Eastern Cape communities are learning that children who receive stimulation and sensory education before they start primary school are more likely to succeed in life.
Parents should not think they cannot improve the quality of the education their child receives before primary school.
This is the philosophy of an innovative programme run by the Cookhouse Wind Farm in the Eastern Cape. The programme teaches mothers from disadvantaged backgrounds to become more involved in early childhood development (ECD) in their communities.
The Mentor Moms programme focuses on training mothers about the essential aspects of ECD and how they can ensure that children are receiving a good education at ECD centres.
In 2016, the wind farm called in non-profit organisation Siyawela – which runs a programme called Bringing Parents to the Education Table – to assist with improving ECD in the four communities around the wind farm.
“This programme gives parents the knowledge they need to help children with early learning such as counting, shapes, reading, colouring-in and so forth. We wanted to increase the interaction between parents and children so that when children come home from school, parents can tell whether they are being taught the right things and are receiving a good quality education. Children need to have all the basic skills in place so that they can be prepared for primary school,” said Cookhouse Wind Farm’s Community Operations Manager, Elton Gordon.
A total of 533 parents went through the Siyawela programme, each receiving a certificate.
After graduation, the wind farm selected 24 Mentor Moms who could then take the skills they had learnt into their communities.
One of the Mentor Moms, Kelly Lourens, said before the programme, parents in her community were not aware of how important ECD is.
“Parents would just take their kids to an ECD centre, without really worrying about what they were doing there. Through the programme, we have all learnt that this stage of a child’s life is extremely important,” said Lourens, herself a mother of a four-year-old.
Each Mentor Mom has between five and seven parents who they provide mentorship to. The Mentor Moms give workshops to these other parents, and they also have monitoring sessions where they go into the household to see whether the parents are using the skills that have been taught to them.