Inclusive Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres
Funded by Anglo American Chairman's fund
IEWC has received funding form the Anglo American Chairman's fund to begin work on an ECD Programme which comprises two main projects.
One programme will identify and strengthen Inclusive ECD Centres - that is centres willing to include young children with disabilities or other special needs. IEWC will be supporting and training the staff over an 18 month period as well as paving the way at neighbouring primary schools for inclusion of these children when they are ready to move into primary school.
The second project will identify under-resourced ECD Centres where there are particularly vulnerable children who run the risk of not being able to manage with the demands of formal schooling the following year. The Centre will be supplied with supplementary material and training in order to help them to bridge this gap with those children.
Capricorn / Lavender Hill Toy Library Project
Funded by the Nussbaum Foundation
IEWC has received funding from the Nussbaum Foundation to open two toy libraries in the Lavender Hill / Capricorn communities. The first will be a toy library housed at a local ECD Centre that will be accessed by surrounding ECD Centres for use in their centres. Over 21 ECD Centres sent delegates on training to learn about how to use toys effectively in child development, the role of play in development and how to correctly identify barriers to learning that children in their centres may be experiencing.
Following on from the awareness and advocacy project IEWC undertook in the Lavender Hill/ Capricorn are in 2009/2010 a number of children with special learning needs and disabilities were identified. The large majority of these children were not accessing any form of education. Most children are on waiting lists for local special schools but we felt there was a real need to support their parents to stimulate their children and ensure their development whilst at home. Hence the need for an adapted toy library in the area which parents can access to borrow toys that have been specifically adapted for use by children with a wide range of disabilities and barriers to learning. This is the second toy library we are establishing in this community and will be housed at the Living Hope Centre. We are currently training parents on the role play in development, play at home and child development before the toy library is opened in February 2011.
Two practitioners from each toy library site will be sent on comprehensive training, offered by ALL-SA (Active Learning and leisure Libraries South Africa) where they will be shown how to prepare and catalogue toys and how to administer a toy library. The toys are in the process of being sourced and the toy libraries will open in February 2011.
Inclusive Schools Project
Funded by the Momentum Fund (First Rand Foundation)
This project has been developed in line with our growing belief that any efforts to encourage and support more inclusive practices will be more successful if whole schools, and to a certain extent whole school communities, can be involved. The Momentum Fund's support for this project reflects their interest in capturing examples of inclusive or "full-service" school practice as a viable alternative that can serve the interests of children affected by disabilities. In this way, it can be seen as a pilot project that can inform future school practices.
This project is being carried out over a three year period with four participating schools, 2 rural and 2 urban. They are: Claremont Primary, Fairview Primary, Swartberg Primary - Caledon and Jurie Hays - Vredenburg.
Inclusive Education Advocacy in the Capricorn/Lavender Hill Community
Funded by the Department of Social Development
This project was requested by the Provincial Department of Social Development's Disability Programme in response to an earlier proposal that IEWC assist this Department in introducing an inclusive approach to their ECD and community-based services. We were asked to focus on Disability Awareness and Advocacy activities as well as information, advice and support services to families of children with special needs (especially disabilities) in the target area, with the particular aim of improving their access to Early Childhood Development and early formal education. We hope that this project can serve as an example of community-based intervention to raise awareness of the rights and needs of children with disabilities, and can be implemented in other communities and service areas of the DSD.
Inclusive Schools Development and Support
Grabouw Schools' Project - Funded by Anglo American Chairman's Fund
This project focused on one school - Pineview Primary - whose principal requested our support in implementing the Foundations for Learning Project. Negotiation and some rope-walking were necessary to balance the school's need for a strong focus on Literacy and Numeracy activities with our need to work in a more holistic way. Our activities included hands-on training in classes, motivation and skills-training workshops for parents to enhance their ability to support their children's learning, and the introduction of our Activity Pack (translated into Afrikaans) to enhance pre- and early Literacy and Numeracy activities. This project had many highlights and we managed to build good relationships with the teachers and children. At the same time, it also led us to revaluate our involvement in schools and to seriously reflect on ways to stay tuned to their real needs. We realised again how important it is to involve the whole school in the planning exercise, ensuring that we understand each other's needs and reach clarity on the methods we use and the involvement expected of all role-players.
