By Fefekazi Mavuso
Two 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