An urban child begins Grade One having spent an average of four or five years already receiving an early education, whereas a township child who has attended a typical crèche has essentially only been babysat. Bulelwa Mokori digs a little deeper into these discrepancies.
Research by the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) shows that there is an essential window period in the life of a child. According to their report, in a country where 40 percent of children grow up in abject poverty, numerous challenges exist that prevent the adequate provision of Early Childhood Development (ECD) to all children, not least of which is the inequality in access to these services.
Ian Corbishley, the Director of Operations at Unlimited Child, says the majority of parents in townships send their children to a crèche from an early age to allow the parents to return to work as soon as possible. “Many such crèches do not have formal accreditation and therefore teachers are, in truth, babysitters rather than educators,” he argues. Corbishley says that the typical suburban parents send their children to a preschool where there is focus on ECD, using play activities to teach and stimulate children.
According to Corbishley, reading and writing skills are learnt before our formal schooling career begins. He says the first five years of a child’s life, when they are most receptive to new information, are the most crucial to ensuring children are well equipped for school. “Children develop a connection between letters and sounds in those early years through imaginative play, rhyming and word games. Children who are given early learning opportunities display a marked improvement in their reading and writing ability. Having foundation phase skills puts these children in a much better position to perform well academically,” he says. He also claims that foundation phase learning is vital for success at later grade level.