Adventurous learning
8th March 2017
Hierarchy of needs
8th March 2017

Tweak it while supple

Care centre owners in Alexandra receive professional training to upgrade their teaching skills and run their facilities sustainably

Thabo Mohlala

Fikile Khambule and Dineo Phala have some things in common: love and passion for children, and the fact that they both established care centres in Alexandra’s Extension 7. Khambule’s centre is called Sunshine Nursery School, and Phala’s, Mante Day Care.

When they started their centres they did know how to teach kids, let alone how to run their facilities. For Khambule, the idea to start the nursery school came after she helped at her aunt’s day care centre. “She would always encourage me to start my own because she realised I relate well to children,” says Khambule. “In 2013, I decided to set up my own. My biggest and immediate concern was how to engage the children in meaningful and stimulating activities.”

Phala was motivated to start her centre by her sister-in-law, who also operates her own day care centre. She then took basic and introductory courses in early childhood development (ECD). In 2012, with just R900, she opened her own centre, starting with seven children. By the end of the same year, the number had grown to 17, with three children able to start their formal schooling.

Beneficiaries

Today they are both qualified as ECD practitioners, thanks to Asha Trust and Spur Foundation. They are among the first 10 beneficiaries of an initiative funded by the foundation to upskill owners of community-based care centres. The owners learn to teach better and run their centres as sustainable small businesses. According to the trust, the country faces a shortage of an estimated 500 000 qualified ECD practitioners.

Meeting of minds

Deidre Caulwell, the trust’s director, said they partnered with the foundation because of their shared commitment to improving ECD education in the country. The foundation’s chairperson, Ronel van Dijk, says there is a value-fit between the two organisations. “The foundation is all about children — nourishing and nurturing their body and minds, while Asha Trust also puts emphasis on the need to intervene at the early stage of development. Investing in ECD provides greater returns to society than any other form of human capital investment.”

Last year her foundation donated R230 000 to support 10 day care centres in Alexandra; the centres will also have access to FoodBank South Africa, which provides fresh and nutritious meals daily to the children. After the training, the owners of the centres will identify 10 more women whom they can mentor.

Asha Trust, which boasts a pool of expert trainers, equips the practitioners with:

  • Balanced eating and meal plans to optimise children’s brain development;
  • Training materials to address entry-level learning standards of the caregivers and teachers;
  • Training in relevant legislation so that care centre owners can register their facilities;
  • On-going administrative support to enable crèches to receive the government subsidy of R15 per child daily;
  • Financial management skills to enable care centre owners to prepare budgets; and
  • Rigorous on-site mentoring and vocational support to teachers and crèche owners.

Training adds value

Both Khambule and Phala hail the foundation and the trust. “With the training I learned how to run a successful centre in terms of administration, games designed to stimulate the children, financial management and the layout of the centre,” says Phala. Adds Khambule: “I now know how to stimulate the children and also how to handle cash and do the budget, thanks to the training.”

The trust’s chairperson, Tshepo Motsepe, says this is part of their contribution to the national development plan, which recognises ECD as a “national imperative”.  She says their training model is designed to accommodate the women’s level of education: “Our skills-training programme facilitates job creation opportunities for unemployed women with limited formal education. This ensures the sustainability of the ECD centres by women, who are empowered to lead economically and socially productive lives.”

 

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