Income inequality perpetuates poverty and limits life opportunities. All South African children are born with immense potential for flourishing, however, early experiences will enhance or inhibit their development, affecting future educational outcomes and limiting career opportunities.
The first 1 000 days and early childhood are the periods of greatest brain development. Access to high-quality care and early learning stimulation for young children are among the greatest opportunities for breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty. Despite this:
Therefore, without sufficient and predictable income, ELPs cannot provide the quality of care and learning that can break intergenerational cycles of poverty in South Africa.
The majority of South Africans are stuck in an inequality trap with wealth concentrated in the hands of a few. Most are stuck in intergenerational loops of exclusion with few chances to escape. Breaking this cycle requires a fundamental change in life trajectories, starting in the womb.
Think of a Möbius strip – just one twist in the circle allows you to trace a completely different pattern. Instead of being stuck on the inside of a loop, you emerge on the outside. In the same way, escaping the inequality trap requires a fundamental twist to set South Africa on a new path.
The majority of early learning programmes (67%) do not receive the ECD subsidy, which is a critical step in ensuring programme quality and sustainability2ECD Census 2021 – Summary of Key Results, Department of Basic Education. Accessed here: https://bit.ly/3M5VONq .
Both the state and the donor community will need to collaborate in supporting registration efforts, however, there is currently little clarity on how donors and the state can work collaboratively. Furthermore, there are opportunities to use information technology to build an increasingly informed body of ECD practitioners.
ELPs are historically geographically isolated and institutionally disconnected. Practitioners may lack information on how to effectively run an ELP, how to get registered, where to access training and how to find appropriate resources. While there are a large number of existing organisations that support practitioners, they are typically focused on practitioners in a specific geographic catchment area.
Umncedi intends to curate and disseminate relevant information for all ECD practitioners across the country, mobilising resources to improve the quality of delivery of early learning. This will be primarily targeted at unregistered and conditionally registered ELPs, with the aim of connecting existing contributions from resource and training organisations, ECD forums and other sectoral players.
Umncedi will increase ECD programme access to relevant information to support registration and quality programmes. It will also improve support for ECD registration and programme sustainability. This can be achieved through the following activities:
Trying to change life trajectories is ambitious and profound. It requires us to radically influence the lives of individuals and to be part of changing the circumstances in which they live.
Read more about why early childhood development is a key aspect of driving social change in South Africa here.