Early childhood development practitioners provide the building blocks for the rest of a child’s life – they help lay the foundation for a lifetime of education and discovery. It is for this reason that we need to celebrate and acknowledge these essential educators this World Teachers’ Day, taking place on Tuesday 5 October.
This is the call being made by the Indaba Institute, an Early Childhood Development (ECD) teacher training institute outside Stellenbosch.The Indaba Institute has pioneered a new, internationally-accredited teacher training course specifically for those who teach children who attend Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres, aged 0-6. The first group of 17 ECD practitioners trained in the ground-breaking CoRE (Community Rooted Education) curriculum graduated recently and plans for widespread training are underway.
Early childhood education refers to the teaching of children between infancy and kindergarten age – some of the most important years of a child’s life. In their earliest academic years children develop skills in socialization, communication, critical thinking, focus, self-control, and self-motivation—all of which are necessary for success in school, and in life. Institute chairman André Shearer believes that practitioners who care for society’s youngest children are often neglected from public attention and praise.“This World Teachers’ Day, we must celebrate all our teachers. And not neglect those who educate, care for, and enable our very youngest South Africans,” Shearer said. This call to honour ECD teachers also acknowledges that quality ECD training is often absent, especially in South Africa’s most vulnerable communities – where poverty, unemployment and gender-based violence are rife.Indaba Institute Director Jasmine Jacob reflected: “Imagine a country where every child has the foundations for numeracy and literacy and who believe that they, regardless of their skin colour, background, gender, ability they have the potential to succeed – and realise that they are enough. “In South Africa, we know that teachers who are passionate and committed to child and community development are not always supported in working with children from all walks of life.
We are also aware that the ways of teaching and learning that can address challenges like this have been inaccessible to those in our society that need it most. “What’s incredible is that quality education does not belong in a single community. Every child has the right to achieve their full potential and every teacher can become a guide to support the child in doing so – and that is a core belief of the Montessori approach to education for life. “This project has shown us how with locally relevant, high quality teacher training in partnership with private sector and local government we can make quality education accessible to all communities. And in this way, social justice becomes possible,” Jacob said. Shearer has been a fierce advocate of quality ECD for several years, leading him to establish the Indaba Institute.“Research shows this is a critical phase. Brain development and brain plasticity prior to around the age of five is absolutely singular in its importance for human development. Early childhood development, when implemented properly, allows for an open architecture – they learn to concentrate, they learn to love, to learn, and they learn to take charge of their lives with great relish.“We believe one of the most vital next evolutions is how we tackle the education of the youngest humans on the planet. And this needs quality ECD teaching. The missing link is often the actual training of these teachers. Training ECD teachers is becoming our most vitally important priority, at the Indaba Institute. Early childhood development is an investment in what our future society can be like.”
Shearer cites the Education, Training & Development Programme SETA, which specifically urged, in its skills plan for 2020/2021 that ECD protects children against the effects of poverty, poor nutrition, inadequate health care and lack of education.
“Research from Harvard University tells us the biggest precursor to adult-onset disease profiles comes from the stresses and traumas experienced in early childhood. The World Bank will tell you that the single biggest return on investment for a society is investing in early childhood development.”
“Education needs to shift to the earliest years. We need to create environments for our youngest children that sees them as the greatest assets our society has. If early childhood development flourishes, it will allow a new society to emerge,” Shearer argues passionately.