The most important phase of a child’s learning and development takes place in the first 1000 days of his or her life. The Spur Foundation recognizes the importance of Early Childhood Development (ECD) and through its funding efforts aims to uplift and improve the lives of South African families, especially children, in line with its core value of generosity and Ubuntu.
Ronel van Dijk, Chairperson of the Spur Foundation and Chief Financial Officer of Spur Corporation Limited, explains the foundation believes that investing in ECD provides greater returns to society than any other form of human capital investment. Conclusive research shows that quality ECD interventions ensure that children are more likely to become functional and economically productive adults.
In 2014 the Spur Foundation partnered with the ASHA Trust on setting up holistic age-appropriate learning centres for children aged 0 – 4 in Alexandra, which is the crucial stage for young children’s physical, intellectual, emotional and social development. Funding provided by the Spur Foundation gave ten local women the opportunity to partake in the ASHA Trust programme which provides them with:
- Balanced eating and meal plans for optimal brain development
- Training materials addressing entry-level learning standards of day care centre owners and teachers
- Training in relevant legislation to enable crèches to get registered
- Ongoing administrative support (in line with the SA Child Care Act) so that crèches can receive the government subsidy of R15 per child per day
- Money management training to enable budgeting
- Intensive on site mentoring and vocational support to teachers and crèche owners
Dr. Tshepo Motsepe, Chairperson of the ASHA Trust elaborates: “Through our partnership with the Spur Foundation we want to highlight just how important the right pre-school education and nutrition is for pre-schoolers to reach their full potential.
Together with the wonderful women of Alexandra we’ve transformed the quality of nutrition and care for over 850 children this year alone. It has also helped the crèche owners become economically active as they learned to run their centres as sustainable small businesses.” says Dr Tshepo Motsepe, Chairman of ASHA Trust.
Additionally, the Spur Foundation recognises that the balance between early learning, stimulation and the provision of health and nutrition is necessary to ensure that children receive holistic ECD care. It is for this reason that the Foundation raised a further R230 000 at its series of golfs days in 2015 and extended its support of the 10 daycare centres by ensuring that they all have access to the FoodBank SA. This organisation collects edible surplus food from manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, and redistributes this food to hundreds of verified NPO’s that collectively feed thousands of hungry people daily.
Van Dijk explains that most NGO’s tend to focus on providing a specific set of services or in some instances only a single service. While this may be practical within the limitations of dwindling funding sources, children require comprehensive services. Therefore, we believe as a corporate donor that it is important to explore the potential of supporting ECD programmes that build on partnership. There was an obvious synergy between the Foundation, ASHA Trust and FoodBank SA.
With the success of this partnership, the Spur Foundation plans to consolidate and increase its reach with ASHA Trust in 2016. A nutrition, training and mentoring programme for a further ten daycare centres began in February. Alongside this intervention, site heads from the original ten creches are learning to provide a mentoring service to their colleagues. In this way the SPUR Foundation is facilitating an ECD support network among 20 early learning centres in Alexandra. The Foundation is also investigating ways in which it could potentially extend its partnership with the ASHA Trust to include other provinces.
Ms Nonhlanhla Marufu, one of the recently trained practitioners from the Happy Hours Day Care Centre, concludes: ‘I may not wear high heels, or work in an office behind a desk but I’m proud of the important work I do as an ECD practitioner. We as practitioners are developing children holistically at the early stages of their lives and preparing them for their future.’