Over the last few months, we have been incredibly busy implementing our Social Employment Fund (SEF) project, after being selected as a strategic implementation partner by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). Under this fund, teachers who previously earned close to nothing while working at unfunded Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres will receive a monthly income for the next 9 months. To date we are supporting 995 teachers at 573 ECD centres operating across 9 municipalities in Kwa-Zulu Natal and Eastern Cape. This means that all ECD teachers in these municipalities are receiving an income for the first time ever – a fact that makes us very happy!
In addition to providing an income for teachers the project supports long-term progress and sustainability as we provide basic ECD resources and ongoing training. During the training teachers are taken through the Vangasali ECD Registration Pack and orientated on the A-Z of running an ECD programme. The teachers participating in the SEF project are required to clock in and out daily using an app on their phones that uses face recognition and geotags to verify that they are at work. To support the teachers, 25 Impande SEF supervisors regularly visit the centres (at least one visit per ECD centre per month) to assist with registration and programme implementation.
The Social Employment Fund is designed to help people who do work for the common good. We believe the stories below speak for themselves in portraying how well the ECD teachers on the programme fit the bill.
Interview with teacher from Sinothando ECD centre in uMuziwabantu Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal
Why We Started
We started this ECD centre in 2017 as there were no centres in the area. In our community, some children live with grandmothers since their parents are still young and attend school. Although grandmothers are good at caring for children, it can be a struggle as children may not get the kind of cognitive stimulation they need in their early and formative years. We decided to open this place so that children can get proper stimulation and nutrition before they start big school.
If children are at home, grandparents feed them what they have just to fill them up. Here at the ECD centre, we provide porridge in the morning because we understand that some families cannot afford a nutritious breakfast.
Making a Difference
Some grandparents do not send grandchildren to the clinic for immunization and deworming, but here at the ECD centre health workers conducts visits to perform check-ups on the children. If a child has missed some appointments, a health worker is able to refer the child to a clinic. We are also able to pick up a lot of things with children that guardians might miss, such as if a child has a speech impairment or hearing difficulties.
For example, we notice when we say rhymes that this one child cannot repeat everything that is said, or when they play we can see that a child cannot do what children his/her age can do.
Challenges we face
In this community a lot of people are unemployed – we are in a rural area. Because families are struggling there are months when they do not pay school fees. The fee at Sinothando is R50 per month. Impande assist us by providing the porridge for breakfast, so we use the fees to buy food to cook for lunch. We mostly work without getting paid, but we see that children are benefiting from what they are learning at the ECD centre so we are faithful in continuing with the hope that one day we will be rewarded. At home I live with my retired husband who gets little pension every month, I sew clothes at home and sell them to make some money. I have 4 children.
Interview with teacher from Little Flower ECD centre in Winnie Madikizela Mandela Municipality in the Eastern Cape
The importance of ECD
As teachers we see children who are not okay health wise, who are hungry, and behind in their growth and development. When children arrive in the morning, we greet them. Sometimes children are crying and when we ask why they tell us they are hungry. So, we do not start by teaching them, we start by giving them porridge. We also had an incident with a child being beaten at home, so we called the parents for a meeting.
A long journey
We started the ECD centre because we saw that children were not safe roaming around on the road. At first the community did not understand the importance of ECD, so we went door to door to explain to parents. We first opened in 2006 from a rondavel in a private home which was not used. In 2015 the primary school asked us to move closer to them so that it would be easier for all the children in the village to attend. We were given a site next to the school. Community members helped with metal sheets so that we could build a shack to use as a classroom. However, since 2022 we have been operating from new classrooms which were built by Impande. Since moving into the proper building structure, the number of children attending the centre has increased. We ask parents to pay a fee of R20 per child per month. Not everyone pays but we do not chase children away. What keeps us going is our love for children, but it is difficult to not get paid. Some days I do not have money for soap to wash myself before I go to work.
Plans for the Future
We have agreed among ourselves as teachers to use half of the money we get on the SEF programme to pay ourselves and the other half to improve our ECD centre. Some things need money, for example we need carpets in the classrooms. When we were using the shack the Department of Social Development called us and said we failed partial care registration as we did not meet the standard. We are going to reapply now since we have a fence, toilets and a safe building.