More than 100 ECD practitioners obtain a level 4 qualification during a pandemic, thanks to Ntataise

The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated socio-economic ills, unemployment, and affordability for many within the country. While some lost jobs, others have lost hope of any formal employment in these current times. However, despite these challenges, not-for-profit organisation (NPO), Ntataise, celebrates the passion and resilience of 125 young people to change their story and contribute positively to the economic efforts of the country, even at this time.

These graduates will receive Early Childhood Development (ECD) certificates in the Free State and Gauteng between November 26 and December 3. Graduations are set to take place in Welkom, Nellmapius, Johannesburg and Viljoenskroon.

The graduates, who completed an 18-month course with Ntataise, a not-for-profit organisation founded in South African in 1980 in order to help women in rural communities establish and sustain good quality ECD programmes, will walk away with a Level 4 accredited certificate, critical in becoming an ECD practitioner.

Of the 125 graduates, 90% are aged 21-35, opening up employment opportunities for the youth of the nation.

“A function shift is due to take place whereby ECD will fall under the Department of Basic Education and in order to practice as an ECD practitioner these critical skills are required,” says Puleng Motsoeneng, Ntataise Director.

She says graduates will receive an NQF ECD Level 4 certificate which they can use to pursue a career in teaching.

“Ntataise has also developed a short course on gender based violence which is currently being trained in certain areas and will be integrated in the ongoing support and mentorship that will be provided to this group going forward. An additional short course providing psycho-social support will also be integrated in our programmes,” she says.

Motsoeneng says these additional courses are of high importance at the level of teaching that the practitioners will be going into. How children learn, especially in early childhood, is often determined by other factors within their environments, and Motsoeneng believes that ECD practitioners should not only be alert to these but be equipped to handle them in a professional and sustainable manner beneficial to the child.

She expressed great pride in how the 125 practitioners soldiered on during a challenging time to acquire something that would benefit not only them, but their communities and the country at large.

“Despite Covid-19, through the use of digital literacy we were able to complete the Level 4 training and even though there were numerous challenges in implementing the programme due to lockdowns and other restrictions, we are finally at this point where 125 passionate citizens of South Africa will graduate with a Level 4 qualification,” says an excited Motsoeneng.

She added that digital literacy formed a big part of the programme, opening the learners up to new forms of technology and learning online. These became added skills to the 2020 cohort of practitioners, who now walk away not only with a credible qualification, but with added digital prowess which is both practical and useful to the work environments they are set to enter in the future.

One of the graduates, Josephine Skolas, 38, from Nellmapius is excited for her upcoming graduation. Skolas and her mother run an ECD centre in Pretoria.

“The founder of the ECD is actually my mother. When I joined, I wanted to upskill and get enough knowledge to run the centre alongside her in a more professional manner. Since this course, the centre has improved so much in all spheres, and all our stakeholders, especially the parents, can see and applaud the improvement,” she says.

For Skolas, taking the ECD Practitioner course was about professional development as well as knowledge acquisition, she wanted to take something her mother had worked so hard on, “to the next level”, and she admits that when the pandemic hit at the start of the course, she was a bit sceptical.

“We expected the worst, but we were able to take the course online and we learned how to use video calling facilities which we also use now with the parents at our ECD. We’ve learned something new. I’m glad that, even though we were home, we were able to study,” she says.

Completing this course means a lot, says Skolas, she says it has boosted her confidence in what she does for a living, it has helped her streamline and set up policies and structures around the ECD and it has also “helped me represent the children better.”

“It has given me confidence in what I do for a living and now I can proudly tell others that I am an ECD practitioner, knowing exactly what goes into that title.”