The early childhood years are widely defined as the period from birth to eight years old. It is a time of remarkable growth for a child and their brain development. However, several factors need to be present to ensure that children develop optimally. These include good nutrition, stable and nurturing relationships with adults who care for them (and are around them – usually found in a mother or father figure in the home), physical and mental stimulation, and emotional support.

Sadly, many children in South Africa, especially in marginalised communities, do not have access to these vital components. It is often said that we have a fatherless generation in our communities in  South Africa, suggesting that there is much that needs to be done to put in place these essential elements with such an important role to play in establishing the building blocks for later learning, socialisation and ultimately a successful life for a child.

The socio-economic environment in which children grow up also plays a role in their cognitive and psychosocial development. According to a report released by Statistics South Africa based on the findings of the General Household Survey data, Early Childhood Development in South Africa, 2016, the many children living in poor households, where parents are less able to spend time or money to feed and educate them, are likely to grow up in a less stimulating home environment.

Involved and caring fathers have an important role to play to the optimal development of children. These may be biological or adoptive fathers or stepfathers, living in or outside of the home. Whatever form they take, fathers impact on their children at every stage of development, and their absence could have long-lasting repercussions.

report on Statistics SA, says almost 40% of 0- to 4-year-olds attended Early Childhood Development (ECD) programmes. Half (50,2%) of children aged 0-4 years stayed at home with parents or guardians. We know that much responsibility is placed on adults who have the most face time with children i.e., primary caregivers (such as parents and/or grandparents) and others such as day mothers and ECD practitioners. Among them, the burden of care is usually placed on the females/mothers who take on care roles even after pregnancy and breastfeeding the child after birth. This needs to change because there is a lot that men and fathers can do to support and share the burden of care and responsibility for children with mothers during these early years to. Men need to be encouraged to be the type of involved and caring parent their children need.

To encourage fathers to be involved in child development from an early age, the Seriti Institute’s aRe Bapaleng (Let’s Play) programme, in partnership with Standard Bank has extended its Active Learning Workshops invitation to men in the communities where we work. This started with one or two men popping into our workshops at the start of the year. We have seen the numbers grow within the workshops as we expand them to each new community. We are delighted to engage with these men who have an interest in the health and development of the children in their care and want to gain some knowledge. Many have shared that they have been exposed to information and activities they had never known before. Moreover, they realised the critical role each parent and primary caregiver plays in stimulating the child, and in supporting their learning and development.

To read the full article, please click on the following link: The presence of fathers in the early years of a child is key to their development | South Africa Today