by Debbie Lieberthal

Born to learn

Education builds a lasting legacy

A lack of infrastructure and access to roads contribute to the poor level of education in rural areas of SA
african student.jpg

Even with this being legislated, contributing factors to the poor quality of education in public schools – particularly schools in the farm and rural areas – are due to the non-existence of access to roads in those areas.

Traditionally, one of the biggest challenges South Africa faces is access to centre-based Early Childhood Development (ECD) programmes. This is largely due to poverty and distance, as many families do not have the resources to pay for ECD services and parents and caregivers cannot afford to send their children to traditional ECD facilities.

ECD is recognised as the foundation for suc- cess in future learning. Quality early learning programmes such as ‘BrainBoosters’ and ‘Born to Read’ have been implemented to prepare children for adulthood. It is through these initiatives that youths are provided with the necessary opportunities for social, cognitive, spiritual, physical and emotional development.

While‘BrainBoosters’has an innovative edu- cational approach to learning that hones in on ECD as key to future learning and socialisation, the ‘Born to Read’ programme aims at promoting the culture of reading among children while they are still young.

Although much has been done to improve the access and quality of early learning programmes in both ECD facilities and Grade R classrooms, there is a long way to go in the enhancement of service delivery.

Some of the prominent challenges and obstacles facing ECD facilities include absence of learning materials and resources within the classroom setting, minimal funding, lack of qualified teachers and inadequate security for children while at the ECD facility.

The‘Born to Read’ programme helps parents raise children with healthy bodies and minds to become creative and active members of the community. The programme builds partnerships between parents, educators, health providers, librarians, the business sector and the community at large since it deals with the development of children in all spheres. Studies have proven that the majority of reading problems faced by adolescents and adults today could have – and should have – been avoided or resolved in the early years of childhood.

The Africadarian model (named for having taken its inspiration from well-known USA-based trials under the Abecedarian Project) has been designed and developed by ‘BrainBoosters’ and is a proposed answer to the complex set of educational inefficien- cies the South African ECD faces.

The Africadarian approach is a practical and holistic one that focuses on language and mathematics as integral to its pre-literacy offering, developing fine and gross motor skills along the way – as well as honing in on art, music, general socialisation and conversation.

This focused programme is aimed at stimulating the minds of disadvantaged children under the age of four. With its custom designed set of learning materials, ‘BrainBooster’ seeks to engage parents and care-givers with the use of these affordable and accessible products, and educarers with non-academic training methods.

The research and development engaged by ‘BrainBoosters’ has resulted in a comprehensive programme that is not only remarkably effective but can easily be rolled out. Its suite of products is available and accessible, with training on the use of its products – both achievable and affordable – serving to create job opportunities for those in the care-giving space and meeting a nationwide need for early childhood intervention in the educational arena. This programme equips both time-strapped or ill-equipped parents and educarers to impact the South African learning landscape.

One of the ‘BrainBoosters’ vision focuses on sufficiently training educarers to be employed in formal or informal ECD centres; to start their own micro-enterprises or even to offer assistance at formal schools when properly trained teachers are not available for Grade R pupils.

The ‘BrainBoosters’ model sees packs supplied to parents – as well as parent training sessions being held at care-centres, thus making it easy to integrate parents in playing, reading, talking and providing enriched care- giving at home.

The model also allows for different age groups in class to be capitalised on, with older children teaching younger children – and children learning best by watching one another.‘BrainBoosters’ alsolendsitselftopri- vate sector and NGO involvement, offering corporates the chance to both make a real difference in communities all over South Africa as well as earn ED points for BEE scorecards.

Family outreach workers work directly with the children in their homes, demonstrating to the caregiver the various activities that can be done at home and providing the children with a foundation for their early learning. These programmes aim to empower parents and primary caregivers to provide early learning opportunities to their own children. The intention of the family outreach programme is that parents continue to provide these early learning activities and opportunities to their children after the completion of the programme.

Similarly, informal playgroups involve the provision of ECD services within a community setting or informal gathering. In these programmes, a fieldworker works with a group of parents and children on early learning activities on a session basis in a local park, in a residential home or at a community hall.

The activities focus mainly on the educational activities that parents can do in the home with their children.

Playgroups allow for information-sharing between the primary caregivers and parents, and provide a space for supporting them, as well as allowing the parents/caregivers to support each other. These programmes also allow for groups of children, who usually do not interact with many other children, to interact in large groups, on shared activities.

It is important to note that the best way to provide ECD to children and, in the process, give them the best possible start in life, is by exposing them to an integrated approach to ECD, where comprehensive services and programmes are provided to ensure the holistic development of all children.

This integrated approach, with co-ordination between government departments, ECD, non-profit organisations, private sector com- panies, communities and caregivers, provides optimal results for young children.

 

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