Abahambi means ‘Those that walk” in IsiZulu. They form an essential building block in our model of a Non-centre based ECD programme. The Abahambi are trained ECD practitioners that bring play-to-learn sessions to the children in the most rural places. 42 Abahambi facilitate playgroups for young children and are equipped with a variety of age-appropriate resources and toys. The Abahambi also visit the homes of children 0-2 years old and run caregiver workshops in the community to ensure ongoing stimulation and participation. Each child is provided with a fortified porridge when attending the play sessions.
CHILDREN CENTRES – ECD
LETCEE supports 5 ECD centres in the Umvoti Local Municipality. The centres in Upper Thulini, Sgedlane, Potspruit, Greytown and Nseleni support around 100 children with a fortified porridge in the mornings, and a nutritious meal each lunchtime. An ECD practitioner facilitates a play session in the mornings. The Barracks Centre, Izingane Zethu, caters for more than 120 children daily, as the school-going children come in for breakfast before school and again in the afternoon to have a nutritious meal. The centres are housed in converted shipping containers. They are equipped with toys and offer a safe, supervised space where children can have fun and play with educational toys.
LETCEE runs 4 stationed Toy Libraries and 3 Mobile Toy Libraries. Each toy library is run and managed by a trained toy librarian. These toy libraries are important resources for communities, especially families with young children. It is a venue where children, their families and caregivers as well as other ECD practitioners have access to a variety of good quality play materials and resources.
Our toy libraries are stocked with toys, games, puzzles, books, educational resources (theme bags) and other play equipment. These resources help stimulate children’s development and encourage active learning. The toy libraries also provide daily come-and-play sessions for the community children and run workshops for the caregivers and Abahambi. Furthermore, they teach how to make toys and learning resources out of waste. One of the mobile Toy Libraries provides adapted toys and resources for children with special needs.
PLAY - ABLE PROJECT
Play-Able Project encourages inclusive play sessions for 25 children with special needs. The mobile toy library is equipped with toys, and educational and therapy materials to provide inclusive play sessions. A physiotherapist accompanies the project once a week to take care of the needs of the children, make adaptive equipment and implement a home exercise program together with the caregiver. In addition to the play sessions at home, children are transported to group play sessions. We also provide transport to rehab sessions at the local clinics where an interdisciplinary team attends to the children. The caregivers of the children receive support and counselling at the visits, and a quarterly support group for parents is held. The parents and caretakers are very appreciative and we have seen a lessening of the stigma attached to disability.
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT AND FOOD SECURITY
The programmes include aspects such as nutrition and income generation to strengthen the families of young children. LETCEE is committed to real partnership and co-managing projects with the community, which includes decision-making and the setting of project budgets.
The families who are visited by each Abahambi collectively establish a food garden with our support. The gardens are fenced and a tank is installed. The gardens are run on an allotment-type model. The gardeners’ barter produces within the group and sells the excess to generate income. Some groups now supply the local schools’ feeding schemes. The vegetable gardens not only ensure improved family food security but also improve the caregivers’ sense of worth and provide them with a support group. Vegetable gardens are established in homes where the caregiver is unable to participate in the local community garden.
LETCEE’s policy is to empower communities to take over the projects to ensure sustainability. To do this, projects are co-managed by the elected committee. Decisions concerning who is employed and the budget for direct project costs are made jointly. The committee is assisted to register an NPO so that they can attract funding as LETCEE withdraws. The committee is encouraged to work closely with the traditional leadership in each community. Workshops are facilitated to build confidence, as well as to learn more about budgeting and management.
SmartStart is a social franchise with its head office based in Johannesburg. SmartStart supports ECD facilities nationally in South Africa. SmartStarts mission is to ensure that every young child has access to quality early learning programmes in preparation for the opportunities ahead. LETCEE supports the 3rd largest SmartStart branch in South Africa with over 400 ECD facilitators and 3600 young children in the programme.
POWERGIRLS AND BOYS PROGRAMME
The PowerGirls and PowerBoys programme is a national initiative aimed at empowering girls and boys aged 9-16 years, from disadvantaged communities. This programme includes weekly get-togethers to discuss themes such as heritage, loyalty, empathy, and honesty. The groups are split into boys and girls and different age groups. The children have fun journaling, being creative and playing games. We are proud of this project and have seen the difference in our children’s behaviour. Empathy is growing and we love giving the children an opportunity to have fun while busy with meaningful activities over a weekend.
Operation Impact is a support programme that bridges the mathematics and language skills gap for learners in grades R–3 who are struggling in these subjects. In 2022, the programme began as a trial with 4 schools and 100 students. The initiative is currently being implemented in 8 schools, with a total of 240 students.
The facilitators conduct a two-hour session, every Tuesday and Thursday, after school. They use a variety of activities to assist students in understanding Math, English and Isizulu concepts. Teaching strategies include peer learning in which a learner who is struggling to understand topics is paired with another learner who already understands the concepts.
Individual attention and extra support are provided to those students who are having difficulties. All activities and tasks given to learners are aligned with the CAPS curriculum.
Since the programme is offered after school, the participating learners receive a snack before they start the session.
While the programme is still in its early stages, it is showing promising outcomes. Feedback and half-yearly reports have shown some progress and improvement among the participating learners.