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Unlocking Potential: The Power of Affordable ECD Centres in low-income areas-By Monja Boonzaier

Early childhood education (ECE) in South Africa traditionally begins at age 3, leaving a

critical developmental gap during the first two years of a child's life. This lack of support can

profoundly affect a child's socio-emotional development, leading to difficulties forming healthy relationships, emotional challenges, low self-esteem, and an increased risk of mental health issues. The repercussions are widely acknowledged through international experience and research. Moreover, the absence of quality early childhood education programs, especially in rural areas where the need is greatest, exacerbates existing inequalities, particularly for black children in a country still grappling with the aftermath of apartheid.

Access and Challenges: The International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy sheds light on early childhood development (ECD) programs in South Africa and the impact of economic inequality on children's access to quality education. According to the South African Early Childhood Review for 2019, approximately 69% of children between 3 and 5 years old were enrolled in group programs. However, many children from low-income households need more support to afford structured ECD programs and instead receive informal care from untrained caregivers. In addition, only 10% of early childhood educators possess qualifications higher than Grade 12.

Government Efforts and Considerations: While the South African government acknowledges

children's socio-economic rights, more needs to be done to address the needs of the majority. By primarily focusing on starting ECD programs at age 3, the potential consequences of neglecting the crucial first two years of a child's life are overlooked. Furthermore, short-term measures, such as lowering the school pass rate to accommodate ill-prepared students, offer no sustainable solution and further deteriorate the country's long-term economic prospects.

The Hamba Bamba Funda Solution: Investing in early childhood development from birth is

paramount to tackle the root causes of social and economic inequalities and pave the way for a brighter future for all South African citizens. Hamba Bamba Funda (HBF) provides a much-needed remedy for the neglect of quality education in ECD programs. Our training programs equip caregivers with the skills to support children's developmental needs in ECD centres and within their family circles, fostering holistic growth. One notable aspect of our training is the inclusion of Trauma- informed Experiential Learning, a crucial component often overlooked in ECD programs. Our unique focus on the nervous system and trauma sets us apart, addressing a significant gap in the education system.

The Path Forward: Our ultimate goal is to integrate the ECE training program into the South African educational system, offering a powerful tool for positive change and a brighter future for all citizens. By addressing the neglect of quality early childhood education programs and incorporating trauma- informed, holistic, and community-based approaches, we can ensure that every child in South Africa has an equal opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential. Furthermore, investing in a holistic approach to early childhood development is instrumental in addressing social and economic inequalities and building a better tomorrow for all South Africans.

It is crucial that we invest in our children's education today, recognizing the profound

impact it can have on their lives and the future of our nation. By integrating a holistic approach to ECD into the educational system and prioritizing the needs of under-resourced communities, we can unlock the full potential of every child. Let us work together to build a brighter future for all, where every child has an equal chance to succeed and thrive in South Africa.

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