Children at Siyabonga
Dear Friends of Thembanathi,
This past week marked the 50th anniversary of the Head Start program in the United States, an early childhood education program created to fight the harmful effects of poverty on children’s lives. Head Start, President Obama reminded us in his public address, was “founded on the idea that every child -- no matter who they are, what they look like, or where they grow up -- deserves the chance to reach their full potential.”
On this day, President Obama took the opportunity to remind us all of the importance of early childhood education. “Supporting our children in their earliest years with high-quality care and education is one of the best investments we can make as a Nation,” he proclaimed. “During a critical period in a child's life,” President Obama went on, “Head Start sets our Nation's young people on the path to success. We know that investments in early childhood education boost graduation rates, increase earnings, and reduce violent crime. And 3- and 4-year-olds who attend high-quality preschool are less likely to repeat a grade, less likely to need special education, and more likely to graduate from high school. This head start in life leaves a lasting impact on our students and fuels their curiosity, helping them to grow up with a passion for learning, a fair shot at good-paying jobs, and a more secure future.”
The critical need for and positive impacts of early childhood education and care are universal. A growing body of evidence from countries around the world shows that appropriate investment in early childhood development can have a positive effect on national health, education, and socio-economic outcomes, especially in less developed countries. A strong foundation in early childhood lays the groundwork for responsible citizenship, economic prosperity, healthy communities, and successful parenting of the next generation. This is why organizations such as UNICEF, UNESCO, and The World Bank have emphasized its importance.
Children who acquire learning deficits in their early years fail to catch up during formal schooling. Rather, these deficits continue to grow over time until they become insurmountable. Reports on educational achievement in South Africa demonstrate that far too many of school-going children are performing below minimal standards, often failing to acquire functional numeracy and literacy skills. Research shows that children who participate in quality early childhood development programs, by contrast, are more ready to learn when they begin school and are less likely to repeat grades or drop out of school.
While the need for quality early childhood education is clearly recognized in South Africa, as it is in the United States, many areas of the country--especially the more rural, impoverished regions--struggle to provide these programs. That is why we at Thembanathi have dedicated ourselves to supporting and helping to build early childhood programs in northern KwaZulu Natal. As many of you know, we began working with Holy Cross in 2003, helping them to expand their early childhood program from an informal care center in a one-car garage to a center of excellence able to accommodate 120 children in need. In addition, we have supported their expansion into the more remote areas surrounding the main center through the construction of four satellite centers. Over the last few years, we’ve also helped open a new center of learning in another area, and hope to continue to grow our support programs to offer assistance to even more children in need.
While we know you all understand and support early childhood education, we want to take this moment--the anniversary of a program that has transformed the lives of many young people in America--to reflect on the importance of early childhood education and care for all children in need and to recommit ourselves to doing our part to ensure that children faced with historical and economic disadvantages are given the head start they need to allow them the chance for a bright future. We hope that you will do the same.
Children at Siyabonga Enjoying Breakfast
Lindsey, Thembanathi Director, Visits Siyabonga
Thanks for Your Commitment to Siyabonga