolled in a centre.

Considering that children from disadvantaged families benefit most from these services, which in turn enable them to break the cycle of inter-generational poverty, much still needs to be done. Research indicates that investing in the development of young people helps to reduce social and economic inequality by equalising education outcomes and post-school employment opportunities for all children, irrespective of race or social class.

Neuroscience research has indicated that the first 1 000 days after conception are critical for brain development, which continues rapidly until a child reaches the age of two. This is a critical period in the growth and development of a child that requires adequate provision of nutrition, health care, cognitive stimulation and supportive parenting.

The research findings and case studies used in the research indicate several lessons learnt. Based on these findings and case studies, the researchers recommend that donors support early childhood development interventions by:

· supporting home-based models which focus on holistic development for children from birth;
· design outreach models that complement centre-based services;
· promote practitioner training with coaching and mentorship programmes;
· promote provisioning models that leverage partnerships;
· support infrastructure development;
· support maternal and child nutrition programmes; and
· promote research across the early childhood development spectrum.

The research was done in line with the FirstRand Foundation’s commitment to document and share good practice in the corporate social investment (CSI) space.

“A nation that does not look after its children is a very poor country,” Sizwe Nxasana, chairman of the FirstRand Foundation, said at the presentation of the research results. He encouraged everyone to follow the African custom that “it takes a whole village to raise a child”.

Global Hand Washing Day – 15 October 2014

spikeECD News

globalhandwashingdayEach year, diarrhea and pneumonia take away lives of 1.7 million children under the age of five. Washing hands with soap and water especially after using toilets and before handling food helps reduce disease infection by 40%.” The pictures in this document can be used by parents, home visitors, FCMs, child minders in ECD centres and community based ECD programmes to assist in teaching young children about the importance of hand washing.

For more on Global Handwashing Day, 15 October 2014, follow this link: http://globalhandwashing.org/ghw-day

Ilifa Positive Parenting Dialogue

spikeECD News

parentdialogueIlifa has partnered with the University of Cape Town and its collaborating partners to implement and test the Sinovuyo Caring Families Programme in the Western Cape. The Sinovuyo Caring Families Project focuses specially on the reduction of abuse and maltreatment of children in high-risk families in South Africa.

The Positive Parenting Dialogue was held at the Belmont Conference Centre in Cape Town on September 10 2014.

Lessons from the Field: TVET Colleges: Contributions towards HR Development in the Early Childhood Development Sector

spikeLessons from the Field, Publications

Lessons-from-the-field

TVETcollegesThis brief provides an overview of the key findings and recommendations of a national survey of ECD training provided by selected public Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges conducted by Ilifa in 2013. It makes recommendations for developing and improving training opportunities through TVET colleges for a scaled up ECD sector.

[ For the full article, click HERE ]

Lessons from the Field: Private Funding of ECD in SA: A Snapshot!

spikeLessons from the Field, Publications

Lessons-from-the-field

A review of private funding of early childhood development (ECD) was conducted in 2013 to better understand current funding sources, drivers and areas of focus. The survey targeted the largest corporates listed on the JSE, local and international foundations and non-profit organisations (NPOs) operating in the ECD sector.

[ Download the full document HERE ]

Lessons from the Field: ECD in SA on the move: What does this mean for the NPO Training Sector?

spikeLessons from the Field

Lessons-from-the-field

The early childhood development (ECD) non-profit (NPO) training sector is potentially a major resource for the scaling up of ECD in South Africa. Ilifa Labantwana commissioned a survey of 76 ECD Training NPOs that focus on services and programmes for children aged 0–4.

[ To download the full document, click HERE ]

Lessons from the Field: The Sinovuyo Caring Families Project

spikeLessons from the Field, Publications

Lessons-from-the-field

This Lessons from the Field brief provides an overview of the Sinovuyo Caring Families Project which is being tested by Ilifa’s partners. The programme aims to contribute to the reduction of abuse and child maltreatment in South Africa through a mixed-methods approach that combines questionnaires, observational assessments, qualitative interviews and focus groups.

