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 early childhood development is lacking in many communities. The Mkhondo municipality in South Africa is a predominantly rural area with a population of approximately 172,000. 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 NGO partners to bring early childhood development services to 35 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. This new service is reaching around 400 children at 35 villages every month. Parents and caregivers are invited to learn about the resources and why early childhood development is so important.

The next phase of the project is to set up 35 early learning playgroups across the region in partnership with Cotlands and funded by the Mpumalanga Department of Social Development. This will create 35 jobs and provide more children with the opportunity to learn through play. They will also be given a nutritious snack to promote health benefits, and be referred to local nurses and social workers where necessary.

1) 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

 

A springboard for early childhood learning

 

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