The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are the most crucial in terms of development. These are the foundation years for literacy, maths and emotional development1. But despite this, early childhood development is lacking in many communities in South Africa.
The Mkhondo municipality in South Africa is a predominantly rural area with a population of approximately 189,036. Studies show that there are 21,686 children under the age of four in the area, 18,000 of whom do not have access to early learning and stimulation2. Mondi has been involved in providing access to healthcare for the Mkhondo community for a number of years through the highly successful Mobile Clinic Programme in partnership with the Mpumalanga Department of Health and Thol’ulwazi Thol’impilo3.
In 2018, we launched an exciting new project with government and Cotlands to bring early childhood development services and support sessions to parents from 46 remote villages, using the mobile clinics as an entry point. A toy library is packed into a trailer which is hitched to the mobile clinic, enabling the toy librarian and the nurse to visit the same service points together. While the nurse provides health services, the librarian provides play-based learning sessions for children under the age of five. The children are also given a nutritious snack to promote health benefits, and are referred to local nurses and social workers where necessary. Parents and caregivers are invited to learn about the resources and why early childhood development is so important. By end 2021, five mobile toy libraries have been established, reaching around 2,152 children under five years old, every month. In addition, this initiative has created 24 jobs and capacitated nine community health workers as Toy Library Assistants.
The project is aligned with the National Early Childhood Development Policy (2015) and the National Development Plan 2030, which recognise that all young children in South Africa have a right to receive ECD services to ensure their optimal development. In addition, it contributes to the UN SDGs 3 and 4: Good Health & Wellbeing and Quality Education.
(1) 'The first 1,000 days of life: The brain’s window of opportunity', https://www.unicef-irc.org/article/958-the-first-1000-days-of-life-the-brains-window-of-opportunity.html
(2) Integrated ECD plan for the Mkhondo sub-district, ‘ECD: everyone’s business’ by Patricia Martin-Wiesner, Advocacy Aid, July 2016.
(3) Thol’ulwazi Tho’limpilo is an NGO Project in South Africa initiated in 2005 which offers HIV/AIDS education, support and assistance to farm workers and their families in their target areas.
See Mondi Action Plan 2030 (MAP2030)
Last update: 16 March 2022