Among the members of NAG there are countless stories that testify to this account and embody the very essence of community driven ECD. This year we want to celebrate two remarkable women who are true leaders and mobilised those around them to create ECD centres that inspire, motivate and lead the way. As an ECD network one of our core values is to promote best practice through shared learning and exchange.
The supervisor at one of these ECD centres has been a longstanding member of NAG’s advisory committee. She moved to the Manzamhlophe area in 1975 and was struck by how many parents left their children at home unsupervised when they went to work. Together with two other women she decided to start an ECD centre to create a place where children were safe and given opportunity to learn and grow. Although all the women were passionate, getting traction was hard as they were volunteers and still had to work other jobs to supplement their incomes. Another struggle early on involved how to feed the children. The supervisor recalls that she used to smuggle groceries from her own house to feed the children. She wore her husband’s coat and snuck out with food from their house.
Other times she would ask people who had ‘umsebenzi’ (a function like a wedding, funeral or traditional event) if they would donate left over food. There was even a time when the local chief brought her sugar cane and lemons, just wanting to help her out. The centre also faced lack of understanding of the importance of early learning and stimulation among the community. Instead of giving up the women equipped themselves with the skills they needed to change community misconceptions and motivate for children to attend the ECD centre. After years of getting by on next to nothing the ECD centre got funded by the Department of Social Development. The centre was finally able to pay teachers and start sending them on training. In 2018, NAG nominated the ECD centre and its supervisor for the Ray Nkonyeni Mayoral Awards, which she subsequently won “Best Rural ECD Centre”! Her advice to others is:
What you want is possible, you just need to be patient and keep striving forward. If you join NAG you will have the information and resources available that you need to move forward.
*Names have been omitted to protect the privacy of the ECD centre