Investing in Early Childhood Development

On 20 November 2014, the Sparrow FET College in partnership with Brainwave Careers officially launched the Early Childhood Development (ECD) program for those who want to enter the field of Education, Training and Development, specifically within the sub-field of Early Childhood Development. The aim of the programme is to formally recognise those who are already practicing in this field but do not have any formal recognition.

ECD candidates doing a class activity

ECD candidates doing a class activity

The program further aims to “develop the appropriate skills and knowledge required by a person for the establishment and development of a small to medium business venture, and addresses the economic, administrative and behavioral (psycho-social)barriers that contribute to success in starting and sustaining the venture.” After the success of the first intake, the program has had some notable successes.

Starting with only 3 children in January 2015, Millicent Boa, a former ECD candidate, opened a day care which now caters for 25 children in her hometown, Glenridge, Soweto.  Boa attributes much of her success to the ECD programme, “The ECD programme taught me a lot about children and how to handle them with care. I learnt that there are four things which are very crucial in a child’s development. These are, ‘patience, nutrition, self-esteem and the parents’ involvement.”

Boa at her day care

Boa at her day care

Being just eight months old there is increasing demand for Boa’s day care in the community. She started the day care in her mother’s house, running it with both her sister and mother.  Due to the high demand for her services and her mother’s house getting smaller to house all 25 of the children, construction has already started at the backyard of her mother’s house where she will accommodate more children. We spoke to one parent who sings high praises of the day care. “I can really see the difference between this crèche and the last one that my son attended. I can see it in his behavior when he comes back from crèche, he is happier and can tell me about his experiences from crèche, that never used to happen,” says parent, Carol Phakathi.

Carol Phakathi with her son, Siyabonga Phakathi.

Carol Phakathi with her son, Siyabonga Phakathi.

After the success of the first intake of the programme ran by the Sparrow FET College and Brainwaves, the College has recruited a sought after facilitator in Tessa Wolfaardt to facilitate the second intake. Starting off as a primary school teacher, Wolfaardt has over 15 years’ experience in the industry. She penned one of the first ever ECD manuals in the country.

After taking a break to go and pursue other ambitions, Woldfaardt got back into the ECD field due to a high demand of her experience by different institutions. Her mission now is to pass on her wealth of experience to those coming after her through the ECD programme at the FET College. “I want these learners to walk away from this programme having developed in every aspect of their lives. That will lead to them passing that on to the children they will care for. South Africa is lacking behind, early childhood development is extremely beneficial for children in need of proper care,” Wolfaardt explains.

Lydia Munyai

Lydia Munyai

Lydia Munyai, 39, is one of the candidates in the current programme. Munyai who is a mother herself, joined the programme after losing her job and sitting at home unemployed for months. “I joined the programme because i’m planning my own creche. When I first started in the programme I took childcare for granted. I have children of my own and I always thought that raising children was just about the security. Because of this progamme I now know that there is more to it, there’s a lot to consider about a child’s developmental process,” Munyai says.

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Foundation School launches Maths Enrichment Center

In 2014, the World Economic Forum global competitiveness report ranked South Africa at 144 for maths and science teaching out of 144 countries. The WEF’s report was later dismissed by various specialists as “preposterous” and flawed.

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It was found that the methods used to calculate the rankings were “Subjective, unscientific, unreliable and lack any form of technical credibility or cross national comparability.” However it is a well-known fact that South Africa’s education system is in crisis, especially in the maths and science categories. According to the Annual National Assessment results released in 2013, only 39% of grade six learners and 2% of grade nine learners scored more than 50% in mathematics.

Some of the root causes of this failing system stem from primary and the way that mathematics is taught in schools. The remedial Sparrow Foundation School is constantly finding new ways of evolving and finding new ways to improve education. On 4 May 2015, the Foundation School launched its newly built Maths Enrichment Center at the Foundation School in Melville.

Mr Basson giving a class to the General Electric team

Mr Basson giving a class to the General Electric team

The new center incorporates a Maths Enrichment program which aims to improve the levels of teaching and mathematical competence. It is equipped with superior teaching facilities and focused on the teaching of mathematics at grades 5, 6, and 7 levels.

The center was made possible through the generous funding by General Electric and the Sparrow Foundation UK. “We at General Electric are very proud to see this place and what we have done with it. I would like to encourage you go into the center, work hard, get people to help you and don’t be afraid. Maths is a foundation for you to be great one day,” says Solutions Consultant Manager of General Electric, Andre Bodenbarck at the launch.

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The program aims to break down the stereotypes associated with mathematics as a difficult subject. Keeping in mind that the Foundation School is a remedial school, the program has been specially designed for the learner with learning difficulties. “The one thing that our learners struggle with is understand the reasons why they do mathematics. The programs we have in the maths center allow them to think in that direction. The program is also designed to allow the learner to develop at their own pace. It is unlike in the classroom where all the learners are expected to all develop at the same pace,” says the new Foundation School Mathematics specialist, Vincent Edwards Basson.

Starting off as a qualified physiotherapist, Basson brings with him 27 years of teaching experience and 5 years working experience, working at district level with the Department of Education. He is also a mentor, coach and pastor.

Adaptive Skills Program changing lives

“When you encounter uncomfortable situations, you can either decide to be victim or an over-comer. Always choose to be an over-comer. Grace is within our reach to be an over-comer.” – Lailah Gifty Akita.

From the day we are born, life throws us with many curveballs as we try and navigate through life trying to find our feet. Hailing from the dusty streets of one of South Africa’s most notorious townships, Alexandra, Samuel Mazibuko decided he would not let his challenging circumstance hold him back and chose to be an over-comer.

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The 20 year old Adaptive Curriculum Skills Program (ASP) learner joined Sparrow Schools Combined School in 2010 after dropping out of a mainstream school because of learning difficulties he was experiencing. The ASP is a programme introduced in 2014 through collaboration between Sparrow’s academic specialists, learner support services and special education practitioners.

The program aims to design a suitable environment for learners with learning difficulties. The focus is on transferring practical skills to learners who are cognitively impaired and struggle coping with the academic curriculum. The learners enrolled in the ASP have an opportunity to learn various skills ranging from baking, sowing and agriculture.

This program has helped Mazibuko escape a life of substance abuse which could have had detrimental consequences. “I come from a place where there is a lot of poverty and unemployment, this school (Sparrow) and the ASP has helped me change my life,” Mazibuko says. Mazibuko

Mazibuko has now turned his life around and has now been selected to be a Teacher’s Assistant at the Combined School’s bakery. “Sparrow has been hectic but also amazing. I have learnt a lot of skills which I never thought that I would,” Mazibuko explains.

Through his journey at Sparrow and the ASP, Mazibuko has now grown to become an ambitious young man. He aspires to one day own a bakery. He also would like to use the sowing skills he learned in the ASP and make his own clothes and transfer the skills he learned back into his community. Judging by his work ethic and focus, we at Sparrow have seen him realise his potential and we have no doubt that he will realise his ambitions.