There is a saying in isiZulu language which says “zibanjwa zisemaphuphu”, it means that teach children while they are still young in order to shape the rest of their lives.
Thrive by Five Index is the largest ever survey of preschool child development. The Index was initiated by First National Bank and Innovation Edge in collaboration with the Department of Basic Education, supported by USAID and ECD measure.

The survey revealed that 65% of 4-5 year old children attending Early Learning Programmes in South Africa are failing to thrive. These children are not meeting the expected early learning and/or physical growth standards for their age and will start Grade R at a considerable disadvantage, with possible long term implications for their education.

Thrive by Five Index

The Minister of Basic Education, Mam Angie Motshekga highlighted the importance of the Private Sector in assisting Department of Basic Education to respond better to issues faced by children in the basic education sector.
The Minister also emphasized on the critical role such collaboration plays in the development of children from Early Childhood.

While projects such as Thrive by Five Index are highly welcomed, they often lack original (traditional) influence or are not integrated into the already existing ways in which African families have been raising their children. Nor do they seek to help promote and improve these ways, instead they impose Eurocentric ways of raising a child.

Thrive by Five Index
(Photo: Ilifa Labantwana)

When Tag My School Magazine Editor Dumi Mbona asked Minister Motshekga whether the Department of Basic Education has any appetite to promote and improve African way to raising a child, this was her response:
“You can indigenous whatever you do, at the end of the day it’s global world, a global village, a child of two years whether African or not African at a certain development stage, you need to understand broadly that the first thousand days of the child the breastfeeding mother cannot drink alcohol because you’re going to have an alcohol fetal child.That’s the standard, we’re all human beings, African or not. In terms of technical development those are international we need to learn from each other, but in terms of values and languages those begin at home, I get surprised when African families say we do not promote African languages and yet at the malls they’re busy speaking English to their children. So it’s not only up to the government to preserve and respect what we have, but it is our collective responsibility. But also without saying we’re African as if being African is being physiological different; being African is the same with everybody”

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Thrive by Five Index
(Photo by Gallo Images/Luba Lesolle)

On the question about the mental health challenges faced by children within the Basic Education sector. This is what the Minister said “We need ECD as a communal project because think of the pressures we get, young mothers have no time, they don’t pay enough attention to their children and they also have to deal with their own situation and some have to work. As a parent you’re the first caregiver, half of the time the mental health challenges faced by the children originate from home, so we need to get parents to parent better. They’re parenting in a very difficult environment where there’s poverty, drugs and so on, so it is difficult for them to pay attention to the growth of their children.” Concluded Minister Motshekga.

From our interaction with the minister, a cringing picture is painted, the picture is a reflection of a society that has rejected it’s originality to adopt and prefer the Eurocentric/American style of raising it’s children. A question remains, why? And doesn’t this further disadvantage the very same children, Thrive by Five Index is trying to assist to develop better?

While the Minister is correct to place the responsibility of children’s mental health back at the doorsteps of parents/homes, another cringing picture is drawn here and that is of families destroyed by inequalities, unemployment, exclusive economy and corrupt government administration.
The two pictures painted may seem to drown the efforts by FNB and Innovation Edge, but maybe an encouraging factor to consider is this: direct partnership with the actual community instead of going through government may yield greater and sustainable impact.

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Article Compiled by
Worshiper Mkhize and Dumi Mbona

By Worshiper Mkhize

Worshiper is a writer/blogger, and Head of Content at TMS Mag.