The new kid on the education block is the National Curriculum Framework (NCF), focused on the holistic development of children, from birth to age four.
The NCF, which was rolled out last year, helps teachers and principals at early childhood development (ECD) centres develop programmes for babies, toddlers and young children before they start primary school.
While many of the centres adopted the curriculum almost immediately, some introduced it at the start of this academic year.
Karrimah Jacobs, chairperson of the Mitchell’s Plain Forum, representative of more than 60 ECD centres in the area, said it was based on the National Early Learning and Development Standards (NELDS), to promote a holistic vision of ECD, which pays attention to the first 1000 days of a child’s life.
Ms Jacobs said the roll-out happened during the June school holidays and that ECD centres registered with the Department of Social Development had been prioritised.
“This was excellent because it empowered our staff and teachers, the people who work with our children to be qualified and helps us to help the children with detailed assessments; and a hands-on approach, which is easy to understand when working with the kids,” she said.
Ms Jacobs added: “If a child’s foundation, despite all of the social ills we are struggling with, (is in place) there is some kind of formal training for our children.”
“Love for children is not enough,” she said.
She said teachers and principals needed to know how to develop activities where a child’s physical, emotional, social and spiritual development was enhanced.
Ms Jacobs said ECD centres were preparing pupils for primary school.
“Many pupils who start Grade R and were not properly stimulated at home, struggle at school,” she said.
She said many pupils were exposed to violence at an early age and had absent parents, who either abandoned them or were on drugs or addicted to alcohol.
“The child arrives at school overwhelmed and needing to work through those issues before the teacher can actually focus on teaching,” she said.
Nigel Maggott, chairperson of the Mandalay Education Forum, agreed that intervention at an early age was key.
“You have to open your eyes as a teacher and crawl beside the child to better understand them,” he said.
Mr Maggott said a good foundation nurtured confident and assertive pupils.
“There is a daily programme, there are themes and stimulation activities for the children to use at home and to help parents,” he said.
“There are so many working parents. Grandparents are either too old or still work as they are the only breadwinners, with their grants and lack of supervision. I think it is best to have a child in an ECD centre,” he said.
“We have to give our children the best opportunities and support to build a strong society,” he said.
Paddy Attwell, spokesman for the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), said many of their schools had ECD centres which focused on Grade R, the reception year before Grade 1.
He said the National Curriculum Framework for ECD included the child’s well-being, identity and belonging, communication, exploring the mathematics, creativity, knowledge and understanding of the world.
“A key focus of ECD is learning through play,” he said.
The department provides the training for ECD teachers, in terms of a transversal agreement with social development.
Mr Attwell said the WCED had also funded the development of ECD facilities at schools across the province, which were managed by school governing bodies.
“The WCED has invested heavily over the years to ensure universal access to ECD. Effective ECD provides an important foundation for young children entering school in Grade 1,” he said.