We’re building a new UNICEF.org.
As we swap out old for new, pages will be in transition. Thanks for your patience – please keep coming back to see the improvements.

South Africa

Early Childhood Development providing a better start for South African children

© UNICEF South Africa/2011/Pawelczyk
The furniture and interiors of the centre are bright and colourful and child-friendly; it is at the centre that many of the children learn for the first time how to feed themselves, dress themselves or hold a pencil.

By Kate Pawelczyk

CAPETOWN, South Africa, 14 November 2011 - The day begins early for Lindiwe Lindiwe, a 21-year-old mother of two. Before the sun has broken over the horizon, she has already started cooking the porridge for two-year-old Vuyelwa while she also feeds and dresses four-week-old Siya. Once the two girls are dressed and ready, she walks ten minutes up the hill to the Imizamo’yethu Day Care Centre.

There, they are greeted with warmth and love by the Centre’s Director, Ruth Faku. If it wasn’t for Imizamo’yethu, Lindiwe would have no one to look after her children while she works to complete the schooling that was interrupted by her first pregnancy.

A better start

As her mom walks out of the gate, Vuyelwa’s eyes well up with tears, but within 15 minutes, the playground is loud with chatter and laughter, and Vuyelwa joins in the fun and games. As long as the weather is good, the children begin each day by playing outside on the swings and jungle-gyms.

© UNICEF/2011/Eisenstein
Imizamo’yethu Day Care Centre was started by Ruth in 1995 in the living room of her house.

Imizamo’yethu Day Care Centre was started by Ruth in 1995 in the living room of her house. She dreamed of being a teacher when she was a little girl, but could not complete her studies because she had to look after her mother who was ill at the time. Since its fragile beginnings, the centre has grown to accommodate 90 children.

In 2011 Imizamo’yethu was recognized as a Centre of Excellence by the Department of Social Development in the Eastern Cape Province.

“At the beginning of the year, parents know that some of the children have left the crèche to go to Grade R (Reception Class) at school,” explained Ruth. “So they quickly come here to sign up their children, but we have to turn some away once we are full.”

Addressing inequity

Ruth is a powerful advocate for Early Childhood Development (ECD) – a term that refers to the growth of a child’s social, emotional, physical and cognitive development, from birth to nine years through the provision of early stimulation.

“Here we teach the children about love and care; about right and wrong,” she said. “We prepare them for when they go to school so that they know how to be independent, how to hold a pencil, how to count.”

Indeed, the reality for many of South Africa’s children is in sharp contrast to the bright walls, toys, songs, and games of Imizamo’yethu.

© UNICEF South Africa/2011/Pawelczyk
Early morning is play time for the children who attend the Imizamo’yethu Day Care Centre in Mdantsane, Eastern Cape.

“The low and inequitable access to ECD partly explains the high repetition and lower completion rates which are evident later in the education system, especially at the secondary level,” said Juliana Seleti, ECD Specialist at UNICEF South Africa. “Greater investment in ECD will help ensure that children grow up to be productive citizens, who are in turn able to give their own children the best start too.”

UNICEF provides support

UNICEF has been working closely with the South African Government to improve the quality of integrated ECD services – ensuring that the focus is not just on early learning, but also on health, nutrition, psychosocial care and protection. A UNICEF-supported study recently looked at how the Government is providing financial resource to ECD and how these finances are being utilised by the targeted groups in the sector. This study is currently being used as a reference point for an ECD Policy review on how financing ECD can be improved in the country. UNICEF has also supported the development of a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) framework in Gauteng Province with the aim of contributing to improved quality ECD services.

Looking at the bright, healthy smiling faces of the children at Imizamo’yethu one needs little convincing that more needs to be done to ensure that each and every child in South Africa has access to the full spectrum of ECD services.



New enhanced search