TO GET more children from poor communities into early learning SmartStart is recruiting, training and licensing women to run their own ECD centres. Picture:Nokuthula Mbatha
TO GET more children from poor communities into early learning SmartStart is recruiting, training and licensing women to run their own ECD centres. Picture:Nokuthula Mbatha

SmartStart trains and recruits ECD practitioners to get 98 000 kids into early learning

By Zodidi Dano Time of article published Aug 12, 2021

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WITH about 1.24 million South African children between the ages of 3 and 5 not registered at an adequate Early Development Centre, Early Learning Social Franchise SmartStart is recruiting, training and licensing women to run their own centre in impoverished communities.

According to SmartStart over 750 000 of the 1.24 million children who did not have proper early education were from impoverished communities.

While over 4 million children between zero and 5 years old live in South African's poorest 40% of households. This means that two-thirds of this age group live in families that often cannot afford fee-charging early learning programmes or due to unemployment have no practical need for childcare.

Chief executive at SmartStart Grace Matlhape said; “The first five years of a child’s life are crucial to developing social, cognitive, emotional, and language skills that form the foundations for learning, school performance, and overall life success.

“The extent to which these skills are developed relies on access to certain early learning experiences and interactions, which children living in previously disadvantaged communities are often deprived of.”

Launched in 2015 the corporate company provides a holistic early learning programme to help vulnerable families with both childcare and access to appropriate learning opportunities. The programme is designed to be delivered within existing premises, including home and community-based settings.

To date, SmartStart has trained over 8 800 people to fill the gap in early learning service provision – to the benefit of over 98 000 children across the country.

“It really starts with the complex legislation processes involved in setting them up. For example, to register an early learning programme, the building you use must meet certain requirements. This can make it difficult for those in informal and other low-income communities to register and receive subsidies from the government. As a result, children are left out,” she said.

Matlhape said some early learning programmes do not deliver high-quality programmes due to lack of equipment, play and learning materials.

She said:“We provide practitioners with a daily routine and SmartStart PlayKit, which promotes free play in a language-rich environment and encourages interactive storytelling and the development of self-regulation. Through the core pillars of playing, talking, and nurturing, we aim to ensure that all children in South Africa have age-appropriate social, emotional, learning and language skills by the time they start school.”

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