A nurtured childhood … what we need to hold onto for future generations

By Fefekazi Mavuso

ECDTwo months ago, I stepped into a new world.  In my quest to do something different with my life, I left my job in the financial services industry and I entered a world where supporting (and actively promoting) Early Childhood Development, is all-consuming. Very, very quickly, I learnt that experts believe that the first 1000 days of a child’s life are the most crucial; that it is during this time, that their potential to be the best they can be, is nurtured. As I heard this idea being driven home, over and over again, I was reminded of the day that I was interviewed for this position.  During the interview, I was asked about “my story” and what attributed to my resilience and to my success in life, thus far. In telling my story, I concluded that I am part of the ‘Model C’ generation; that I have been part of two different worlds – township and suburban. Not only has this opened my mind to the possibilities out there, but it has made me more inquisitive and eager to learn. I was blessed with the opportunity to learn and here I am, so I thought. But as I pondered this more, I realised that my resilience actually stems from the core of my childhood, which was spent in rural Eastern Cape and the township of Khayelitsha. I realised that I also had all the essentials in place: my grandmother; my family who provided a caring support structure along with food, love and nurturing;  I was allowed to play in a safe environment, and I attended the local crèche which I am certain helped to build some very important skills. For the first time, I realised just how deeply ECD was embedded in my story and rooted in who I am. I also saw that this notion of Early Childhood Development is what we need to hold onto for future generations.

As I begin to find my feet in my new world, I am overwhelmed by the scope of the reality that not many South African children have access to the fundamentals: nutritional support, primary level maternal and child health interventions, social services and protection, support for their primary caregivers, and stimulation for early learning. I am in a privileged position where I am able to learn from our implementing partners about South Africa’s challenges in implementing programmes that will ensure the creation of an optimal learning environment for children. For example, during a recent meeting in the Eastern Cape, a representative from the Department of Social Development raised the issue of staff shortages, and the fact that the Department does not have enough cars to do the site visits in order for the registration of ECD sites to be effected. Of course this raises the question of protocols and how these might hampen the provision of services.  But, it also forces us to think innovatively about these challenges and about how they might be overcome.

In a very short time, I have come across community-based organisations doing great work in the field, often reaching large numbers of people, across the country. Many struggle to operate, yet they manage to do small projects that have a tremendous impact in their respective communities.  Reflecting on my story, I am reminded just how important the basics are. I am hugely inspired to do my bit to ensure that every child is able to access services that they are entitled to.  I am looking forward to my own growth in this space, becoming familiar with the language and strategies that we might use, and most importantly, finding myself. I look forward to seeing the outcomes of the many programmes that are currently being implemented as I hold onto the words of S.C.S Lewis … children are not a distraction from more important work; they are the most important work.

Fefekazi Mavuso recently joined the DG Murray Trust as Grants Coordinator in our Resourceful Young Children Portfolio

 

3 Comments

  • Allison says:

    I am nowhere near ready to implement my dream of starting development centres all across South Africa to work hand in hand with parents and children to build a better society but I am working towards getting closer by working on an all encompassing proposal.

    I too have been exposed to township life (Mitchell’s Plain) and the suburbs, attending an elite Model C school in Rondebosch. Ours, is the generation that comprehends the pitfalls and we have what it takes to make the difference and effect change and growth in the destitute areas, with focus being around the Cape.

    We tend to look at the problems in isolation and we continue to fix the symptoms and then wonder why it isn’t working. I stand firm in my conviction that if we are to bring about change – we have to fix the problems at home. Our children are growing up exposed to gangsterism, drugs, alcohol, abuse, etc. There is no solid platform being laid for them to build a different life. There is a lack of guidance, care, love, discipline and support and so they battle to flourish. They battle to see beyond their desperate circumstances. I know that as a 5, 6, 7, 8 years old I would feel completely abandoned and lost without my parents. There is always a choice but nobody shares this vital piece of information. The children in these destitute communities end up seeking love and a sense of belonging in the wrong places. Before even they know it, they have given birth to two or three children from different men and so the ugly, vicious cycle continues. There remains no role model for the children. This is the pattern that needs to be changed. That is the chain that needs to be broken.

    I’m excited to get to a point of getting my hands dirty and working hard with children to sell the dream. To help them see a bigger, brighter and better picture for themselves. I’m excited to learn more about other initiatives out there as we’re all working towards the same goal just taking different routes. I am looking forward to establishing my own role in helping create and develop a better South Africa.

    If you have any advice of any kind, please feel free to share that with me.

  • Many thanks for sharing your story. It has much that I recognize from the UK. While we have a legacy of relatively well resourced and established services and systems to support early childhood development, health and learning there is currently huge downward pressure on resources at the same time as recognition of the need for integration and focus on the the first 1001 critical days. My wife is an early years teacher and I am a health visitor by profession. Health visitors are public health nurses who reach out to all families of children under the age of five through home visiting and working with other services. We’re complementary to ‘centre-based’ services. The challenge in the UK is that inequalities in health, learning and development are stubbornly ingrained,especially as the wealth divide increases. I’m sure that we in the UK have a great deal to learn from South Africa in the realm of leadership and entrepreneurial skills to advance social goals as the state is less and less directly a provider or funder of services.

    After more than 30 years work as a practitioner and then in professional education I presently work for the Institute of Health Visiting as Education Advisor. If you find our website useful so let me know. http://ihv.org.uk/

    With all possible good wishes for your work with DG Murray Trust
    Robert Nettleton

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