[ To download the full report, click HERE ]

Early Childhood Development: Lessons from India

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sherri-blogSherri Le Mottee writes: Last week’s visit in India was quite sobering. After a colourful and hopeful time in the country, Kushku (my travel companion kindly ‘loaned’ to me by the Ministry of Women and Child Development) and I visited three Anganwadi centres in the urban slums of Mumbai.

Here, we were met by a number of Anganwadi supervisors outside a large apartment block and ushered inside through quantities of waste on the streets and even at the entrance to the building. The programme on offer was facilitated in a rather derelict small room, the children, who were seated on the floor, sang song after song. After an hour a guy arrived with two packets of Laddus (a sweet meat of popped rice coated in jaggery) and a large tin of soft cooked lentils for lunch.

As the children sat eating, Kushku and I left to visit the next centre where we met and talked with a group of young women who were either pregnant or had small babies, sitting between them were a number of the children who attend the Anganwadi centres. While some women did not attend weekly meetings, they did collect iron supplements offered to women via the programme as well as the monthly food ration. A young mother of two children (14 months and 1 month) said the programme was a real support to her as a young mom. She had learnt about nutrition and breastfeeding and attended the weekly meetings.

From here, we moved out of the flatland into what can only be described as a kind of maze or rabbit warren, where we were taken down side alleys and through passageways to get to a small apartment where a number of children sat waiting in the dark for them (the lights had been out all day).

The poverty level was as overwhelming as the smells of the raw sewerage. Yet here was life, people were busy, small businesses were operating, children were out and about, many off to school. What was clear to me though is that, the quality of services we offer children cannot be compromised and while the architecture of the system is magnificent, my sense is that the outcomes of the programmes are significantly compromised by a number of things, including inadequate training of practitioners, insufficient learning support materials in the centres, no learning support curriculum, and no real quality management of the sites.

I however remain sold on the mechanism that is currently in place to reach children, pregnant women and mothers. It’s all there! It just has to be enhanced and strengthened. As we move toward building systems in South Africa that reach every child, every mother and every pregnant women with a focus on 0% malnutrition and stunting and 100% opportunity for stimulation and learning, we can learn a lot from what has been done and what has not been done yet in India.

Responsive Parenting: a Strategy to Prevent Violence

spikeECD News, Parenting

responsive-parenting-sept-2014This edition of Early Childhood Matters focuses on positive parenting and programmes aimed at reducing violence against young children. It makes mention of the Sinovuyo Caring Families Project, a parenting programme that seeks to address the reduction of abuse and maltreatment of children in high-risk families in South Africa.

Ilifa has partnered with the University of Cape Town and its collaborating partners to implement and test the Sinovuyo Caring Families Programme in the Western Cape.

HERE for the document PDF-icon (3mb)

Simple, Early Triggers that Help Our Children to Learn

spikeECD News

donor dialogueLatest edition of the ECD Donor Dialogue: “South Africa should invest in early childhood development in order to enable children to perform better at primary, high school and tertiary levels.”

How can we fix our education system? That question preoccupies our national mind – and not without cause. We fail to prepare enough people for basic jobs, let alone to sustain a sophisticated knowledge economy. If that is the question, the inevitable answer is that we need good teachers, quality textbooks and enough time in the classroom. But what if we asked a slightly different question, namely ‘what needs to be done so that our children can learn’? Imagine that we could start from scratch and design an optimal response to our poor educational outcomes, based on current science. Our starting point would no longer be the child’s first day in the classroom, but the time of their conception. Our DNA consists of just four building blocks, and they are combined in fantastic variety to make us who we are. Among a myriad of processes, these combinations – our genes – trigger the formation of the neural tube in the growing foetus, which ultimately becomes our brain and nervous system .

