Paving the way for tomorrow’s leaders

Julinda Kruger from the Department of Social Development speaking at the event.

About 200 people met in Lansdowne last week for a conference that discussed the building blocks of a child’s development.

It was the first annual conference of its kind for the LKRS Early Childhood Development (ECD) Forum.

Chairwoman Penny Julie said LKRS had once stood for: Lansdowne, Kenwyn, Rondebosch East and Sybrand Park (LKRS), but since educare centres from other areas had joined the forum, it now stood for: Lead, Kinetic, Resources and Symbiosis. Various organisations were represented at the event, at Epworth Methodist Church on Saturday October 15.

“We have invited the provincial Department of Social Development, the City of Cape Town’s environmental health department and Fire and Rescue Services, speech therapists, social therapists and other stakeholders. It’s important for us all to work together, and this is why we wanted to have this inaugural conference,” said Ms Julie.

Julinda Kruger, director for ECD at the Department for Social Development, said the care of children at the foundation phase was vital.

“We are going to be missing out on so much if we do not provide in the care of children, and the care must start from conception. The most important thing we must understand, is that relationships matter the most when it comes to nurturing. Also, safety is very important for a child. If a child feels safe, they can grow and learn through play,” Ms Kruger said.

Miemie Saffi, from an organisation called Think Twice, said although they worked with teenagers, they had piloted a foundation phase project, where ECD teachers were trained in how to deal with child sexual abuse. They also taught children about family; choices; treating each other with kindness; body pride; and HIV.

“Parents are not always comfortable teaching their children the appropriate names for their private parts. This is just one of the issues we deal with. Also, after training the teachers, we do follow-ups,” Ms Saffi said.

Annette Robertson from the Early Learning Resource Unit (ELRU), said the 38-year-old organisation was about a “whole centre development programme”, which included: governance; health and safety; management; ECD registration; professional human resources development; age appropriate learning; compliance; career paths for ECD practitioners; advocacy; nutritional support; and intervention.

Bianca du Toit from the City’s environmental health directorate, said they ensured ECD centres complied with basic health regulations, among other things.

“We also do outreach programmes at ECDs, where we deal with hygiene, safe water, sanitation, the safe disposal of refuse, and the five keys to safer food. We are happy to announce that within the Klipfontein sub-district, there has been a decline in severe diarrhoea,” Ms Du Toit said.

Nicolette Ripepi, a mother of a child with autism, described how she had left the corporate world 20 years ago to establish the Autism Connect Learning Centre after finding there weren’t enough services for children with autism.

“Autism Connect has an individualised educational programme for all the children between the ages of three and 12 years. It’s not an easy environment, but we love what we do,” she said.