Seeing a need in communities to train individuals in early childhood development (ECD) to lay the foundation for the children they educate or take care of, Bergzicht Training and Development developed a unique Child Care Community Project, which was presented to 17 individuals recently.

According to Bergzicht Training and Development’s Training Manager, Adrian Bezuidenhout, research has shown that the first 1 000 days of a child’s life – from conception to three years old – are the most critical period to lay the foundation for children to succeed later in life. For this reason age-appropriate learning is vital. With many children in South Africa growing up in disadvantaged communities and many being taken care of by grandmothers, aunts or other family members who do not possess ECD skills, children may do worse educationally when they start school and in later life.

“By taking caregivers, and some active in aftercare,  through our programme, we were able to provide them with ECD skills focused on perceptual development, literacy and creativity. In addition, they were also able to learn about the importance of discipline and potty training,” says Bezuidenhout.

“I believe this is a stepping stone for the future of those who participated and completed this programme as they now have the skills to properly prepare children for their future. Participants report a greater sense of confidence within themselves and the skills they could use to enhance the time spent with the little ones in their care.”

The six-week course was presented at the Eikestad Hall in Cloetesville, Stellenbosch and a graduation ceremony was held at the end. The course focused on making pre-Grade R children school-ready.

One of the 17 graduates, Sonja Adonis runs a creative aftercare each afternoon for two hours at a community centre in the Cloetesville community.

“Some of the activities that we focus on is teaching kids to communicate in English and improve their English language skills. We also focus on art and needle work and teach children to make their own masks,” explained Adonis.

Adonis also volunteers for Stellcare, a registered Child Protection organisation, where she works as a community worker and participates in the organisation’s feeding scheme. She works with social workers to assist families and their children with challenges they may face in the home. Adonis believes that the ECD skills she has learnt will help her in her work with families and children as well as contribute to the development of other women who she can also pass these skills to.

“It was interesting to learn that one could take things like bags and other items that are freely available and use it to create things like little colourful animals in order to improve children’s learning. It is sad to see how many children who attend my aftercare do not understand simple things like long and short, and I feel I can help them grasp this now that I have learnt how to teach children.”

“This training is extremely important because there are so many persons in our communities who are unable to afford this training, but could use it, especially older women.”

She does however have a few words of advice for those individuals who want to attend the training: “You can’t just do this course because it is there, you must have a passion for teaching children and the patience to work with children.”

Another participant, Veliswa Zweni of Kayamandi in Stellenbosch, has been working on a plan to open her own creche. She says that even if she does not succeed in opening the creche right now she will still be able to get a job at an ECD facility.

“This course taught me the importance of spending time with kids and really interacting with them, as well as how important it is to children to maintain a schedule, and the various development [milestones] that children at different ages need to reach. For example, I now know how important it is for children between four and seven years to move around and build a strong, healthy body as that can affect their learning too,” says Zweni.

Desiree Fleurs, a part-time domestic worker who also resides in Cloetesville and takes care of her  two grandchildren at times says that having these skills will not only benefit her grandchildren, but open up other work opportunities for her.

“Two years ago I took care of small children, but at the time I did not have the skills to really help them to develop educationally. I have now been approached by the person I worked for before, and who has children, to start working for them again. Now I have the skills I need to take care of the children’s development.”

As a community worker involved in the neighbourhood’s feeding scheme she also feels that she can contribute to the development of the community’s children.

MAIN PHOTO: Nandipha Mxuza (middle), one of the participants in the Child Care Community Project course, received her certificate for completing the course at a ceremony held at the end of the course. With her is Child Care facilitator Hillary Wentzel (left) and Nathalie Skippers, who is responsible for Student Mentoring and Support at Bergzicht Training and Development. (Lynne Rippenaar-Moses)

Child Care facilitator Hillary Wentzel (front centre) with the 18 participants that completed the Child Care Community Project course recently. They are (front from the left) Junicka Paulse, Jamie Booysen, Sonja Adonis Regina Jason, Bianca King, Fikiswa Mnguni, Veliswa Masibunge-Zweni, Ilse Dragonder, and Allison Blake. In the back from the left are Calvilene Julies, Simone Africa, Nandipha Mxuza, Claire Casper, Karen Arendse, Annalisa Skeffers, Desiree Fleurs, Michelle Claasen, and Carla Festus. (Lynne Rippenaar-Moses)