The Learning Lunch podcast explores ideas, approaches and social innovations – creating opportunity for non-profit organisations’ teams to discover what others are learning and space to reflect on what these insights might mean for their own strategy and programme implementation.

Imagine a world where every child is loved, nourished, and protected—where they are read to, and encouraged to be curious. In this world, children don’t just learn well, but they thrive, and so does the entire country. Nobel Prize Winner for Economic Sciences, James Heckman said: “Early childhood development is the most powerful investment in human capital that a country can make.”  This is because early childhood development lays the foundation for a lifetime of success. But countries require synergy and accelerated delivery of services to ensure every child’s development needs are met, especially when poverty and inequality are high.

In South Africa, essential services for young children are scattered across various state departments. They lack effective synergy and accelerated delivery. We are not the first country to recognise that collaboration and coordination are hurdles to overcome. In their effort to promote early childhood development and break cycles of poverty, a number of countries have established autonomous agencies specifically designed to manage key functions of early childhood development. Others have integrated ECD service delivery under a single government ministry. There are pros and cons to any approach.

In this podcast, we ask the question: What are other countries doing to put children first and what can South Africa learn from them? We speak to Kentse Radebe (Innovation Director in the All children on track by Grade 4 portfolio and incoming Deputy CEO) , Senzo Hlophe (Director of Partnerships & Impact) and Shazly Savahl (Department of Psychology at the University of the Western Cape and Board Member of the International Society for Child Indicators).

Kentse Radebe is currently Innovation Director in the All children on track by Grade 4 portfolio and incoming Deputy CEO. She was previously the Project Manager for Systems Innovation at the Bertha Centre and her academic background is in Sociology and Organisational Psychology. She is also a Senior Atlantic Fellow for Health Equity, a Mail & Guardian 2019 Top 200 Young South Africans award recipient; a Public Health Association of South Africa PHILA Emerging Practitioner Award winner; a Fulbright Scholar and an Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Fellow.

Senzo Hlophe is Director of Partnerships and Impact at Ilifa Labantwana. Prior to his current role, Senzo held several positions within the DG Murray Trust, his last being DGMT’s Director of Strategic Operations. Throughout his career he has been engaging with different government departments and role-players. He was also involved in the Early Childhood Development (ECD) employment stimulus programme.

Professor Shazly Savahl is a registered research psychologist and associate professor based at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies of Children, Families and Society (University of the Western Cape). He obtained a Masters and a Doctoral degree from the University of the Western Cape, funded through the Vlaamse Interuniversiteit Raad Doctoral Scholarship Programme. His research interests include the study of childhood, children’s subjective well-being, child well-being indicators and social psychology. Currently, he is the principal investigator of the Children’s Worlds International Survey of Children’s Well-Being, and the Multinational Qualitative Study on Children’s Understanding of their Well-Being. He is a founding and current executive member of the South African Positive Psychology Association, a member of the National Children’s Rights Intersectoral Coordinating Committee and an executive board member of the International Society for Child Indicators.