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Nurturing the Future: Seriti’s 3rd Annual Partner Networking Event Unlocks Collaboration for Impactful ECD Initiatives.

Early childhood is a pivotal stage that shapes a child’s future trajectory, laying the foundation for their physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being. Recognising the critical importance of this formative period, Seriti Institute, a non-profit organisation dedicated to community development, has been at the forefront of Early Childhood Development (ECD) and Parental Support initiatives through its aRe Bapaleng Programme.

On 17 May 2024, Seriti Institute hosted its 3rd aRe Bapaleng Annual Partner Networking Event, bringing together a diverse array of stakeholders to explore collaborative efforts in supporting ECD and other important initiatives in the ECD ecosystem. The event served as a platform for knowledge sharing, fostering partnerships, and amplifying the impact of collective efforts in nurturing the development of South Africa’s youngest citizens.

Launched with support from Standard Bank SA in 2020, the aRe Bapaleng Programme, which translates to Let’s Play in Sotho, is a comprehensive initiative aimed at empowering parents and caregivers in marginalised communities. By providing them with the knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to create a nurturing environment, the programme seeks to foster early learning and development opportunities for children aged 0-8.

The event highlighted the significance of the aRe Bapaleng Programme within the broader framework of ECD and other initiatives in the ECD ecosystem. As outlined in the aRe Bapaleng Impact Report, the programme aligns with global and local best practices, such as the National Development Plan 2030 and the National Integrated Early Childhood Development (NIECD) Policy, which emphasise the crucial role of parents in offering early learning opportunities for young children.

The panel discussions that took place highlighted the role and the importance of Public Employment Programmes for the expansion and strengthening of the ECD offering in the country. It was emphasised that these programmes provide an opportunity for young people to explore the possible career paths that are available to them in the ECD sector. Additionally, it was confirmed that parents and caregivers play a pivotal role in the early learning and development of children; thus,programmes like aRe Bapaleng are crucial in supporting them with the information and resources they need to support their children in their home environments.

Grounded in the Nurturing Care Framework principles, aRe Bapaleng promotes conditions that enable children to thrive, including good health, adequate nutrition, responsive caregiving, opportunities for learning, and security and safety. By adopting a holistic and multi-sectoral approach, the programme addresses various critical aspects within the comprehensive ECD support ecosystem.

The event’s keynote address and panel discussions illuminated the interconnectedness of the ECD ecosystem, Early Learning Programmes (ELPs), home-based and centre-based approaches, Public Employment Programmes (PEPs) and an array of ECD initiatives. Speakers from government entities and partner organisationshighlighted social value creation potential, emphasising their role in strengthening ECD ecosystems and empowering communities.

As underscored by the aRe Bapaleng Impact Report, the programme’s success is rooted in its collaborative approach, fostering partnerships with a diverse range of stakeholders, including non-profit organisations, community-based organisations, the private sector, and public institutions. By leveraging the strengths and expertise of these partners, Seriti has been able to amplify its impact and create a more comprehensive support system for early childhood development.

One of the core pillars of the aRe Bapaleng Programme is the Caregiver Network, which aims to create a cohort of in-community Early Learning and Development Champions. These Caregiver Networkers are selected from the pool of parents and caregivers who have completed the programme’s Active Learning Workshops (ALWs), which are blended learning and interactive sessions to strengthen caregivers’ skills and knowledge. The Learning through Play method and ethos play a crucial role in strengthening the local ECD ecosystem.

Through their involvement, Caregiver Networkers not only facilitate ALWs for other parents and caregivers but also deliver home-based ECD training and support services, raise awareness about early learning and development within their communities, and volunteer at local Early Learning Programmes. This grassroots approach fosters sustainability, reach, and impact over time, empowering communities to take ownership of their children’s development.

The event also highlighted the positive impact of the aRe Bapaleng Programme on the lives of parents, caregivers, and children. As evidenced by the testimonials and feedback shared in the Impact Report, parents and caregivers have reported improved confidence and ability to support their children’s early learning and development. They have adopted healthier lifestyles, prioritised quality time with their children, and fostered stronger bonds through responsive caregiving practices.

Furthermore, the programme has catalysed positive changes in children’s behaviour, with parents and caregivers noting increased creativity, improved listening skills, and enhanced trust and communication within their relationships. These outcomes align with the programme’s overarching goal of creating a nurturing environment that promotes holistic development and lays a solid foundation for children’s future success.

Collaboration and partnership were the overarching themes of the 3rd Annual Partner Networking Event, underscoring the importance of collective action in driving sustainable change within the ECD landscape and ecosystem of complementary initiatives. Participants had the opportunity to engage in networking sessions, exchange ideas, and explore potential collaborations, paving the way for future joint initiatives and synergies.

As the event concluded, Seriti Institute reaffirmed its commitment to fostering partnerships and driving sustainable change in ECD and ecosystem initiatives. The organisation expressed gratitude to its partners and stakeholders, acknowledging their invaluable contributions to the success of the aRe Bapaleng Programme and its mission to nurture the development of South Africa’s youngest citizens.

Looking ahead, Seriti Institute envisions expanding the reach of the aRe Bapaleng Programme through the establishment of community-based aRe Bapaleng Junxions or hubs for interactive play and learning. These dedicated spaces will serve as hubs for ongoing support, training, and resources for parents and caregivers, offering opportunities for families to engage in activities with their children and benefiting informal ECD centres and day mothers lacking access to play facilities. The organisation looks forward to social investment by all stakeholders in this next phase of the aRe Bapaleng story. Additionally, the introduction of the aRe Bapaleng APP will play a crucial role in supporting the programme’s Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning function, enabling more efficient oversight of activities, and facilitating the assessment of outcomes and impact. The APP also provides learning resources for parents and caregivers and will enable interactive mentorship with the Seriti Team.

The 3rd Annual Partner Networking Event was a testament to the power of collaboration and the shared commitment to create an enabling environment where every child can thrive and reach their full potential.

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