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Drive on to boost literacy development for youngsters

A TEACHER shows kids in his class a book during a lesson. l SUPPLIED

A TEACHER shows kids in his class a book during a lesson. l SUPPLIED

Published Jun 11, 2022


Cape Town - Concerns have been raised by early childhood organisations regarding the development of children who are six and younger.

To alleviate some of these concerns, Innovation Edge, an impact-first investor focused on solving early childhood challenges in South Africa, has launched a campaign to find and fund products or services that aim to improve pre-school teachers' support of early literacy development for 4- to 6-year-olds in South Africa’s impoverished communities.

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This call originated from the launch of the Thrive by Five Index in April. It was found that close to half of 4- to 5-year-old children from the poorest households, who are attending early learning programmes, are not meeting the literacy and language standards for their age.

Director of the Centre for Early Childhood Development, Eric Atmore, said the main problem facing children between the ages of four and six is poor education opportunities. This results in under-performance in literacy, numeracy and not acquiring the appropriate life skills that kids need to succeed in life.

“An important reason for this is that there is a distinct lack of political will by the South African government to meet children’s basic needs. Our children receive poor quality education, go hungry, live in difficult environments where crime and gangsterism is rife and experience abuse, neglect and violence.

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“Despite our government signing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), children are not valued in South Africa. Government has forgotten about our youngest children,” he said.

Executive director of Wordworks, Mammuso Makhanya, said a major factor that many children had to contend with was the absence of stable and high-quality early learning opportunities.

“This period is part of the crucial formative time for a child, setting the trajectory for their school years and beyond. Many children from under-resourced communities in South Africa have started school already behind, having missed out on vital language, literacy learning in the early years.

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“The result, in these cases, is that teachers struggle to make up for lost time, and the achievement gap becomes entrenched from the earliest years, worsening inequality, and extending the cycle of lost opportunity and wasted potential.

“The benefits of investing in this period are deep and wide, providing the foundations not only for individual flourishing,but also for a successful education system, a stronger society, and more efficient public spending,” said Makhanya.

Investment associate at Innovation Edge, Nonku Nyathi, said the type and quality of experiences in the first five years of a child’s life determines how their brains will develop over time. This lays the foundations for lifelong health, learning and relationship building.

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“We believe that one of the ways to improve the early literacy and language skills of South African pre-schoolers is through improving the training, support and provision of resources for their teachers.

“Some of the ways this can be done include in-service training, for example ongoing mentoring and coaching and creating structured opportunities for reflection and peer learning,” Nyathi said.

Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson, Bronagh Hammond, said: “The WCED welcomes initiatives that are well-researched, age-appropriate that will improve the life chances of all younger pupils to meet the literacy and language standards for their age.”

More information about this call for applications can be found at

Weekend Argus

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