By GIFT NDOLWANE
JOHANNESBURG – A NEW innovative challenge has been launched in South Africa to highlight early childhood development as a critical base for overall academic success.
ECD Heroes Challenge, an initiative of an organisation called Innovation Edge, highlights the importance of ECD on learners’ success in such levels as Matric.
An eight-week challenge for ECD practitioners that is set to elevate and celebrate the significant role of this educare practitioner in society, it has been launched as around 800 000 Matric learners prepare for the final examinations that will end their school careers.
Sonja Giese, Executive Director of Innovation Edge, which seeks solutions for early childhood care and education challenges in under-resourced communities, said ECD is a critical determinant of future success.
“The foundations for language development, literacy, numeracy, social skills and even higher cognitive functions are all embedded within the brain in the first six years of life,” said Giese.
“Enabling positive brain development at the beginning of a child’s life produces better health, education and social outcomes for that child.”
Data collected in 2016 on more than 1 300 Grade R learners showed that the performance of the poorest children tends to be lowest – in all areas of development.
These children start school at a disadvantage and the gap between them and their better-off peers just widens over time.
Government has set an ambitious target of achieving universal and equitable ECD by 2030 but almost one million of the poorest three- to five-year-olds in South Africa still have no access to early learning programmes.
“It’s clear that providing universal access to high-quality preschool services will help ensure a fair start for all children,” said Giese.
“Yet the prevailing culture continues to undervalue ECD services as well as the ECD practitioners who deliver these programmes.”
The ECD Heroes Challenge is based on the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation technology platform, which is already recognised as a successful tool for training and development of young entrepreneurs.
Innovation Edge is looking forward to testing the approach.
“If successful, we hope to scale this significantly in future years in collaboration with ECD service providers, government, funders and business,” Giese said.
The ECD Heroes Challenge runs from October 2 to December 3.
To qualify for the Challenge, ECD practitioners must be working with children between the ages of 2-5 years in home-based, community based or centre programmes.
Innovation contest focuses on catching them young
By GIFT NDOLWANE