Bridge School Workshop Series: "Bridging the Gap in Communication"
In early April 2008, IEWC joined with SAALED Western Cape in hosting 2 days of workshops run by the Bridge School of San Francisco at the Red Cross Children's Hospital. The Bridge School is dedicated to ensuring that children with severe speech and physical impairments achieve full participation. Their outreach programme works at promoting and disseminating information about alternative and augmentative forms of communication. The team shared strategies and ideas around educating children with complex needs, inspiring the group of 170 teachers, therapists and parents on what can be achieved, even with few resources. We were very grateful for their generosity and demonstration of a truly child-centered outreach to our most challenged, and often most excluded, learners.
Promoting Inclusive ECD Services
Masiphumelele ECD Project Funded by the City of Cape Town & Nussbaum Foundation
This was an example of how a project can change significantly after consultation with community role- players. In the project proposal, the main focus was on the training of ECD practitioners in the use of role-play and toys in child development. With input from the community, the focus changed to working side-by-side with the Family and Community Motivators (trained by ELRU) to demonstrate to families, practitioners and motivators how play activities form an important role in development and intervention goals. The programme included practical sessions with the FCM workers of the community, as well as the parents and children in the original FCM programme. Some toys were provided and prepared for ongoing use and sustainability. Mary Clark reported very positively on the outcomes which could be achieved with this approach, despite financial and time constraints.
Reachng Out-of-School Children
Vredenburg Project - Funded by APD & the Emseni Trust
IEWC & APD continued to collaborate throughout the 08/09 period on a project in Vredenburg, on the West Coast, to identify vulnerable and out-of-school children, investigating ways in which to support their access to the education system.
Seed-funded by APD and subsequently supported by a grant from the Emseni Trust, the project was undertaken in close co-operation with the WCED, and included a door-to-door survey, interviews with a wide range of service-providers in the area, ECD training and tapping into existing support structures in the community. The focus of the activities during this year centered strongly on gaining a deeper understanding of the reasons for learners dropping out of school or never accessing school in a rural town like Vredenburg. Through focus group discussions with learners, parents, teachers and local service providers, we gained disturbing insights into the lives of many of the young and teenaged children in the area.
We also saw that many parents were struggling to care and provide for their children, or had reached a point where they were no longer trying to do so. We listened to dedicated teachers who were deeply disheartened that, despite their best efforts, they were not getting through to their learners and not achieving the results that were expected of them.
We met wonderful service-providers who really care for the children, going the extra mile to support families and children despite the enormous need and lack of resources. A forensic social worker in Vredenburg who assesses children who have been raped or traumatised in other ways felt strongly that immediate and intensive trauma-counselling was necessary in order to prevent more devastating psychological harm to these children. According to her, there is a dearth of aftercare trauma-counselling services but, despite good intentions, children do not get adequate care from over-subscribed social services.
We tried to capture all this in the "Vredenburg Children's Report" which has been circulated widely and had very positive responses.
Lessons learnt from this project:
- The value of cooperation with other organizations / institutions. For this project, we worked hand in hand with APD and UCT's Department of Occupational Therapy. We also received significant encouragement and support from the Disabled Children's Action Group and ELRU from Cape Town, Mfesane, HIV/Aids Initiative, Nicro, Badisa and many other community organizations in Vredenburg, as well as the local offices of the Departments of Education, Social Development, Health, Police and Justice.
- Time allocated to listening to the voice of the people is time well spent. Interviews, focus-group discussions, workshop discussions and reflection on the project with co-workers informed and guided our planning for the project. This helped us to work in a more developmental way and to move nearer to the ideal of "planning with" instead of "planning for".
- The report highlights the challenges facing the ideal of "education for all" in our current society, as Vredenburg mirrors conditions found in most other South African communities. The need for a combined effort by all government and civil society role-players to work together to improve the future of our children is highlighted. The implication for our work is that if IEWC wants to promote fuller inclusion of all children in schools, we need to enhance and support the building of safety networks. Children need to be supported at home, in the community, in their schools and classrooms. Teachers need support and skills to work with children who live, grow, and try to learn in dire home / community circumstances. They also require skills to teach these children resilience and other coping skills, including the motivation and ability to open their minds to learning despite their sadness, fear, anger and inability to concentrate. Schools need information and systems to support and refer children who desperately need help. The importance of community resources needs to be emphasized as government support systems are oversubscribed. Research for alternative community resources proved to be rewarding and worthwhile.