Children playing with DUPLO at an ECD centre.
Over the past few years, there has been a concerted effort by the Department of Basic Education to formalize the ECD sector, reduce the number of unregistered centres, improve health and safety environments for children and increase the number of trained ECD specialists who are able to provide specialized care for all children. However, despite these efforts, many children in rural communities continue to learn in corrugated iron dwellings without access to proper learning facilities, nutrition, and resources. In responding to this need, Impande, an NGO operating in Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal, established an ECD network that aims to assist ECD centres with registration, creating an ECD profiling system, and ensuring that centres who do not receive a subsidy from DSD, receive nutritional support. In responding to the challenge of meaningful learning environments, Impande also established a Toy Box Project, aimed at providing LEGO, play resources and books to children attending ECDs. A 2-day training course on how to effectively make use of the resources in the centres is also provided.
COVID-19 and the restrictions that followed in 2020 and 2021, meant that many ECDs had to shut-down, close temporarily or reduce the number of children. This meant that children were often at home without access to toys. To increase access to play at home, Impande implemented a 6 bricks programme that was aimed at bringing play into the home. Impande distributed Six Bricks to 92 ECD centres, they also distributed Six Bricks packs to 2100 families.
With many children staying at home without access to their ECD teachers, Impande established an innovative WhatsApp communication tool through ‘Turn.io’ which allowed the team to communicate with parents and practitioners. An automated menu provided information on various topics, including, nutrition, grants, and child-protection rights. Specific to Six Bricks, the tool also provided personal or guided communication with parents on what is Six Bricks, how to use Six Bricks, as well as additional activity ideas on using Six Bricks. Overall, the parents programme increased access to Six Bricks in the home, as one parent explained “I have learned to spend time with my children, since you have helped guide me on how I can do it”.
Well done to Impande for prioritizing children!