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Newsletter: From Evidence to Action

Playgroups as a non-centre based Early Childhood Development Programme

Sikhula Sonke in Khayelitsha provides quality early childhood development in the form of an open-air outreach playgroup called the Emthonjeni Outreach Programme. FNB fund manager Pearl Mphuthi, says, “Evidence has shown that where very young children have access to early learning stimulation in the preschool years their ability to benefit from schooling is significantly enhanced. Unfortunately, one of the barriers to preschool attendance in South Africa is cost, and non-centre based ECD initiatives such as playgroups are an excellent way to expose young children to a stimulating learning environment.”

Utilising communal taps in informal settlements as a meeting place, the Emthonjeni Outreach Programme uses safe spaces for interactions between child caregivers and trained ECD fieldworkers, allowing exchange of information, identification of problems and assistance with requirements such as child nutrition, health, safety, government agencies, education and development.

Mdebuka Mtwazi, executive director of Sikhula Sonke says, “Emthonjeni is a Xhosa word that means ‘a water well’ – the traditional heart of the community. In a modern context, the communal taps of the informal settlements are the new ‘water wells’ and also offer one of the few open spaces in these communities – the ideal place to locate an open-air outreach playgroup.”

During interaction times, children are exposed to different learning themes and activities designed to help them develop holistically and gain confidence. As trust is built, children are invited on field trips and caregivers or parents are encouraged to attend cluster workshops.

“The outcomes of this intervention are improvement in the children’s developmental skills, self esteem, social and emotional skills, and ultimately, children are better prepared for mainstream schooling. The ultimate goal of ECD programmes such as these is to improve young children’s capacity to develop and learn,” says Mtwazi.

“Sikhula Sonke’s Emthonjeni Outreach Programme is an essential part in the lives of the children that participate. A child who has been properly prepared for school is socially and emotionally healthy, confident and friendly. These children will be able to tackle tasks and persist with them. Non-centre based ECD programmes such as these strengthen society as a whole by ensuring that its individual members live up to their full potential,” concludes Mphuthi.

For more information on Sikhula Sonke, visit www.sikhulasonke.org.za.