The brain develops precociously compared to other organs. In terms of weight, its peak rate of growth is in the third trimester of pregnancy and first three months of new-born life. During this period, nerve cells ‘wire together’ to form the neural circuits that are required to sense and to think. Sensory neurons take the lead in connecting to each other and to other parts of the brain. Then language wiring starts to dominate, before higher cognitive functions – such as the ability to imagine and plan – kick in a frenzy of connections between specialised areas of the brain .

These linkages are reinforced by the child’s interaction with their mother and father in an unconscious game of ‘serve and return’ .

The child ‘serves’ a volley of smiles; the parent ‘returns’ with eyes that light up, sounds that encourage and touch that comforts. In this simple environment – of sufficient food, love, security and stimulation – the child is primed to learn, and the brain grows in size and sophistication.

Click here for the full article PDF-icon ]

ECD services set to improve

spikeECD News

ECD Services Set to ImproveThe Department of Social Development in South Africa says it will focus its resources on putting in place a comprehensive Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme, which covers the period from conception to formal school going age.

Delivering her department’s R128-billion budget in Parliament on Wednesday, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini said a national audit of 19 900 ECD facilities conducted by the department throughout the country revealed the need for training of ECD practitioners and accessibility for children with disabilities, lack of proper infrastructure and overcrowding, among others.

“We found that 44% of the ECDs were unregistered,” Minister Dlamini said.

The minister also announced that the department will over the medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF) roll out non-centre based and mobile ECD facilities in rural and informal settlements to ensure that all children are given an early start for a better future.

She further appealed to the corporate sector to join hands with the National Development Agency (NDA) for the Adopt-an-ECD campaign. The purpose of the campaign is to facilitate, advocate and lobby for expanded access to provision of ECD in poor communities.

“The NDA has taken over the responsibility for the overall organisation of the annual South African ECD Awards. These awards are aimed at promoting and recognising excellence, hard work, dedication and investment in the future of our children by individual practitioners, community centres and organisations involved in ECD,” said Minister Dlamini.

More social service professionals

The minister said the department will increase the number of social service professionals, specifically social workers, social auxiliary workers, community development practitioners, and child and youth care workers.

She said her department’s social work scholarship programme continues to bring benefits to the sector. Over 5 200 students currently registered for social work degrees have been awarded scholarships.

“Under the social work programme, 7 794 students have graduated with a social work degree, while 2 921 of these graduates have not been employed.  We are committed to ensure that all qualified graduates are employed as part of the priorities of this term of government.”

The department will later this year host a national social work indaba in order to align the development mandate of the profession to support government’s radical socio-economic transformation.

Minister Dlamini said this will go a long way in reclaiming the profession’s progressive position to respond better to the country’s social welfare needs.

“Our ultimate goal is to ensure that we employ one social worker per ward throughout the country, starting with the 1 300 poorest wards prioritised by Cabinet,” she said.

Child headed households

On child and youth care, Minister Dlamini said child and vulnerable youth headed households will remain a central focus during this MTEF period. In the past financial year, great strides have been made in the implementation of the Isibindi Model, the minister said.

The central aspect of this model is the provision of intensive child and youth care centred services to children within their own families and communities.

“We will finalise the child and youth headed households register this financial year. We can only succeed in our pursuit to build a caring society if we know where our children live and what their needs are.”

The minister will this year announce the appointment of a committee to do an assessment of the status of foster care throughout the country.

“The target is to assess 500 000 foster care cases. Our ultimate aim is to ensure that no child falls through the cracks as a result of administrative processes,” she said. – SAnews.gov.za

New results of stimulation + nutrition add-on to CHW programme

spikeECD News

Eff ect of integrated responsive stimulation and nutrition interventions in the Lady Health Worker programme in Pakistan on child developmentThis article published last week in the Lancet, discusses child development, growth and health outcomes achieved by adding an integrated cognitive stimulation/nutrition intervention for 0-2s on to a lay community health worker programme in rural Pakistan, as part of a large RCT funded by UNICEF.

