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Learning Through Playing: launch of online training for Early Childhood Development and the Foundation Phase

Department of Basic Education/2017
© Department of Basic Education/2017
Left: M. Stach, Cotlands; A. Viviers, UNICEF; Dr M. Maboya, Dept Basic Education; M. Renvillard, LEGO Foundation; Dr. W. Otieno, UNICEF; K. Maakane, Praekelt; ML. Samuels, Dept Basic Education; M. Payne, UNICEF; H. Mathanzima Mweli, Dept Basic Education.

Pretoria, 9 March 2017 - Evidence shows that a play-based approach to learning allows children to better understand mathematical and language concepts and to become creative, solution-oriented learners who are prepared for the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century.

Implemented by the Department of Basic Education in partnership with UNICEF, the LEGO Foundation and Cotlands Learning Around You is an innovative online training, accredited with the South African Council of Educators (SACE), that will equip 150,000 professionals to effectively implement play-based learning based on the National Curriculum Framework. The initial testing phase has been completed and it goes live today at

The Council for Education Ministers (CEM) launched this free P.L.A.Y. on-line in-service training programme, with the aim to provide in-service training to 42,000 early childhood development practitioners, 23,000 Grade R educators and 85,000 Grade 1 to 3 educators over the next two years.

Highlighting the involvement of the Government of South African, the Minister of Basic Education, the Honourable Angie Motshekga, noted that “the foundations that we lay in early learning and the foundation phase through play, will have an impact on the schooling careers of children up to matric and beyond. Play is learning in the early years, and the starting point for future engineers, doctors, teachers, amongst others”.

According to Dr Mamiki Maboya, Deputy Director-General for Curriculum Policy, Support and Monitoring at the Department of Basic Education, “this model of in-service training that we are launching today has all the potential to be a game changer in the manner in which the we can shape a large part of in-service training programme to reach all educators – even in the most remote areas.

The programme requires an on-line registration that can be done through any mobile device or computer, which is then followed by a five hour face-to-face orientation session. These will be conducted throughout the country, utilising, amongst others, the Department of Basic Education’s Teacher Development Centres as resources. This will be followed by on-line training that will include theory, practice and assessment. Upon completion, the trainees will receive a certificate that will earn them Continuing Professional Teacher Development (CPTD) points from SACE thus linking it to formal recognition and professional development.

The Country Representative of UNICEF South Africa, Herve Ludovic De Lys, noted that “early childhood development is the single most powerful enabler to accelerate true, constructive and sustainable social and economic transformation sought for by millions of South Africans. That is why UNICEF has early childhood development as one of its key programme priorities in South Africa and values this partnership with the Department of Basic Education and the LEGO Foundation on learning through play”.

Similar sentiments were shared by Michael Renvillard, Initiatives Lead-South Africa for the LEGO Foundation who emphasised that his organisation regards “play is critical in establishing vital learning skills from infancy and throughout our lifespan. The LEGO Foundation is excited about the kick off of the P.L.A.Y. in-service training programme, which will equip and inspire practitioners to adopt learning through play - and the impact this will have on how children learn and develop”. He further indicated that the LEGO Foundation is committed in its partnership with the Department of Basic Education and UNICEF to advance early learning in the country from early childhood development programmes to the foundation phase of education.

This programme is part of a more comprehensive partnership between the Department of Basic Education-UNICEF-the LEGO Foundation, which aims to strengthen the inclusion and utilization of play as a powerful tool and method of early learning and development. As a result, play will be used to contribute to children's growth, health, nutrition and protection as part of national policies, curricula and programmes for children from birth to nine years.

Endorsing the power of such collaboration, Jackie Schoeman, the CEO of Cotlands, noted that this is “a special partnership that brings together a key government department, an international multi-lateral, a global advocate for learning through play and a local non-governmental organisation to strengthen play as the critical component of learning.”

Interested ECD practitioners and educators can register for this free course on-line at


Department of Basic Education:
Elijah Mhlanga (083 580 8275 / email:
Marie-Louise Samuels: Director for Early Childhood Development
(Mobile: 082 339 8086 /email: (

Sudeshan Reddy: Communication specialist (mobile: +27 82 561 3970 / +27 82 563 5286 /email:

The LEGO Foundation:
Michael Renvillard: Initiatives Lead-South Africa for the LEGO Foundation (mobile: +4530653162 /email:
Christina Witcomb: Communication Manager – The LEGO Foundation
(Mobile: +45 20308496 / email:
Monica Stach: COO Cotlands (mobile: 0713557862 /email:

About Department of Basic Education
The Department of Basic Education deals with all schools from Grade R to Grade 12, including adult literacy programmes. The aim of the Department of Basic Education is to develop, maintain and support a South African school education system for the 21st century. The Department of Basic Education aims to improve early childhood development through the improvement of the quality of early childhood development and universalise access to Grade R. For more information about the Department of Basic Education visit:

UNICEF promotes the rights and well-being of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF South Africa and its work visit:

About The LEGO Foundation
The LEGO Foundation shares the mission of the LEGO Group: to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow. The Foundation is dedicated to build a future where learning through play empowers children to become creative, engaged, lifelong learners. Its work is about re-defining play and re-imagining learning. In collaboration with thought leaders, influencers, educators and parents the LEGO Foundation aims to equip, inspire and activate champions for play. For more information about The LEGO Foundation visit:

About Cotlands
Cotlands is a non-profit early childhood development organisation addressing the education and social crisis by establishing early learning playgroups and toy libraries in under-resourced communities to serve vulnerable children aged birth to six. For more information about Cotlands visit:







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