A 22-year-long study started among poor populations in Jamaica in the 1970s by Dr Sally Grantham-McGregor and Christine Powell showed that children whose mothers received weekly home visits for two years by doctors and nurses who helped them engage their babies in play attained higher test scores for reading, mathematics and general knowledge later in life. They stayed in school longer, were less likely to be violent or experience depression, and had better social skills. Significantly, they earned 25% on average more than a control group of similar children.
In a situation in which 50% of South African children who start Grade 1 drop out before matric, and 78% of Grade 4 learners are unable to read for meaning in any language, according to the latest PIRLS test, the need for early childhood stimulation programmes seems pressing.
According to David Harrison of South African foundation the DG Murray Trust, resources that would be better spent in the first years of a child’s life are being concentrated in higher education. “Over the next three years, more than a trillion rand will be spent on basic and higher education, but just 1% of that will go to early learning programmes. When will we confront the reality that homeopathic doses of early learning just won’t work?” he wrote recently.
It’s a view shared by Duncan Andrew, director of the Pietermaritzburg-based Thandanani Children’s Foundation thandanani.org.za). Referring to the #FeesMustFall protests that culminated last year in an increased allocation of funds to higher education, he said: “It feels like the loudest voice gets rewarded … but as in most things, the real rewards lie in early investment.”
However, while financial investment is certainly needed, it does not need to be prohibitively expensive. A partnership forged in 2015 between Thandanani, and two other local NGOs working in the ECD space – Singakwenza (http://www.singakwenza.co.za/) and Dlalanathi (http://dlalanathi.org.za/) – has proved that effective early childhood stimulation interventions can be made without enormous financial resources.
The Play Mat Programme draws on the expertise of all three organisations to target caregivers of children under six who live in resource constrained households that are part of TCF’s Family Strengthening Programme. Caregivers learn basic child development principles, the value of stimulation through play, and the benefits of intentional engagement between caregiver and child.
Caregivers are taught how to make and use educational toys and learning aids made from household packaging such as used yoghurt tubs, milk bottle tops and cereal boxes. The toys are the personal “invention” of ECD practitioner and founder of Singakwenza Julie Hay who was determined to find a sustainable way to facilitate playing and learning among young children.
“Learning is not dependent on having nice shiny toys and materials; it’s about having an adult with commitment,” she said.
Through the Play Mat methodology, each toy is attached to a specific set of lessons for the child – such as eye-hand coordination, problem-solving, counting, and practicing the pincer grip. There are also parenting skills attached to each lesson.
According to Dlalanathi director Rachel Rozentals-Thresher the Play Mat concept builds on [...]
From Thursday, music lovers from all walks of life will be heading to the Soweto Theatre in Jabulani for the first Soweto International Jazz Festival.
Power of Women, Inspiration Night and Celebration of our Future are some of the themes that will define the celebration of the music forms loved in the township. The last one is particularly relevant, says organiser Nolan Baynes of International Arts Solutions, because the festival coincides with Youth Day.
As a result, the programme is fresh and genre-blurring. Visitors will be jamming along to local artists, including Lady Zamar, who took the gong for best dance album at the SA Music Awards last week, gospel star Khaya Mthethwa, Mi Casa, rapper Nasty C, soul star Zamajobe, jazzy R&B king Ernie Smith and the Soweto Gospel Choir.
“We want young people to see themselves represented. We want people who can afford to buy a ticket and to support local vendors to generate revenue in Soweto,” said Baynes, adding that there would be significant free tickets and discounted tickets for Soweto residents.
But the festival is aimed at the entire city – the entire planet, in fact. International Night will also feature a multigenre line-up, among them Grammy winners, including Deborah Cox, Third World, Bob James, Spyro Gyra, The Neville Brothers and, in his first performance in South Africa, R&B legend Charlie Wilson.
“We love jazz, but the economic reality of a purely jazz line-up is limited in scope. We are attempting to duplicate the New Orleans Jazz Fest, Newport Jazz Fest or Montreal Jazz Fest models,” said Baynes.
After attending an event at the Soweto Theatre last year, his plan to host a jazz fest became an imperative. His ultimate goal is “to have Pan-African, American and European music fans descending on Soweto”.
But, ultimately, Baynes told City Press, the dream is to present a festival that highlights the diverse and rich spirit of Soweto.
The event runs from 14 to 17 June at the Soweto Theatre. Tickets are available from sowetotheatre.com, Webtickets and Pick n Pay outlets.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has welcomed the interest shown in South Africa by the global business community at the just concluded G7 Leaders’ Outreach Summit in Quebec City in Canada.
In a statement, the SA presidency said Ramaphosa welcomed the interest in SA as an investment destination and lauded the “wonderful exchange of views” in a session he described as oversold.
According to the presidency, Ramaphosa regards this interest as demonstrating a recognition of South Africa’s new dawn – a period of renewal and rebuilding.
Ramaphosa concluded his working visit to Canada where he participated in the G7 Leaders’ Outreach Summit held in Quebec City under the theme “Healthy, Productive and Resilient Oceans and Seas, Coasts and Communities”.
South Africa’s participation in the two-day session was at the invitation of the host country Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Ramaphosa, who was accompanied by Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa and a business delegation, held engagements with the business community as part of his stated drive to attract investment to grow the economy and create jobs as well as reduce poverty and inequality.