It seems that ECD has become the latest buzz letters replacing the infamous HIV in South Africa. But what on earth is ECD? First off ECD is an acronym for early childhood development and is defined as the time from conception till a child enters Grade R which is age 5/6, and in the case of a disabled child age 8.
It is very frustrating when I hear that many people view this time as being unimportant, something they want to fast forward. I’m not sure if it’s due to the added responsibility, financial burdens, loss of sleep, temper tantrums or just the ‘messy’ house with all the toys lying around. But let me say that those who choose to work with children as a career, such as ECD practitioners, paediatric nurses and doctors, toy librarians, play facilitators, social workers, etc. agree that this period in a child’s life is critically important.
Children learn almost everything from people and their environment, so if their interactions are loving, stimulating and appropriate then we lay a solid foundation for healthy development, relationships and future learning.
It saddens me to know that 8 out of 10 children in South Africa do not have this during their early years. Which means the window of opportunity to maximise children’s potential in the first 6 years is severely impacted. This affects all of us and the country’s future!
While as a trend practitioner I see first-hand the remarkable progress children in our programme make parents tend to undervalue their child’s achievements. We’ve been conditioned to acknowledge only the more tangible milestones such as talking or walking but neglect those lesser known milestones such as colour or shape recognition. Yet these ‘mini-milestones’ are just as crucial for later success.
Nelson Mandela once said “education is the greatest weapon we can use to change the world”. If we believe this to be true we need to invest in the learning potential of every child.
As a parting shot for this my first blog let me ask you what will you do to help others understand that early childhood development is critically important for our society as a whole? How will you advocate for children to be children – their basic needs met, time to play, explore, talk, ask questions, be busy, love and hugs?
Monica Stach holds a Masters degree in Early Childhood Intervention. She joined Cotlands in 2007. Her initial role was to explore innovative ways to stimulate development in young children. Toy libraries and early learning play group models have since emerged under her leadership as the chief operations officer at Cotlands. She is an executive member of the International Toy Libraries Association and represents Africa on this global platform. The promotion of play in underprivileged communities is her passion.