Research around the world has shown that the best way to break the poverty cycle is through education, but unfortunately our South African education system is in a crisis. More than half the children who start Grade 1 drop out of school before Matric, and a quarter of those who stay are unable to pass Matric. The “real” Matric pass rate for 2019 is estimated at 39% (News24, 8 Jan 2020).
We can change these frightening statistics.
Our young children, whether they are at home or in a crèche, need to have access to:
1) practitioners and parents who understand that, through their provision of daily stimulation activities, they are the key to their children’s educational success, and
2) a wide variety of educational toys.
But with an estimated 5,7 million children under the age of four in South Africa, how do we help to transform empty crèches and homes into environments filled with enough equipment to ensure busy, happy, stimulated children? If we provide commercial toys, who would replace them if they get lost or broken? And how would we get these toys into all the homes of the children who really need them?
Singakwenza decided that a creative and sustainable solution to this problem was needed, and have developed a whole range of educational toys that teach the same concepts as purchased toys, but for zero cost. Household packaging that is usually discarded can be turned into a huge assortment of toys and games, using only a pair of scissors and a marker. Bread bags can become skipping ropes, cereal boxes and plastic lids can become numeracy games, yoghurt containers become size sorters, and polystyrene trays become threading activities. And if a toy breaks or gets lost, it is easy (and free) to make another one.
Singakwenza believes strongly in empowering women, especially those practitioners who show enthusiasm, initiative and commitment. Our programme focusses on training practitioners on-site at their crèches, and helps to transform them from babysitters to facilitators who understand the role of play in early development. Our trainers spend one day a week in each crèche, teaching and mentoring practitioners on how to educate the children in their care using resources made from recycling. These trainers work with their practitioners every week for a minimum of two years, guiding, modelling and encouraging them towards a daily structured, and educational programme that is fun. We encourage practitioners to grow their crèches into not only centres where every child has the opportunity to develop their potential, but also into sustainable businesses so that they can continue independently once we leave. There are currently five Singakwenza trainers.
OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY PROGRAM
To ensure that no children are disadvantaged by developmental delays, we employ an Occupational Therapist (OT) who regularly visits all the crèches Singakwenza supports, providing free occupational therapy advice to learners, parents and staff. The OT is establishing a sustainable Occupational Therapy model. She teaches caregivers how to identify barriers to learning (“red flags”), how they can help children with mild issues, and who to refer children to that have more severe problems. The OT also assesses children in each crèche that present with these “red flags” that she has helped the teacher identify. She gives the teachers programs that they can do with some of these children, and liaises with the government services in various communities, especially medical team members at both primary healthcare and hospital levels.
BASIC BOOKKEEPING PROGRAM
Each crèche owner has the opportunity to participate in our basic bookkeeping training course. Our trainer guides the owners slowly through the process of invoicing, receipting, collating all expense slips, and cross-referencing to make sure all the invoices have been paid and receipted. He then moves onto teaching them how to enter their income and expenses into a simple cash book. He mentors them weekly until they are able to run a basic set of books correctly, so that they can build their crèches into small, sustainable businesses.