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Zero2Five celebrates 10 years offering 100 bursaries to rural ECD practitioners.

Having committed the past decade to supporting ECD (Early Childhood Development) in South Africa’s rural communities, Zero2Five Trust will celebrate its milestone birthday in October by continuing this legacy. In lieu of a party, the Durban-based NPO has launched its Amplify Rural ECD campaign, offering 100 bursaries to rural ECD practitioners, and providing educational resources to many under-resourced ECD centres.

 Julika Falconer, CEO of Zero2Five, says in the 10 years, the team, partners, funders, and beneficiaries have witnessed continuous programme expansions, celebrations – and a few setbacks – along the way:

 “Many of these memories weren’t captured on film or in history books, but these moments built a resilient, growing non-profit organisation. That’s why we continue to ground our community development model on strengthening the ECD sector in rural areas by supporting ECD owners and practitioners with services that allow them to build capacity and self-sustainability while offering holistic nutrition and early learning programmes for families in their communities.”

 From 2014 to 2024, Zero2Five grew its 3 ECD programmes – Nutrition & WASH, Play & Learn, and ECD Registration & Capacity Building – in rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. This includes feeding highly nutritious breakfasts and lunches, training and assisting in growing vegetable gardens, early learning literacy, and the donation of play and educational resources to unfunded ECD centres. The organisation now supports 521 ECD Centres, 984 ECD practitioners, and more than 13 000 children in rural areas.

 The launch of Amplify Rural ECD, in commemoration of Zero2Five’s 10th anniversary, is a catalyst for realising the NPO’s vision of achieving better early learning outcomes in marginalised communities. Falconer says, through this campaign, they’re taking the 3 ECD programmes to the next level because ‘South Africa’s children can only thrive when everyone has access to adequate nutrition and quality, early learning programmes’.

 “Instead of throwing a party, we have offered 100 bursaries to rural ECD practitioners, giving them a chance to register and take part in two main modules for Legacy Level 4 SETA ECD training with our training partners, Midlands Community College [MCC] and Letcee [Little elephant training centre for early education],” she explained.

 According to Falconer, there is a tight deadline for the Legacy ECD training because, from July 2024, no further students can be registered with the ETDP SETA (Education, Training and Development Practices Sector Education and Training Authority), as the qualification is changing to an Occupational Certificate in ECD. The new, 18-month qualification requires English and Maths at Grade 12, although Grade 11 students can be accepted following a successful Maths and English proficiency exam.

 “We assessed well over 600 ECD practitioners at rural, unfunded ECD centres in the KZN Local Municipalities we serve, and our concern was that the majority would neither be able to afford, nor have the necessary entry requirements for the upgraded Occupational Certificate in ECD post-July 2024,” says Falconer. “This means that rural ECD centres unable to employ a qualified ECD teacher might face closure. The campaign addresses this with our various training groups rolled out in Bergville in April, scheduled to the end of June.”

 In addition to the bursaries, Zero2Five secured several giveaways for the many under-resourced ECD centres on its programme, including educational toys.

 “We’re looking forward to seeing the children at the centres test and enjoy these new toys. Particularly exciting is a bespoke and fantastic Busy Board which pensioner Timothy Taylor in Waterfall is making for us. These will gifted to 10 ECD centres,” continues Falconer.

 The Busy Boards are colourful, and engaging standing toys that allow eight children to participate in various activities at once, including ball followers, mazes, threading activities, blackboard writing and more. The multi-tactile panels benefit sensory integration, as well as cognitive and motor planning development.

 To find out more about Zero2Five’s projects or find out how to get involved, visit www.zero2five.org.za or email enquiries@zero2five.org.za

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