Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres play a crucial role in the development of young children. In a perfect world, they’re a safe place where children under five get access to nutritious food that helps them learn and grow, providing cognitive stimulation that sets them up for later life. But, unfortunately, many ECD centres in rural or semi-rural communities are under-resourced, which means they cannot provide the primary care that little ones deserve.
Local brand, Nyala, in partnership with NGO Zero2Five, will be contributing to the upgrade of nine Early Childhood Development (ECD) establishments in rural Kwazulu-Natal over the coming months. These upgrades will see much-needed renovations and fixtures added to these facilities. This will improve the safety of the children who attend and enhance the environment they learn in. Depending on the needs of each creche, these renovations will include the installation or repair of toilets, fencing and gates, roofing, and educational toys.
“The education and care that children receive in the foundation phase of their lives prepare them for their formal school years,” says Sibongile Mooko, Marketing Executive at Premier FMCG. “By upgrading these key facilities, we are giving these children a chance at a better education, and thus a better future,” she adds.
According to Julika Falconer, CEO at Zero2Five, many ECD centres in rural settings are home-based and do not meet the basic health and safety standards for childcare due to a lack of resources. This means that they cannot register as Partial Care Facilities and get access to government funding. Falconer says that toilets, fencing and hand-washing amenities are the most significant needs and that funding is a huge hurdle. She says that fencing is crucial – not only to create a safe environment for the children but also to keep the livestock out and maintain acceptable levels of hygiene.
“Infrastructure upgrades bring a whole new life and opportunities to these centres and the children in their care,” Falconer says. “Fences minimise the risk of children wandering away and decrease the chance of abduction. Having child-friendly toilets will reduce the risk of children falling into pit toilets and improve hygiene dramatically. Improved hygiene, in turn, will prevent illness and improve their overall health and ability to learn,” she explains.
While safety is always a priority at these premises, a stark lack of budget often means that the correct equipment doesn’t get installed or existing equipment falls into disrepair. Slindile Cebekhulu, from the Umzamo ECD centre in Eshowe, says that these upgrades will offer a safer environment for young children. “Our children will be able to learn and play safely, and staff will be able to focus on teaching and preparing them for school,” she comments.
A better, safer environment may also mean additional enrolments so that income can grow as well.
Nyala is also donating a three-month supply of Super Maize to each of the ECD centres. This nutritious product has added vitamins and minerals to boost young bodies. For many children at the ECD centres, it may be the only meal they get for the day.
Mooko comments that they took on this project because of the enormous value it will add to the education of these young children: “People are experiencing some of their most difficult times right now. As a proudly homegrown KwaZulu-Natal brand, we are excited to be part of helping to tackle some of these challenges. We believe that the future of South Africa lies in our children, and investing in their education from an early age puts young minds on a promising path of lifelong learning and future success.”