The Department of Social Development in Mbombela, in collaboration with our Cipla Foundation, yesterday launched a specialised early childhood development (ECD) campus in the informal settlement of Kabokweni. This fire resistant structure is geared to provide quality ECD facilities and services to the 40 000 inhabitants of the settlement.
In a very colourful opening ceremony Paul Miller and the Deputy Minister (DM) of Social Development had a ribbon cutting ceremony unveiling the ECD plaque. The SABC2 TV channel interviewed Paul and the DM of Social Development which was aired on the News. After a guided tour of the facilities by David Grier, the VIP party moved to a marquee tent where the dignitaries were welcomed by children from the community by doing a traditional dance and singing. Afterwards Paul had the privilege of addressing 200 residents of the community Kabokweni.
Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, DM of Social Development, said that this investment ties into the National Development Plan (NDP), which highlights the structural reforms needed to create an enabling environment for job creation and inclusive growth.
“Several objectives outlined in the NDP are aligned to immediate and sustained future growth, such as improving the quality of education through high-quality ECD. We have decided to launch this centre on Child Protection Day to bring hope to the 150 children and parents of Kabokweni.” A child’s ability to learn, grow and thrive can be profoundly affected by the quality of the care and the nutrition it receives during the first few years of life, says Bogopane-Zulu.
There are approximately 19 971 ECD centres nationwide, only half of which are formally registered. Of these registered and unregistered centres, more than 17% are operated from a house or part of a house, including a garage, and 10% operate from a shack. Additionally, over a quarter of practitioners that run these centres have not completed Matric. We thus decided to invest in this ECD campus, developed by the Cipla Foundation, to ensure that the children of Kabokweni have access to a safe space in which to learn as well as have access to qualified educators and facilitators.
She adds that the Department of Social Development will identify, employ and train practitioners to qualify as facilitators to run the ECD campus. The department has graded the ECD Campus as Platinum status, which will warrant the facility full access to government support and resourcing. Deputy Minister further emphasised that the access to the ECD will be prioritised to children registered with the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), to ensure that families who are reliant on the grant system are not excluded from the crèche services. The ECD centre in Mbombela will also have a screening and family planning unit, which caters specifically to teenage mothers, as well as a care unit for infants between 0-18 months of age.
We at Cipla feel that the effective roll-out of this and similar initiatives is one which can only be fulfilled through partnerships between Corporate South Africa and Government. Through an inclusive partnership we can achieve more tangible results of increased primary school enrolment, enhanced school performance, lower repetition and drop-out rates, reductions in juvenile crime rates, reduced remedial education costs and improved economic and social productivity.
Several studies indicate that early childhood development (ECD) programmes in developing countries lead to higher levels of primary school enrolment and educational performance, which in turn positively affect employment opportunities later in life. The Cipla Foundation’s hope and vision for communities such as Kabokweni is to further build towards the matric pass rate, which provincially is currently at 78.6%, down from 79%. The long-term benefits will see significant social, education and economic returns to society.
To close off the ceremony, a communal lunch was served to Kabokweni and school uniforms were handed out to the beneficiaries of the various schools in the community.