The results show that children who received responsive stimulation had significantly higher development scores on the cognitive, language, and motor scales at 12 and 24 months of age, and on the social-emotional scale at 12 months of age, than did those who did not receive the intervention. Children who received enhanced nutrition had significantly higher development scores on the cognitive, language, and social-emotional scales at 12 months of age than those who did not receive this intervention, but at 24 months of age only the language scores remained significantly higher. No additive benefits were recorded when responsive stimulation was combined with nutrition interventions.

The study also demonstrates that a responsive stimulation intervention can be delivered effectively by CHWs and positively affects development outcomes.

Read the full report here

Developing appropriate financing models to enable the scale-up of ECD services

spikeECD News, Technical Reports

technical-report-May-2014This report looks at how national and provincial budget processes impact on the funding of ECD services, and at the mechanics of preparing credible plans and budgets that will enable government to effectively finance and deliver them.

What financing models would be appropriate to enable the scaling up of early childhood development (ECD) services to achieve population coverage on a sustainable basis? This paper looks at how national and provincial budget processes impact on the funding of ECD services, and at the mechanics of prepar- ing credible plans and budgets that will enable government to effectively finance and deliver them.

Click HERE to download the full report.

Currently, donor funding plays an important role in ECD provision, but this contribution would be insuf- ficient to finance the large-scale provision of ECD services. parents and caregivers also make an enormous contribution to the financing of ECD services, but to rely on the private financing of ECD services is to perpetuate existing social inequalities and their intergenerational impacts. public provision of ECD ser- vices can on the other hand help minimise these.

Financing-modelsIlifa Labantwana’s overall objectives promote an extended definition of ECD (beyond centres, and across a development continuum from conception) promoting access to an Essential package of ECD services to all the country’s children, especially the most vulnerable. Key events in the annual division of revenue process and the national and provincial budget processes must therefore be clearly understood, so that entry points for influencing budget allocations can be identified.

During the budget process, ECD competes for resources with other national and provincial priorities. because the national government currently regards ECD as a priority,  it  is possible that  additional resources could be made available to enable provinces to fund it. alternatively, a case could be made for funds to be added to the Department of social Development’s budget to fund an ‘ECD conditional grant’ to provinces, but there are other challenges related to their management.

another approach might involve a consolidated ECD conditional grant, covering a number of provincial functions, which provinces could then allocate to specified ECD services according to their own prefer- ences. such a consolidated conditional grant would have the advantage of setting a minimum budget for ECD in each province.

To ensure sustained value for money from resources allocated to ECD, an approach based on outputs and service standards should be adopted. however the legislative framework would have to be amended in order to achieve this – well-defined, achievable national norms and standards for ECD services would need to be in place.

At the present juncture, the mechanisms required for the delivery of ECD programmes are still relatively poorly defined. until government has formulated a position on the core content of ECD services, it will not be in a position to formulate national norms and standards.

The lack of clarity that currently prevails around the definition of ECD services has made it difficult  for provincial departments of social Development to prepare credible and detailed budgets for ECD. the absence of national norms and standards has also limited their ability to motivate for ECD budgets within their respective provincial budget processes.

An important aspect of Ilifa Labantwana’s current work is thus to define the content of the service delivery programmes and management structures that the government needs to put in place in order to deliver on the Essential package of ECD services. once this work has been done, it will lay a valuable foundation for defining national norms and standards, and, in so doing, provide a basis for preparing credible budgets for ECD.

While the funding of ECD services is non-mandatory, ECD is a key government priority, therefore the national government is inclined to favourably regard well-motivated budget bids for additional funds for ECD. these  require convincing implementation plans and costed budgets. budget bids supported by credible implementation plans are more likely to be funded.

