The brains of preschool children grow at an incredible rate and help lay the foundations of language, thinking and social and emotional development.
Children from Upington in the Northern Cape are benefiting from 10 early childhood development (ECDs) centres recently launched by the Department of Social Development (DSD).
Five-year-old Lithemba Bacela, who lives with cerebral palsy and has a speech impairment, is better able to indicate what she feels and needs, thanks to her time at one of these centres, Oasis Skills Development Centre’s ECD unit.
Lithemba lives in Paballelo with her mother, Elizabeth Bacela, who says her child’s communication skills have improved since she started at the centre last year. Elizabeth said the stimulation area has been particularly beneficial.
“Lithemba can now indicate when she is thirsty, hungry or has wet herself.”
The Oasis ECD centre is one of 10 that received new buildings from the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) as part of the commission’s Legacy Project. This countrywide initiative is aligned with the National Development Plan’s commitment to improving education, innovation and training, and ensuring that all children have at least two years of preschool education.
The centre accommodates children who live with a variety of conditions, including autism, down syndrome, cerebral palsy and foetal alcohol syndrome. Each of the four classes at the ECD centre has 10 to 15 pupils, says Acting Chairperson of Oasis Skills Development Centre Marina Johannesen.
The department contributes a subsidy of R20 per child, which covers children between the ages of two and seven and those who are 18 years of age and above.
In 2015, the DSD donated a stimulation centre, computer lab and a bus to transport pupils to and from school.
“Once a week, therapists from the local hospital come to the centre to assess and treat the children,”says Johannesen. The new building, donated recently is an additional blessing for the centre. Speaking at the launch, Social Development Deputy Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu called on the public to include children living with disabilities in dialogues about issues that affect them.