Early Childhood Development: How Ikamva Labantu helps pre-schools achieve the necessary registration to receive government subsidies
For most children in South Africa, life is a constant struggle from a very young age. Services in quality early childhood development is poor and these children go to school without the basics necessary for them to thrive, learn and develop into adults with full potential. Ikamva Labantu has a comprehensive Early Childhood Development programme which seeks to address this problem in a holistic manner which includes teachers, parents and children and provides a sustainable solution to the problem.
There are 200 pre-schools that operate within the Ikamva Labantu umbrella of which only 40% are registered and receive state subsidies. Registration requires, for instance, certain levels of teacher qualification, teacher to learner ratios, physical structures, policy adherence and resources. This is an enormously complicated cumbersome process for principals to navigate and thus, Ikamva Labantu works with the schools to achieve these standards and to set the registration process in motion.
Part of the process has been alleviated by the realization of our vision of creating a place of learning, development and support for pre-school principals, teachers and parents from disadvantaged communities. Kwakhanya, the Early Childhood Learning Centre, launched in early 2012 has been running successful experiential training programmes for teachers. Recently, a principals’ programme has been added, designed to enhance good governance and compliance with registration requirements. The on-site model school is flourishing with children showing positive developmental progress.
One of the pre-school principals on the Ikamva Labantu training programme is Mavis Ngcongolo. In January 2008, struck by the number of neglected, unsupervised toddlers and young children that she saw in the streets of her neighbourhood in Mfuleni township, Mavis gathered six of them in her home and started to feed them and look after them with her husband’s earnings paying for food and other material needs. This initiative became the Injongo (“My Wish”) Pre-school (Educare) and by 2012, 80 children attend it daily.
Injongo does not meet the government minimum standards for registration: the structure is too small for the number of children and in poor condition. The necessary registration documents are required to be displayed on the walls, but these quickly become soaked because of the humidity in the rooms. Several documents are not up-to-date nor in place at all. Daily menus and programmes are produced although these need adjustments from a logistical and healthy eating point of view. There is only one cot for the babies and the other children share 19 uncovered mattresses that are not able to be cleaned regularly. There are few toys or educational materials available. The five staff members are too few for the number of children.
Despite all these seemingly insurmountable problems, Mavis provides a safe and loving environment for the children. She makes do on the monthly fee of R100 ( $12/£7.7) per child which only some parents can afford to pay. She provides two meals a day and pays five assistants a basic salary. Her husband has been retrenched and she does not have his salary any longer to rely upon. Further, she is used as a drop-in centre for vulnerable children, who often end up staying with her indefinitely, being fed, taken to health care facilities and, most important, provided with affection.
Mavis is learning to address many of the issues above in the Principal’s training programme. We also work closely with Mavis to address her other challenges and we are trying to raise funds for the material needs that she has.
There are many other pre-school principals in similar situations to Mavis. Your support for Ikamva Labantu can make a world of difference to them and to their children who so desperately need stimulation, developmental input, sustenance and safety.
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