Do not discount our pre-school feats

ntataise-article-picIn response to Lebusa Monyooe’s recent¬†Mail & Guardian¬†article (“Pre-school quick fix sets bar too low“, January 31) I’d like to acknowledge his comments on the quality of tuition in early childhood development (ECD) in general and grade R in particular, as well as the inherent problems of including an additional year of pre-school as outlined in the National Development Plan.

Although we agree with many of his points, the significant impact made in the ECD sector by nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), which largely took responsibility for training ECD teachers in disadvantaged communities before and after 1994, must not be discounted.

These organisations developed their own training programmes and, through vigorous fundraising, have spent more than 30 years nurturing and developing the sector at community level.

The teachers or practitioners who come from this system, largely from extremely poor and disadvantaged communities with little to no infrastructure or support, have upheld the ECD sector in their communities and have provided good-quality education and care to thousands of young children. They are supported by highly experienced and well-qualified trainers who deliver on-site mentoring and training that reinforces the theoretical learning that is often difficult to grasp and implement.

Our experience shows that this type of intervention demonstrates a considerable difference in playroom practice and in the performance of both the teacher (practitioner) and the child at the pre-school level.

We concur with Monyooe that the quality of tuition needs to improve vastly, but we firmly believe that, until government is in a position to implement the National Development Plan on a national scale regarding ECD, NGOs will continue to make a profound difference by offering this service to community pre-schools, certainly in the pre-grade R years. These organisations should be supported and funded in their provision of a vital service to the early childhood sector.

Jane Evans founded the organisation Ntataise (meaning “to lead a child by the hand”) in the northern Free State in the 1980s. Its network now includes 17 ECD training and resource nongovernmental organisations based in seven provinces. Last year they collectively worked with 2 356 pre-schools and 3 743 pre-school practitioners, and reached 117 020 pre-school children