Simon Leshoai, Programme Manager at Seriti Institute speaking to ECD practitioners in Soshanguve, North of Tshwane.

More must be done to open communication between primary caregivers/parents and early childhood development (ECD) practitioners in poorer communities says Simon Leshoai, a Programme Manager at Seriti Institute.

Leshoai was speaking at the conclusion of the first week of a programme that aims to equip both the primary caregivers and ECD practitioners in some of the townships in northern Tshwane with skills to help develop “future-fit” children. The programme, which is sponsored by Standard Bank South Africa and facilitated by Seriti Institute began on 17th February and will run for 15 weeks covering ECD centres and primary caregivers in Soshanguve, Temba, Hammanskraal and Stinkwater.

“It is important that we open not just communications between ECD practitioners and parents, but we must also open the gates to ECD centers so parents can come in and be an active part of that component of the child’s life. What the child hears at the center and what they hear at home must complement each other, be aligned. Learning and stimulation of the child must not stop at school.”

According to data released by Stats SA, children in mostly black African families received suboptimal stimulation at home as 31% were never encouraged to imitate daily activities, 35,2% were never given answers when they pointed at objects and asked for explanations. Almost 50% of South African parents have never read to their children.

“Parents are so pre-occupied by their problems that stimulating the child takes a back seat which is a travesty as it should be a top priority,” says Leshoai.

Poverty and violence are a big problem in South Africa and children under the age of seven are particularly vulnerable as this can lead to a hindrance in their physical, psychological and intellectual development. However, research from the World Health Organisation has shown that a strong and supportive caregiving relationship supports the development of a child who is physically, intellectually and socially healthy, and more resilient to the damaging effects of poverty and violence.

Leshoai says the importance of having seamless communication between caregivers and practitioners is even more important in communities where poverty and violence levels are high as there is already so much working against the child.

“Parents must not just “dump” their children at creche or ECD center or baby-sitting center. They must know what their children are being taught and do their best to complement that. At home, they must play with their children, read with them, when the children ask questions, don’t ignore them, answer, tell them stories, continue to kiss them and hug them even as they are getting older,” says Leshoai.

He says it will be easier for primary caregivers to do all these things if ECD centers are constantly talking to them about it.

At Seriti our passion is to see healthy thriving communities, taking care of our children and making sure they are thriving. As President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his State of the Nation address, “investing in our children is investing in the future”. We agree, which is why we have partnered with Standard Bank South Africa to invest in both the primary care giver and the practitioner who ultimately determine the kind of future South Africa will have.