Budgeting in government is a complicated process involving a range of ingredients, thus there is scope for more deliberate strategising about how to influence key processes and people directly related to budget processes. Knowledge about the costs of ECD programmes can help ensure that when national policies promoting ECD are developed, they are properly funded through the equitable share so as to avoid the situation where ECD obligations placed on provinces and municipalities are underfunded.

To cost the Essential package of ECD services there need to be clear ‘models’ of service delivery that describe in very concrete terms what government needs to do. Ilifa Labantwana’s ongoing development of the required service delivery models is thus essential for the costing of ECD services.

Ilifa supports National Child Protection Week (1-7 June 2014) – lets work together to make South Africa a safe place for our children

spikeECD News

child_protection_ribbonNational Child Protection Week (CPW) is commemorated in South Africa annually to raise awareness of the rights of children as articulated in the Children’s Act of 2005.

The campaign that began in 1997 also aims to mobilise all sectors of society to ensure the care and protection of children. The campaign is led by the Minister of Social Development; however it is incumbent on all of us to play a role in protecting children and creating a safe and secure environment for them.

Children in South Africa live in a society with a Constitution that has the highest regard for their rights and for the equality and dignity of everyone. Protecting children from violence, exploitation and abuse is not only a basic value, but also an obligation clearly set out in Article 28 of the South African Constitution. The aim of child protection is to ensure the safety, well-being, care and protection of children through an integrated multi-disciplinary approach. Despite the best efforts of the South African Government and civil society to protect children from child abuse, neglect and exploitation, many children still remain vulnerable.

Reducing the high levels of violence against children is among South Africa’s most overwhelming tasks. Despite the country’s progressive child protection laws, policies and programmes preventing and addressing violence against children, it remains a major challenge.

Get help

The Department of Social Development has a pilot a 24-hour call centre dedicated to provide support and counselling to victims of gender based violence:

  • The toll free number to call is 0800 428 428 (0800 GBV GBV) to speak to a social worker for assistance and counselling.
  • Callers can also request a social worker from the Command Centre to contact them by dialling *120*7867# (free) from any cell phone.

You can also get help at::

Green ribbon

Government urges everyone to wear the Green Ribbon during Child Protection Week to show support for promotion of the rights, care and protection of the child. The Green Ribbon was adopted by the National Child Protection Committee in 2004:

  • The green refers to life and growth.
  • By wearing the Green Ribbon it shows that you care and support Child Protection Week
  • The Green Ribbon lets victims and survivors know that we are united in their support.
  • It emphasizes the importance of partnerships to tackle child abuse, neglect and exploitation.

News on Child Protection Week

More information on child protection

Related links

Key Findings from a Review of ECD Centre Registration and Funding Systems in KZN

spikeECD News, Lessons from the Field

LessonFromtheField-May2014This report provides an overview of the key findings of a 2013 systems and scoping exercise conducted by Ilifa in the Ugu district of KwaZulu-Natal. On the basis of this exercise, Ilifa puts forward a set of recommendations which will lead to the improvement of centre and programme registration and funding processes.

Summary of Challenges/Key Findings:

  • There is little evidence of population level planning for ECD services.
  • Access to and use of information on services that do exist is poor.
  • Each service provider is subject to multiple application processes.
  • Processes are poorly aligned and require unnecessary duplication of effort, documents and expense.
  • Inefficiencies in the ECD registration and funding processes place heavy administrative demands on
  • social workers.
  • The onerous claims and requisitions processes are not designed to be supportive or facilitatory of quality ECD
  • service delivery.
  • Basic infrastructure, telecommunications, and transport challenges impact service delivery and staff morale at
  • DSD service points.

Key Recommendations:

  • Put in place a user friendly district information and work flow management system.
  • Clarify and improve upon standard operating procedures for the identification and registration of all ECD services.
  • Apply conditional registration provisions in order to facilitate the improvement of ECD access and quality.
  • Simplify the processing of service level agreements and monthly claims and requisitions for funded ECD sites.
  • Appoint specialist ECD teams at DSD service offices.

Read the full report HERE