Building Academic Foundation Through Investing in Early Childhood Education and Development in South African Informal Settlement

Building Academic Foundation Through Investing in Early Childhood Education and Development in South African Informal Settlement

Ndwakhulu Stephen Tshishonga (University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2503-6.ch014
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In the developing world alone, there are over 200 million children who are in need of immediate early childhood development interventions. Most affected by poor or lack of quality ECD are the poor and those children in low income households. Early childhood development interventions protect children against the effects of poverty, poor nutrition, inadequate healthcare, and a lack of education. Globally, various ECD programme interventions in communities clearly indicate that communities and families want quality ECD programmes for their children at a cost that is affordable. In South Africa, quality early childhood development interventions could have a significant effect in reducing poverty and inequality. This chapter interrogates the challenges and benefits of extending quality ECE & D particularly to disadvantaged and materially deprived children in South African informal settlements. The chapter is based empirical research as well as secondary data in the form of books, book chapters, and accredited journals.
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Universally, early childhood education and development form part of the educational and developmental foundation for academic and economic prosperity. Scholars in Early Childhood Development (ECD) attest that it is a tool for positive socio-economic change and development (Hertzman, 2010); nation’s development depends on unlocking human capital especially amongst the youngest population (RSA, 2015, p. 18); attainment of cognitive skills (Grantham-McGregorgor et al., 2007) and prioritizing ECD especially in the informal settlements could be a powerful social investment with economic return based on building human capital. The chapter argues that access to quality ECD services could be instrumental in addressing poverty, service deficiencies and other developmental challenges for children residing in the informal settlements. Early childhood development interventions protect children against the effects of poverty, poor nutrition, inadequate health care and a lack of education (Van der Gaag & Putcha, 2015).

Despite South Africa having made tremendous progress in terms of expanding pre-school education, the quality of education for most black children remains inaccessible and of poor quality. These challenges however, not only lay a fragmented academic foundation for most learners to access quality early childhood education, but also reduce opportunities required for them to develop their cognitive skills and competencies. In South Africa, early childhood development and education interface the support from three national departments, namely the Department of Education, the Department of Social Development and the Department of Health (Storbeck & Moodley, 2011). Through the Department of Education, ECD is given legislative direction while the Department of Social Development offers registration services, with financial and capacity building support is to all registered ECD centres and programmes in South Africa. As such, early childhood education is not accessible to most children at Cato Manor who are in desperate need of it. Common to township challenges, Cato Crest is not immune from the high rate of unemployment, teenage pregnancies, drug abuse, high crime and poor infrastructure (Desai, 2014; eThekwini Municipality, 2004).

Despite the strides made in education sector since 1994, in terms of expanding early childhood development to the poor children, the sector is still confronted with multiple challenges. These challenges continue to undermine the quality of early childhood development as a fundamental building block of the education system in South Africa (Hall, 2015). The National Development Plan (2011, p. 300) highlight that “the quality and coverage of early childhood development services for children ages 0 to 4 are poor”. Thus, with the prevalence of poverty, unemployment and inequalities in South African townships and informal settlements, the lack of access and quality provision of early childhood development services reinforce each other in building a fragmented foundation phase for children to progress socially and academically. The problems under investigation in this chapter relate to the challenges pertaining to limited access and quality of early childhood development services. The chapter is based empirical research as well as secondary data in the form of books, book chapter and accredited journals. The empirical part comprised of 17 participants selected from the ECD centers, formal or informal.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Early Childhood Policy: A policy aimed at improve the quality, affordability and access to programs; develop early childhood data strategies to strengthen program quality, effectiveness and accountability; increase the education level and improve the compensation of the early childhood workforce; support parent engagement within programs; understand the needs of dual language learners.

Cato Crest: Informal settlement situated in Greater Cato Manor Township within eThekwini Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal Province (South Africa).

Informal Settlement: Also known as slum or squatter settlement, it is defined by the UN-Habitant (2003, p. 9) AU87: The in-text citation "UN-Habitant (2003, p. 9)" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. as a place having poor quality housing with the insanitariest conditions. Often informal settlement is constructed on illegally land without compliance or planning or building regulations.

Early Childhood Education: Early childhood education is a broad term used to describe any type of educational program that serves children in their preschool years, before they are old enough to enter kindergarten. Early childhood education may consist of any number of activities and experiences designed to aid in the cognitive and social development of preschoolers before they enter elementary school.

Child-Centered Approach to Education: Child-centered approach considers the psychological dimension in education which differences in children’s mental development.

Alternative Model to ECD: An alternative model based on the concept of early childhood education as schooling for democracy with a child-centered curriculum based on the principles of developmentally appropriate practices.

Early Childhood Development: Foundation phase education that entails the processes of emotional, cognitive, sensory, spiritual, moral, physical, social and communication development. Early childhood development is a comprehensive approach to policies and programmes provided to young children through the active involvement of parents and caregivers.

Teacher-Centered Approach: Education approach that is centered on teachers as holders of knowledge to be transferred to children through traditional pedagogical methods with limited interaction.

Ecological System Theory: A theory that integrates person and environment. This theory was developed by Urine Bronffenbrenner who argued that the person’s development is greatly affected by everything in their surrounding environment. In the context of ECD, ecology system theory illustrates how the child’s environment affects how a child grows and develops emotionally and intellectually.

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