Speaking notes for MEC Senzo Mchunu on the occasion of the launch of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) campaign for 4-year olds, a joint venture between KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education and Department of Social Development
23 Feb 2012
Programme Directors, Mr Bheki Nkosi and Dr Nkosinathi Sishi;
Inkosi yesizwe sakwaMkhwanazi;
MEC for Social Development, Mrs Weziwe Thusi;
District Mayor of Umkhanyakude Municipality, Cllr Jeff Vilane;
SGM for Curriculum Development and Delivery of the Department of Education;
Officials from the Department of Education;
Officials from the Department of Social Development;
Ladies and gentlemen.
Let me take this opportunity to greet the community of KwaSomkhele andMtubatuba. But most importantly, I wish to express our heartfelt gratitude that you have come out in large numbers to grace this very important event. We are here to say the Government of KwaZulu-Natal and most specifically, the department of Social Development and the department of Education want all 4-year-olds to attend crèches and other forms of Early Childhood Development (ECD) schooling.
Essentially, we are here to encourage all stay-at-home mums and anyone with the real interest in children to play an active role in our children’s positive development. At this point I’m reminded of “Children are like wet cement. Whatever falls on them makes an impression.” – Dr Hiam Ginnot, a renowned Israeli school teacher and child psychologist”.
That is why we felt the need to embark on this campaign because there’s overwhelming evidence to suggest that ideas instilled in young minds are likely to have a lasting impact… We advocate for this because there are many studies and surveys that have been conducted, the world over, on this issue. And one of the major findings of these studies is that early childhood development shapes the future of a nation.
The studies further assert that, the first few years of a child’s life set the path for her development and determine his or her eventual success in life. In other words, what this says is any developed nation owes most of its developed nature to the work and resources it puts towards early childhood development.
Now, if we take the case of South Africa, this nation has made very bold statements about the need to develop education in this country. These statements emanate from the 1955 Freedom Charter which among other things stated the following: “the doors of learning and of culture shall be opened!”
But when does education really begin? Many of us began formal education at the age of 6, 7 or even much later. Up until very recently, education began when a child met a teacher in a Grade 1 class.
Early childhood education was just a reserve of a few people. But even that was not properly and equitably structured. In suburban areas, the well-off communities would have formal early childhood development centres.
In townships, however, these have not been so well-organized because in many cases a crèche would be opened by a lady who wants to make a living out of working mothers who couldn’t afford a nanny to look after their child during the day while they eke out an existence in firms and other places of work in urban areas.
Taking a cue from studies and a number of research documents, this government took the decision to embark on a campaign to get all 5-year olds enrolled into early childhood centres. And according to Statistics South Africa, in 2010, about 89 percent of individuals above the age of 5 were attending formal education including Grade R.
In KwaZulu-Natal we have made significant progress in getting 5-year olds enrolled with a report showing that 95 percent of this age group are in Grade R classes in over 3 897 primary schools. However this is not enough, we still need to do more to get the remaining 5 percent in schools. It is therefore for this reason that we’ve joined hands with the Department of Social Development and said we will roll our sleeves and dirty our hands. We will move everything in our path to ensure that children get stimulated from a very early age.
We are spurred on by the overwhelming evidence that suggest that children who enter school without the necessary intellectual stimulation from an early age have less ability to learn. They therefore perform poorly at school and are unlikely to find good jobs in later years. And I think a lot of us can attest to this.
We are here to say let us open our hearts and our homes to these little ones. We all know how inquisitive the mind of a little child is, all it requires is stimulation. We are talking about very simple things here such as mothers and children playing with toys to guide learning and exploration.
Scientists and researchers tell us that this can improve sensory and motor development for children, even where other negative factors such as malnutrition and poverty are pervasive.
We need volunteers with passion for children and on our part as government, we will provide the necessary training and skills on what and how to teach the young ones. At this point I wish to indicate to you just how much we are trailing behind as South African in this area. Again I will quote statistics provided by STATS SA following the 2010 Household Survey that was conducted.
According to Statistics South Africa, data collected from households in this country during July, August and September of 2010 found that:
- a paltry 32,3% of children aged between 0 and 4 years old attended ECD
- More children in Gauteng (43%) and the Western Cape (39%) were more likely to attend ECD than in the other provinces
- Statistics further show that KwaZulu-Natal is among the provinces that registered the lowest attendance at 25%.
The Government of South Africa and the department of Education in particular, has in recent years recognised, that there is need to strengthen education at Foundation Level. This does not necessarily represent a shift from what we’ve done in the past. But we have recognised that poor performance by learners at higher grades is directly linked with poor attainments at foundation level. Now because this is the government that is sensitive to peoples’ views and needs, we have responded accordingly.
But we’ve gone two steps further by introducing the Annual National Assessments. This is a tool meant to assist us to gauge the level of understanding of concepts and attainments by learners in the lower grades. These are externally-set tests with specific focus on grades 3, 6 and 9. The performance of learners in the 2011 Annual National Assessments (ANA) have shown that the majority of learners have not mastered the minimum levels of proficiency in literacy and numeracy skills.
These results have also shown that the underperformance is mostly pronounced in rural areas and poverty-stricken areas. It is therefore evident that young children who come from under-served and under-resourced areas with no access to stimulation provided by ECD programmes are affected the most in these tests. At another level, the department introduced Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) from Grades 1 to 3 and Grade 10. The new curriculum was introduced at the beginning of this year. And we are quite confident that it will take our education system to another level.
And thus bringing South Africa much closer to the realisation of our aspirations of being counted among the best countries in the world. So we are here to appeal to you to work with us in this campaign to get your 4-year olds into school. As government, we’ll do our part to ensure that the centres are registered and where we can we will provide the required learning materials and any kind of support that will see our children stimulated.
We are here to plead with Amakhosi, Izinduna, Amakhansela, Mayors and community structures to work with us in this campaign. We will also ensure that we capacitate all those that will open their doors and hearts to all our little ones.
If you do that, you will be contributing to the future of this country.
I thank you!
Issued by: KwaZulu-Natal Education
23 Feb 2012
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