Ntataise Network Annual Conference

The 25th Ntataise Network Annual Conference took place from 19 to 21 August 2019. Every year Ntataise holds a conference for the directors, trainers, playgroup facilitators and administrative staff of the organisations which comprise the national Ntataise Network. The conference provides the opportunity for Network members, most of whom work in marginalised communities and isolated circumstances, to come together to share, learn and innovate as a collective. The conference was attended by 80 Ntataise Network members and approximately 35 guests including the Ntataise Trustees and delegates from ECD sector NGOs, funders, government and academic institutions.

This year, Ntataise was honoured to have The First Lady, Dr Tshepo Motsepe, open the conference. Dr Motsepe gave an inspiring and passionate address on the importance of ECD as a critical window of opportunity in a child’s life. She spoke about early interventions as essential in defining the trajectory of South Africa’s development and emphasised the need to broaden access to ECD through collaboration between civil society, government and business. She set the tone for the conference concluding:

“As a community committed to improving the educational and other outcomes of this country, let us Ntataise – let us lead our children by the hand. Let us work together, let us share and pool our knowledge, and let us collaborate towards the realization of our common goal. To enable this country’s children to have an equal chance, to be able to rise above their circumstances, to learn, to grow, and to thrive.”

The opening address was followed by a series of presentations by guest speakers who shared valuable messages with delegates. Marie Louise Samuels, Chief Directorate of ECD within the Department of Basic Education, unpacked the ECD function shift and provided clarity on the plan for the way forward. Professor Mark Tomlinson from the University of Stellenbosch presented on the importance of nurturing care and reciprocal relationships for children’s early learning and development. Andre Viviers from UNICEF gave an overview of the various ECD policies that have been developed over the past 25 years and shared his reflections on the successes and failures, emphasising the need for a well-planned systemic approach to address the persisting gaps.

Members of the Ntataise Network share the vision of expanding the provision of quality ECD programming to young vulnerable children using contextually and culturally appropriate play-based methodologies and approaches. At the 2018 Ntataise Network Conference, Dr Juliana Seleti who is Senior Lecturer and Researcher for ECD at North West University, presented on the changing perspectives in relation to indigenous knowledge and practices in ECD. As a follow-on to this presentation, Dr Seleti facilitated a fun and playful session with members to explore how indigenous games can promote various early learning and development outcomes for young children. Network members set up their favourite childhood games and activities, and had great fun playing and re-connecting with their inner child.

Other topics covered during the conference through presentations, discussions and practical activities included the ECD workforce, emotional-wellbeing, organisational development, leadership and digital learning.