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The LEGO Foundation provides essential support to ECD services in South Africa

The LEGO Foundation has made grants available to organisations operating within South Africa – Care for Education (CfE), Training and Resources in Early Education (TREE) and UNICEF – to provide support to vulnerable children, families and ECD centres who have been negatively affected by the recent civil unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

This follows an international announcement made recently that the LEGO Foundation has committed USD $150 million to support children and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic across the world. More than half of this amount (USD $70 million) has been allocated to UNICEF to support access to vital vaccines and health supplies benefitting parents, teachers, and caregivers in vulnerable communities around the world.

COVID-19 has severely impacted millions of children with disruptions to their daily routines, social support structures and sense of security. It is estimated that 90% of children in the world have suffered from interruptions in their education due to COVID-19 restrictions and school closures. Those living in impoverished communities have been further disadvantaged by a lack of technical access to online learning opportunities and many have been deprived of the only daily meal provided at school.

In South Africa, the critical COVID-19 situation, already characterised by high unemployment levels, poverty and stringent lockdowns was compounded by the widespread unanticipated unrest and looting that occurred in KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng during July 2021. Communities – adults and children – have been psychologically and emotionally traumatised by the unprecedented violence and looting that resulted in food and essential medicine supply shortages, destruction of buildings, including ECD sites, and closure of businesses.

Kerry Kassen, Director at the LEGO Foundation in South Africa says, “The long-term impact that the recent violence in KZN and COVID-19 lockdowns will have on our children is of great concern to us. Trauma counselling, food security and support to the ECD services that do so much for so many of our children, with very little support, is our immediate priority. We are proud to be part of the efforts to help support so many organizations working directly with children and families to provide help when it’s most needed. Our hope is that the youngest members of our country will be able to get back to being children again, as quickly as possible. We thank the three recipients namely: Care for Education, UNICEF SA and TREE in deploying these resources to their intended beneficiaries with tangible results that we can all be proud of.”

The LEGO Foundation has pledged over R40 million to three organizations (UNICEF, Care for Education and TREE) in South Africa. These organizations will work directly with implementing partners in Kwa-Zulu Natal and Gauteng to support 618 702 children and families. This additional support builds on the COVID-19 funding that was given out in 2020 of approximately R33,8 million.

Care for Education who, through direct support to 23 organisations, will deliver food parcels over a period of six months to the areas of Kwa-Zulu Natal and Gauteng affected by the recent riots and lootings. In addition, specific recipient organizations will provide trauma counselling to children and their parents. Learning Through Play materials, equipped with socio-emotional content will also be provided.

Brent Hutcheson, Director at CfE, noted, “In times of unrest, South Africans are quick to support those in need or those whose wellbeing and livelihood have been affected. Having to deal with these hardships has made many citizens resilient and resourceful. This tends to shift the focus towards immediate support and away from the longer-term support. The looting this year resulted in many families not being able to source food and basic necessities. CfE felt that providing support for the next six months can make all the difference to these families and help parents feed their children.”

A long-time partner of the LEGO Foundation, TREE, was badly vandalized and looted. The organisation that specialises in Early Childhood Development, resources and training needs emergency support to resume their activities. The grant from the LEGO Foundation will assist them with replacing their play resources, replacing food supplies for ECD sites, rebuilding of the training rooms, and food parcels for over 900 families over a period of six months.

Part of UNICEF South Africa’s grant will be used to restore 137 schools that were vandalised in KwaZulu-Natal. The organisation will also be providing trauma counselling for parents and children, mental health support and helping schools with food supplies.

“It is our responsibility to invest in children to ensure they fulfil their right to education and develop skills critical for them to thrive, despite the immense challenges of COVID-19 and the recent unrest,” says Christine Muhigana, UNICEF Representative in South Africa.

“The priority now is to assist children whose lives have been devastated by the civil unrest in KwaZulu Natal and to make sure they have sufficient access to food, trauma support and safe, secure and comfortable learning and play spaces,” adds Muhigana.

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