Delivering Integrated Early Childhood Education and Development Through Family in Focus: A South African Case

Delivering Integrated Early Childhood Education and Development Through Family in Focus: A South African Case

Ndwakhulu Stephen Tshishonga (University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2503-6.ch013
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This chapter explores the potential of home-based early childhood education in democratizing the sector especially for poor and disadvantaged children. Considering the huge number of children not accessing early learning centers, alternative ECD is optional. Family in Focus is one of the alternative ECDs formed in 1987 to cater for the needs of the poor and vulnerable children in the Western Cape Province. The focus of this programme is on the family as the primary source of care of young children. Through the FIF programme, home visitors are trained and supported to reach out to these children and their caregivers in order to develop the skills and capacity of caregivers to stimulate and develop their children effectively in their own homes. The chapter argues that the introduction of Family in Focus (FIF) as an alternative ECD programme could serve as a strategy to make ECD accessible to poor and disadvantaged communities.
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There is sufficient evidence for the need of early childhood education and development as an academic foundation for societal prosperity (Albino & Berry, 2013; UNICEF, 2014). As the building block for a sound educational system, early childhood development is fundamental in improving the learners’ results (Twenty Year Review, South Africa, 1994-2014). This was reiterated by Hall (2015) who argued that education is a central socio-economic right that has the potential to build the foundation for life-long learning and economic opportunities. Access to quality early education is the pathway to further educational grades. Investment in early childhood education through Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres is key for any society wishing to prevent the escalation of poverty and unemployment (Hendricks, 2018). 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). Effects of ECD programmes on South Africa include a more productive society, improved socio-economic circumstances and social cohesion, all of which in turn, counter the cycle of poverty.

In the developing world alone, there are over 200 million children who are in need of immediate early childhood development interventions (Van der Gaag & Putcha, 2015). South African schools have contributed toward reproducing an unequal society despite having an extended education programme for pre-school and early childhood development centres (Therborn, 2019). In spite of efforts to expand Early Childhood Development to poor children, the sector is still confronted with multiple challenges (Hendricks, 2019; Saba, 2019). These challenges, however, continue to undermine the quality of Early Childhood Development as a fundamental building block of a more equal education system in South Africa (25 Year Review, 2019). 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 very poor. Quality of ECD in South Africa’s poor and disadvantaged communities such as rural areas, townships and informal settlements is undermined by the prevalence of poverty, unemployment and inequalities (Saba, 2019). Thus, 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.

It is against this background, this chapter explores the potential of home-based early childhood education in democratizing the ECD sector, especially for poor children residing in disadvantaged communities. The Family in Focus (FIF) programme has been used as a case study to determine non-centre ECD as one of the options in accessing good quality early childhood education and development. Additionally, to evaluate the opportunities and challenges facing Family in Focus in Western Cape’s townships, informal communities and impoverished where FIF programme is being implemented. Questions such as 1) what is FIF? 2) what are the ECD opportunities available through FIF for poor and disadvantaged children? 3) what are the challenges or disadvantages affecting the smooth functioning of FIF in delivery early childhood development? 4) how do such challenges influence the efficacy of FIF as optional early childhood development? 5) what role and support are provided by Early Childhood Development stakeholders for non-centre ECD such as FIF? and finally, 6) what are the possible recommendations to improve the effective functioning of the FIF programme?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Home Visiting Programme: One of the programmes run by Family in Focus in which the trained home visitors provide support to parents of the children attending Family in Focus programme.

Family in Focus (FiF): An alternative ECD programme established in 1987 by Foundation of Community Work to cater for children who are not part of the centre-based ECD.

Early Childhood Development Leadership: leadership by either ECD principals or, co-ordinators aimed at providing policy direction to pre-school centres.

Ecological Systems Theory: A theory that integrates person and environment. This theory was developed by Urie Bronfenbrenner who argued that the person’s development is greatly affected by everything in their surrounding environment. In the context of ECD, the ecological systems theory illustrates how the child’s environment affects how they grow and develops emotionally and intellectually.

Early Children Services: These are services provided to both ECD staff and pre-school children in formal or informal centres. Services could include health, academic and safety.

Holistic and D Integrated ECD: Early childhood development interventions that cater for the social, physical, moral and psychological needs of children.

Alternative ECD: ECD services and programmes not offered in formal and/or conventional centres. An alternative model based on the concept of early childhood education and development and can be offered at home or in the community using available resources.

Early Childhood Development: Is a foundation phase of education that entails the processes of emotional, cognitive, sensory, spiritual, moral, physical, and 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.

Early Children Education: Type of education that target children under the age of 5 and such educational intervention or services.

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