More than a million children under the age of six still do not have access to early childhood development programmes in South Africa.
The anomaly was pointed out by Cotlands ahead of National Children’s day, which is being commemorated on Saturday.
The non-profit early childhood development organisation said in a statement on Thursday that even though government had prioritised such programs many children were not benefiting.
Access to early childhood development is stipulated in the National Development Plan 2030 as a means of supporting optimal development of South African children.
The signing of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) Policy by Cabinet on December 9, 2015 further made provision for service delivery platforms to improve access for children.
Cotlands said it had since taken a stand to lead the cause of developing a non-centre play-based learning approach “anchored on playgroups and toy libraries to address the plight of vulnerable children”.
Cotlands Chief Executive Officer, Jackie Schoeman said the organisation’s play-based learning approach was designed to take early childhood development programmes to communities, where, due to small numbers or space restrictions, it was not possible or viable to build ECD centres.
“Various play-based learning programmes are offered in community halls, garages, shacks, homesteads, or in other safe temporary structures to ensure that no child is excluded on the basis of where they live,” Schoeman said.
The 80-year-old non-profit organisation, which is concerned with ensuring that children in South Africa thrive in their formative years, said it had already reached 17 000 beneficiaries this year with its play-based learning programmes.
This is in communities across six provinces Gauteng, Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Kwa Zulu Natal, North West and Mpumalanga.
Schoeman said: “Our toy libraries and early learning groups, while rendering a vital service to vulnerable children, are also the models we use to monitor, assess and improve the quality of early learning services we provide to children”.
South Africans must be concerned that more than a million children are not in early childhood development programmes, said Schoeman.
“We all need to understand that the brain develops quickly in the first five years of a child’s life,” explained Schoeman.
“The establishment of new neural connections and pathways are influenced and advanced through exploration, thinking, problem solving, as well as language expression that occurs during structured or targeted play.
“This is why ideally all children must be placed in early childhood development programmes.”
Schoeman warned that children with no access to early learning opportunities were unlikely to reach their full developmental potential. They would most likely to become frustrated with classroom learning later in life.[Source: SABC]