My name is Prince Sibusiso Mhlanga known as Sbu at work. I’m a Mobile Toy Librarian that will share my short story after attending successfully Play Conference 2017 at Pretoria on the 11 to 13 July 2017. It was like a dream when I received a great news ever from my Superior at LETCEE (Miss. Annika Hayward) that I will be part of 3 days Play Conference at Saint Georges Hotel and Conference Centre in Pretoria!
But I realized that my Colleague Mrs. Mamsy Dlamini and I will go on our own using Letcee’s vehicle. This is the first time driving to Pretoria on our own. But I thank my Management for giving us a hope and strength. They told us that everything can happen as long you have self-confidence. Mamsy and I we were doubting to go on our own to Pretoria. At last we managed to attend the Conference without any problem!
The Conference was very fruitful to me – I’ve learned a lot in different presentations as the THEME of the Conference was to prepare our Children for the 21st Century as well as the Play-Based Learning programmes. It was great also to network with different people coming from different organisations who mostly focused on children (International and National) and I’m also more confident in my work as a Mobile Toy Librarian, from now on I know I’m also a Play Advocate.
• The atmosphere was very good during the first day! When we arrived at the venue, we were welcomed with a huge smile by the Marshalls. There were also the pictures with the arrows, and signs showed everyone where to go.
• We were welcomed in a very friendly manner by Mr. Wycleaf from Unicef. He introduced relevant stakeholders and people who organized this Event: which is Unicef, Lego Foundation, Cotlands, Smartstart, Department of Basic Education (DBE) and others. He also made everyone feel more comfortable during the whole 3 days Conference.
• Dr. Maboya (DBE) was the first speaker, talking a lot about their plans as a Department and the role of Play Based Learning. Children learn easily through Play according to their development stage, though she also mentioned some challenges like overcrowding of children through shortage of ECD Practitioners, Perception of School Committees, Parents and even Teachers. I quote her statement:
“If you teach these children, if you rope them in, you affect their future as well as the future of the country and the World as a whole.”
• Michael from Lego Foundation International had a very short slot during the day but I was very impressed when he said: We are all equal when it comes to the development of children – irrespective of the gender you are because development of a child requires both genders from the beginning.
• Mr. Per Havgaard reminded us that research tells us Play is very important! He spoke a lot about 21st Century Skills like: Generalising competencies, Communication, Global Movement.
• I enjoyed the workshop run by Mrs. Marie-Louise Samuels (DBE). She focuses on Early Childhood Development and is a Policy maker. Her workshop focused on Critical and Analytical Thinking during Play Based Learning.
• Today I’ve learned a lot from others and I also add from my knowledge as a person who works with children.
It was the most fruitful day ever!
• Today was opened with a key note address from Minister of Basic Education, Hounarable Angie Motshegka. She thanked everyone who managed to come and attend this Conference as it is for the foundation of our future leaders. People were coming from International as well as National, NGO’s each and every person who manage to be part of this Conference. They have a lot of plans and challenges as a Department about Play Based Learning programme. The minister also emphasized Play to Learn programmes and ICT for 21st Century learners.
• Mr. Danie Heymans from Lego Foundation demonstrated to us Robotics technology that deals with the design -LEGO MINDSTORMS ELEPHANT (robot). It was so amazing to learn the benefit of this game which is: Collaboration/ Teamwork, Problem Solving skills, Logical Thinking. He also mentioned ages of the Children that can benefit on Robotics programme. Robotics are already operating in some schools of South Africa!
• Marianne Valentine spoke a lot about the “Powerful Trio” which is the Educator/Practitioner/Facilitator, Learning and Play. I like her speech and quote when she said
“Making is Learning and Learning is Making”
She also reminded us that children are building different skills through play, and it’s the priority of everyone to prepare every child for the 21st century. Play is the highest form of research in children’s environment, life, and world. Through play, children learn! A child is born as a researcher – they naturally seek to connect, experience etc. and all of this happens through play.
STEP BACK: give time and space for children during play session. Let them to be alone, allow them to make their own connections, take turns, trust each other, instruct each other – but always with your active observation. For understanding, we also need to learn through children’s eyes so that we will learn easily their moods.
We should encourage children to explore ideas, allow them to make mistake -because making mistakes it’s the most important part of research to them. Give them value, co-construct your understanding, listen to the child, sit next to the child and chat, engage with them. Mostly I learned we need to share with other facilitators information so that will learn more improve our weaknesses.
• Carroline Essame (Singapore) spoke a lot about Play Based Learning and Inclusion and encouraged us to visit her website (www.createcatt.com) and listen to her online radio to learn (www.spreaker.com/create2learn). When children are playing, they are working hard to show their feelings and hopes. She taught us actually human being has 7 senses which amazed me, and helped us to see problems with this in play.
• Mr. Johnson Mshana (Tanzania) told us about Play Labs that are currently operating in his country. The most part I like about this is Parents and Caregivers are participating as much in this programme – even Males, usually who are always too busy for Play sessions.
• After Lunch I attended Six Bricks facilitated by Linda Smith. Wow, I’ve learned a lot! The most part was six bricks game develops children in Social, Physical, Intellectual, Cognitive and Emotional. I really love this one.
• Today was a shorter day because it was a last day of the conference. But I enjoyed different presentations as follows: Foundation for the future presented by Josephine Bourne (UNICEF HQ New York); The Playful school that’s serious about Learning by Mr. Per Havgaard (Lego Foundation); The 21st century workforce in Early Childhood Development; The 21st century Teacher presented by (Principal Maud Langa Esakhiseni School in Atteridgeville).
I am so glad to be part of LETCEE as a Mobile Toy Librarian! For me I’m proudly say this time of the year as it is a mid-year it was very fruitfully for me. I learned a lot, and whatever I learned in this Conference I promise I’ll do all my best that I will make sure I will implement it in my work. The most part I learned is the importance of networking so that I will improve my weaknesses and add to others what I’m good in. I’ll change a lot when it comes to interacting with the children because I learned of new things.
In short, I want to thank LETCEE Management Team for trusting me to attend the Play Conference! For me it was a first time eating in a hotel and attending such a big Conference like this. With International and National Guests coming from all over the world! I’ll make sure I will keep on my mind that I have to prepare children for 21st Century during Play Sessions with them.
Written by : Mr. Prince Sibusiso Mhlanga (LETCEE Mobile Toy Librarian)
You can also watch Sbu’s feedback video at: https://youtu.be/LiwxwkwA4kw