We’re hiring: Cape Town-based communication intern

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs2 Comments

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 … Read More

Ball rolling for implementation of the national ECD policy

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs, The Policy Post0 Comments

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 … Read More

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

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs0 Comments

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 … Read More

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

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In 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: designed to assess children from all socio-economic backgrounds based on the Early Learning Development … Read More

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. 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 … Read More

When community works: Early learning playgroups in the North West

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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 … Read More

Bringing the Story Home: Early Literacy in the Free State

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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 … Read More

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

Svetlana DonevaBlog, The Policy Post0 Comments

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 … Read More

New play-based teaching course for ECD practitioners

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There 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 … Read More

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 … Read More

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

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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 … Read More

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

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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).

Policy Post: Does Parliament really understand the ECD policy?

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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) … Read More

Sinovuyo Caring Families Project takes flight

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs, ECD News, News, Parenting0 Comments

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. … Read More

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 … Read More

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

Svetlana DonevaBlog, The Policy Post0 Comments

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 … Read More

SA’s first ECD centre registration helpdesk

Svetlana DonevaBlog, ECD News8 Comments

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 … Read More

Parents of #LovePlayTalk: Nana’s Story

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“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.

Celebrating Mandela Day 2016

Svetlana Doneva#LovePlayTalk News, Blog0 Comments


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. … Read More

ECD and disability: Urgent priority and action are needed

Svetlana DonevaBlog, The Policy Post0 Comments

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 … Read More

When Community Works: early learning playgroups in the North West

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Ilifa 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 … Read More

We are hiring

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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.  

Where is ECD in the national departmental budget vote speeches?

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs, The Policy Post2 Comments

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 … Read More

Unlocking the economic value of young children

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By 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 … Read More

The human resources SA needs for quality ECD

Svetlana DonevaBlog, The Policy Post0 Comments

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 … Read More

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”. … Read More

DoH on ECD: in a nutshell

Svetlana DonevaBlog, The Policy Post0 Comments

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 … Read More

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 … Read More

SA’s ECD policies are changing: now what?

Svetlana DonevaBlog, The Policy Post0 Comments

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 … Read More

Getting on with the business of ECD

Svetlana DonevaBlog, The Policy Post0 Comments

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 … Read More

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

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

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 … Read More

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 … Read More

Taking ECD to Zululand

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By: Jacqui Khumalo, KZN Co-ordinator, Ilifa 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 … Read More

Refilwe and the Early Learning Playgroup

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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’ … Read More

The DSD acts on household food and nutrition security

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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 … Read More

How can we prioritise ECD expenditure?

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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 … Read More

Strengthening ECD Registration Systems key to Massification of ECD services

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs, The Policy Post2 Comments

  Three significant challenges to universal ECD services, particularly are: Insufficient ECD facilities in sufficiently close proximity to the children in question Where facilities do exist, children often are excluded as a result of access barriers such as cost and unsuitable facilities Poor quality services. In order to achieve the national ECD goals of universal ECD, especially for the most … Read More

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

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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 … Read More

Policy Post: The unrealised potential of the Road to Health

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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 … Read More

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 … Read More

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

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

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 … Read More

Paving the way for non-centre based ECD programmes

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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 … Read More

Local government population-based ECD planning must happen now

Svetlana DonevaBlog, Blogs, The Policy Post1 Comment

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 … Read More

Nal’ibali: Learning through play and stories

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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 … Read More

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

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

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 … Read More

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. … Read More

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 … Read More

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 … Read More

The “Ordinary Magic” of ECD

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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 … Read More

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 … Read More

Early Childhood Development: Lessons from India

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Sherri 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 … Read More