The Indaba Institute is calling for a “new dawn” now that the function shift of Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres has moved from the Department of Social Development to the Department of Basic Education.
The Stellenbosch-based teacher training centre has pioneered a new, internationally-accredited ECD teacher training course, specifically for those who teach children aged six years old or younger.
The Institute's André Shearer said he believes investment in the earliest years of a child’s life is the greatest investment that society can make.
“The profound impacts of ECD and education are beyond any doubt,” he said.
Shearer has been a fierce advocate of quality ECD for several years, leading him to establish the Institute.
He said research shows this is a critical phase.
“Brain development and brain plasticity prior to and around the age of five is absolutely singular in its importance for human development. ECD, when implemented properly, allows for an open architecture – they learn to concentrate, they learn to love to learn, and they learn to take charge of their lives with great relish,” Shearer said.
He said one of the most vital evolutions is how to tackle the education of youngsters. Shearer said this needs quality ECD teaching and, often, the missing link is the actual training of teachers.
“Training ECD teachers is becoming our most important priority. ECD is an investment in what our future society can be like. Research from Harvard University tells us the biggest precursor to adult-onset disease profiles comes from the stresses and traumas experienced in early childhood. The World Bank will tell you the single biggest return on investment for a society is investing in ECD. If ECD flourishes, it will allow a new society to emerge,” he said.
Indaba Institute director Jasmine Jacob said if children had the foundations for numeracy literacy and believed in themselves then they – regardless of their skin colour and background – had the ability and potential to succeed, and they would realise that they are enough.
“In South Africa, we know that teachers who are passionate and committed to child and community development are not always supported in working with children from all walks of life. We are also aware that the ways of teaching and learning, that can address challenges like this, have been inaccessible to those in our society that need it most.
“Quality education does not belong in a single community. Every child has the right to achieve their full potential and every teacher can become a guide to support the child in doing so,” Jacob said.
She added that the project has shown how, with locally relevant, high quality teacher training, in partnership with the private sector and local government, quality education can be made accessible to all communities.
Jacob said, in this way, social justice becomes possible.