Official Opening The Early Care Foundation Bram Fischerville Early Childhood Development Centre of Excellence – 28 March 2012
Address by Cyril Ramaphosa
At the Opening of The Early Care Foundation’s Early Childhood Centre of Excellence
28 March 2012
“I’m pleased to join you here in Bram Fischerville this morning at the official opening of The Early Care Foundation’s Early Childhood Centre of Excellence.
We all know how fundamentally important a sound education system is to a nation’s well-being; and at no point is this more crucial than at the earliest stages of a child’s development.
Education, training and innovation are central to South Africa’s long-term development. They are core elements in eliminating poverty and reducing inequality. Education empowers people to define their identity, to take control of their lives, their destiny, their future choices, raise healthy families, take part confidently in the development of a just society, play an effective role in the politics and governance of their communities, access knowledge, understand the world in which they live better and make inputs to improve and sustain the environment.
As a country we are faced with the challenge of massive unemployment and poverty. Poverty’s twin brother or sister is the absence of skilled people to fill available positions. The worrying part of this problem is that young people are simply inadequately prepared from a skills point of view to meet the needs of the marketplace. This performance gap begins to manifest itself in poor communities even before children enter Grade 1. The gap widens as learners move through the school system.
Our challenge then is to ensure that the intervention programmes begin as early as possible in a child’s life. In well-resourced households, this happens incidentally. It is in areas of high unemployment and poverty where we need to put in place programmes that address the needs of the 0 – 6-year-olds. By the time learners reach high school the cost of reversing learning delays is enormous. So, effective pre-school care becomes not just a nice-to-have but essential.
The National Planning Commission in crafting a Vision for South Africa in 2030 tries to give us an insight into the future that we all aspire to:
“We are Africans.
We are an African country.
We are part of our multinational region.
We are an essential part of our continent……..
We feel loved, respected and cared for at home, in community and in public institutions……
We learn together…..We love reading.
Each community has:
teachers who love teaching and learning,
a local library filled with the wealth of books,
All our citizens read, write, converse, and value idea and thought.
We are fascinated by scientific invention and its use in the enhancement of our lives.
We live the joy of speaking many languages……”. ( excerpts from the Vision Statement.)
In that future, which we are enjoined to build today the role of early childhood development, is critical to ensuring that young children reach their full potential. Measures should be in place to ensure that the majority of pregnant women are mature and have made a conscious decision to have a child.
In that future we envision teenage pregnancy is a memory far in the distance. Pregnant mothers are supported adequately (physically, emotionally and mentally) to ensure a successful term of pregnancy through to delivery. The children born to these mothers are nurtured so that by the time they reach five years of age, they are healthy and well nourished, physically fit, have had two years of pre-school, they are securely attached to caregivers and able to communicate and interact positively with caregivers and other consistent adults in their lives.
Systems are in place to deliver services that eradicate micronutrients deficiencies among babies younger than 18 months; ensure all children have sufficient food and nutrition; and ensure access to stimulating environments that support learning and are not limited by socioeconomic status, gender and geography
If that is the future we want, desire and deserve, we have to work for it and make sure it happens. The size of the need is enormous and will take all of us working together to address the problem with the urgency it demands.
An organisation like The Early Care Foundation is making an invaluable contribution through the 41 creches that cater for thousands of pre-schoolers annually, as well as the adult education programmes that equip unskilled individuals to become effective pre-school practitioners. I believe many of you here today are donor partners who support these programmes either through corporate social investments or through your company’s enterprise development… You are to be commended for this.