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Singakwenza, which means “We can do it” is a Non-Profit Organisation providing Early Childhood Education to economically disadvantaged communities.

It is amazing to look back and see how much has already happened in the past few months! It has been a busy, but wonderful, period. Our four mentors are currently providing mentorship to 55 caregivers in 16 crèches, affecting the educational outcome of 1 123 children. We have run 26 Waste 2 Toys workshops so far this year, teaching 751 adults how to provide a stimulating environment for the 6 609 children in their care.

Our mentorship programme has been designed with an exit strategy, as it is the handover of knowledge and skills to the caregivers that is the primary goal of our organisation. We need the crèche caregivers to be able to continue the programme without us, and a number of our crèches are coming to the end of their two-year mentorship period. These crèches now get bi-monthly visits from our mentors, rather than weekly, and after 6 months, they will reduce to monthly visits. This has freed up the mentors to start in new crèches, and between January and April, we have added 3 new crèches to our programme.
Zonke Crèche is in Khethani Township just outside Winterton in KwaZulu-Natal. The owner of the crèche, Nomusa, was very excited to have the opportunity to implement our programme in her crèche. As always, before starting our mentorship programme, the crèche owner had to organise a Waste2Toys training workshop in her community. This helps the teacher and her assistants to understand the importance of learning through play and how fundamental their role is in providing daily stimulating activities for the children in their care. It also helps the parents who attend to see why the crèche programme is so important and how they can support early learning at home.

Mentoring here has been exciting, as the caregivers have no knowledge about early learning, but at the same time quite challenging, as the crèche consists of only one room and there are a lot of children. The first week our mentor went to the crèche, there were 40 children enrolled. The following visit the numbers had gone up to 57, and the following week were at 72. We had to intervene and help the crèche owner understand that if she wanted to provide proper preparation for her Grade R’s so that the school could see the difference she was making, she would have to limit the number of children in her crèche. She finds herself in a difficult position, because the parents in the community give her a hard time if she doesn’t take the children, as they want them in a safe environment during the day. She has approached a local farmer who had offered assistance with putting up a veranda outside the building, so that at least if it is raining, the Grade R’s will be able to have some time on their own during the day to do their activities without being disrupted by the curious toddlers.

Angel’s Care is a little school in Howick that caters mainly for children from the informal settlement near Howick Falls. We ran a Waste 2 Toys workshop for the caregivers last year and were asked to mentor here. There is a Grade R class with 29 children and a Grade RR class with 25. Our mentor shares her time between the two teachers and helps them first to understand the activities on the lesson plan and what skills each activity is developing, and then how to implement them with the children.

Siyazama Crèche is in KwaChief, which is a small community past Mpophomeni. There are 4 teachers at this little crèche and 69 children, including 25 Grade R’s. We always start mentoring in the Grade R class, as this is the group that needs the most urgent intervention to ensure that they are properly prepared for formal schooling. Once the Grade R teacher gets into the routine – which usually takes around 3 months – then the mentor works with the Grade RR and RRR teachers as well, to help them to develop a fun, structured daily programme of activities.

This year we have also launched our Baby and Toddler Stimulation programme and are taking it into all 16 of our crèches. We have found that the ladies who are employed to take care of the youngest children in the crèches are usually just women who are prepared to change nappies and wipe noses. The more ambitious and motivated the ladies are, the older the children they are allocated to teach. As a result, the youngest children, at a time when stimulation is at its most critical, are usually in the care of a lady who has almost no knowledge or understanding about the importance of learning through play. We have therefore developed a separate Toddler Stimulation programme, run by our mentors, to gently guide these ladies towards providing daily activities that will help to build those vital foundations. This programme has already had some wonderful successes, with caregivers starting to build much more interactive relationships with their toddlers and enjoying the activities with them.

We have introduced a simple bookkeeping process with Buhle at Othandweni Creche in Khethani Township, near Winterton. She has never monitored her income and expenditure before and she has found the process fascinating. She has been an eager pupil and Joseph Mohlokoana, our Bookkeeping Trainer, has shown enormous promise in his patience, willingness to teach and encouragement of Buhle. She is now issuing invoices and receipts for school fees, and for the first time has a system of monitoring who has and hasn’t paid. She enters all her income and expenses into a Cashbook, and is sticking all her expense slips into an exercise book. Joseph has also been advising Buhle on how she can start to save some of her income towards things that she might need to add to her crèche.