Approximately 72% of children in South Africa’s Province of the Eastern Cape live in impoverished communities, and just 28% of children ages 0 to 4 attend daycare outside the home. Without early education that supports school readiness, most children from disadvantaged backgrounds arrive at kindergarten lacking the basic skills they need to succeed in school. Recognizing that early childhood education is an economic, social and human rights issue, the South African government has prioritized universal access to quality early education by 2030.
South Africa Partners and our community-based partner, Masibumbane Development Organization, have joined the national effort to develop cost-effective strategies to support the scale up of high-quality Early Childhood Development (ECD). In the Eastern Cape we have piloted a model – the Community ECD Network – that allows us to assist early childhood education centers in transforming themselves from minimally provisioned places of care into true centers of learning and development. We collaborate with the ECD Network centers and leverage quality resources that already exist within the local ECD sector. Rather than act as a direct provider of all services and supports that may assist the centers, we work with each center to identify both their strengths and their needs, then coordinate access to and monitor the delivery of needed inputs. We maximize impact and promote sustainability by employing a network-based peer support and professional mentoring strategy.
The Network is comprised of eight under-resourced “creches” or community-based preschools serving 500 children ages 0 to 5 in a high-poverty, peri-urban area. Since we created the Community ECD Network, the preschools have gained access to teacher training, materials for learning and play, and nutritional support. Most significantly, as a result of hard work by our implementing partners and by the Principals of the preschools, five of the eight centers have met the standards required to become formally registered with the Department of Social Development, permitting them to access government funding that will help improve program quality and help ensure financial stability and sustainability.