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Addressing childhood development gaps and C-19 impact on Saldanha Bay communities

With the ongoing negative impact of COVID-19 and lockdown regulations on the rate of unemployment and household income in the Saldanha Bay Local Municipality area, it has become evident that additional support for children, families and Early Childhood Development (ECD) services is needed.

The Playgroup Site Learning Programme, an education capacity building initiative, which launched in 2018 to address the lack of access to formal ECD services in these West Coast communities, helps to ensure that children receive quality learning and caring, to be better prepared to enter Grade 1. This was implemented long before C-19, which is why adjustments and further support is now needed.

Five playgroups, in Hopefield, continue to provide learning support for 30 beneficiaries, including nutritional support in the form of cooked meals and a monthly stipend for playgroup leaders.

“We are responding to the need to increase support to community ECD centres and our network of Playgroups in the Hopefield and Koperfontein communities, which launched a few years ago. With the modified approach, new learners on the Playgroup programme will receive at home learning kits to ensure continued learning even when away from the playgroup, especially to counteract the impact of C-19 on formal playgroup attendance,” said Celiwe Mabaso, Community Operations Manager for Umoya Energy Wind Farm.

Last year educational learning packs were provided for the playgroup beneficiaries, each pack having the following learning material and PPE of, puzzles, crayons, activity book, facemask, and sanitizer. The packs included an easy to use guide for parents at home and playgroup leaders have been trained on how to utilize ‘WhatsApp’ to share weekly themes and exercises.

Playgroup leaders receive on-going support, mentoring, and training focused on helping young children to grow in confidence and become school-ready. It addresses the breach between the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) and the CAPS system (National Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement), two frameworks that are designed as a guide to develop curriculum programmes for children in the early years.

The programme framework additionally assists adults to develop effective practices through planning, integrating and offering activities to meet the needs of each child so that they can develop knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours for life, learning, schooling and work.

The 2021 programme also incorporates bi-annual assessments for school beginners, and supports five local registered ECD centres with training, mentoring and curriculum development. This is in line with the objectives of the Department of Social Development in the local municipality that is looking to increase the number of formal registered ECDs in the Area.

“The purpose of assessment is to support and encourage development and learning in babies, toddlers and young children and to assess their needs in all aspects of their lives. It aims to gather information about a number of skills and developmental attributes relating to childhood development. Tools are implemented to collect and tabulate the information gathered about a child, with the purpose of ascertaining progress, special needs, and promoting learning and development, amongst a range of other outputs,” explained Mareldia Tape, Director of Grassroots Educare Trust.

The assessment is done over a 5-day period in a school. The Playgroup Mentor and Coach of a region support the assessor. The children are each accompanied by their teachers so as not to expose the child to strangers only, as this can have a negative effect on the assessment results. Anxiety and nervousness in the children can impact negatively on the research.

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