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Thuli Madonsela Calls For A Fair And Equal Start In Life For All SA Children

  • 5 min read

Professor Thuli Madonsela believes every South African child is entitled to a “fair start to life”, through equal-quality Early Childhood Development (ECD) for children aged 0-6.

This equality in education for South Africa’s youngest children, will deliver true social justice in future, Madonsela believes.

Professor Madonsela serves as the Law Trust Chair in Social Justice at Stellenbosch University Law Faculty, and recently chaired the third Annual Social Justice Summit.

In this role, Madonsela leads the “Musa Plan for Social Justice” – also known as the “Social Justice M-Plan”. This is aimed at “accelerating the advancement of social justice, focusing on zero poverty and equalising opportunities in South Africa by 2030, as envisaged by the National Development Plan”.

In her quest for social justice, the decorated human rights advocate believes high-quality ECD is a vital foundation on which every born South African child will enjoy an equally “fair start to life”.

Madonsela will serve as a patron of the Indaba Foundation, based in the Cape Winelands.

She joins former Deputy President of South Africa, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who has recently served as the Executive Director of UN Women, and Bience Gawanas, who has served as Special Adviser on Africa for the United Nations after having served as Commissioner for Social Affairs at the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government, from 2002 to 2012.

Madonsela’s championing of ECD, as a key determinant of social justice, comes as high-profile figures around the globe have urged renewed attention on the earliest years of a child’s life. These ECD advocates include the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and his wife Catherine, as well as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and many other prominent international luminaries.

The Indaba Foundation funds the training of women at the Indaba Institute training school outside Stellenbosch. This training enables women graduates to offer significantly higher-quality ECD to children in vulnerable communities.

At Harvard university, Mandonsela was first introduced to the unparalleled impact quality ECD can offer an entire human lifespan. Today, she argues that high-quality ECD addresses two critical challenges.

First, South Africa needs modern 21st century education relevant to the new global economy.

Madonsela said of the Indaba teacher training: “I love the Montessori way of teaching. One of my children went to a Montessori school. I do think that the Montessori way of teaching is important in giving children a good start to life. But it is also the most appropriate response to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“Our current education system was specifically created for the 19th century, when industry needed people who didn’t think – it just needed people who had to do as they were required and told.”

But the Fourth Industrial Revolution has significantly changed this 200-year-old educational approach.

“With the Fourth IR, the machines are doing all the routine things. And we must be the ones who are innovative. Therefore, now there’s a mismatch between ourselves and our education,” says Madonsela.

Nurture our children for SA’s future

Madonsela’s second reason for supporting ECD is tackling both poverty and inequality.

She explains: “What is the difference between Sweden and South Africa? One difference that I personally know is that in South Africa, who and where you are born is a key determinant of where you will end up in life, and where your children and your children’s children are likely to end up.”

“A good example is me and Palisa Musa – an anti-apartheid activist who at the age of 12 in 1976 was one of the schoolchildren that were arrested, detained and tortured for challenging the apartheid government.  Both of us were born in Soweto, but I was taken out of Soweto. Today she works as hard as I do, perhaps even harder, but she’s poor. Musa serves as a reminder of how the shadow of the past influences the present.”

Access to quality ECD could set children on profoundly improved trajectories – leading them out of poverty.

Through the Indaba Foundation, Madonsela urges government, the private sector and all South Africans to support quality ECD, so that we can build a thriving nation.

“A comprehensive network of quality ECD centres, such as the Indaba Foundation is working to deliver, could transform the future for South Africa.

“It’s all-hands-on-deck. We all need to become involved.  When spider webs combine, they can tie up a lion,” concludes Madonsela.

Andre Shearer, founder and chairman of the Indaba Foundation, said of Madonsela’s crucial participation: “Our urgent investment in our women graduates, and in the children they care for in our communities, is far more than an ‘education’ issue. We are laying the foundation for a more socially just future. To have Prof Madonsela at the forefront of ECD advocacy is both an honour, and vital. Her call for social investment in our work will resonate with people around the world. As it should, because investment in the earliest years of our children’s lives – aged zero to six-years-old – is the greatest investment any society can make in its future.”

“We welcome Prof Madonsela to the coalface of ECD, and Indaba!”

For more information on the ECD training being delivered by the Indaba Institute visit