Children are the touchstone of a healthy and sustainable society. How a culture or society treats its youngest members has a significant influence on how it will grow, prosper, and be viewed by others” [Carnegie 1996].
The first 1000 days are the most crucial in a child’s life, as they set the foundation for proper health, growth and neurobiological development [UNICEF]. Intervening at this stage is imperative, as it can change the course of a child’s life, shape their development, and protect against risk factors [Doyle et al. 2009]. Early Childhood Development [ECD] has been identified as one of the most effective violence prevention strategies [WHO, 1990].
The healthy development of children provides a strong foundation for healthy and competent adulthood, responsible citizenship, economic productivity, strong communities, and a sustainable society. Early Childhood Development interventions such as pre-school programmes, home visits, and open space classrooms have great potential to address risk factors and enhance protective factors in children’s lives, thus ensuring they reach appropriate developmental milestones.
In order to break the cycle of poverty, education should begin early. Early Childhood development makes a lot of sense from an economic perspective.
“On a purely economic basis, it makes a lot of sense to invest in the young…early learning begets later learning and early success breeds later success.” James J. Heckman, PhD. Nobel Prize laureate in Economics
Early Childhood Development programmes can develop into beacons of hope for children. If conducted effectively, these safe spaces can enhance children’s resilience, especially in informal communities without access to education and resources.
VPUU focuses on the most vulnerable children living in South Africa’s informal settlements. We embrace a transdisciplinary approach. Our ECD model acknowledges that collaboration between many disciplines is imperative to providing services and resources essential to adequate child development.
Our ECD strategy is aligned with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child [Article 24/1989], ratified by the South African Constitution in 1996 and the Children’s Act of 2005, which promotes comprehensive healthcare for children, mothers and caregivers and access to safe water, sanitation, nutrition, healthy environmental conditions and health information.
Collaboration and partnerships between caregivers, educators, communities and the public sector are pivotal to the sustainability of programmatic and infrastructural interventions that uphold children’s rights and promote their development.
A child does not exist alone. Children are products of their environment the relationships within it, and the complexities that affect it. In this light, ecological systems theory[Bronfenbrenner] is foundational to the VPUU ECD Theory of Change.
The socio-ecological model emphasises the direct relationships between children’s development and the quality of the systems around them. These relationships should be taken into consideration when developing early childhood interventions. In order to support effective and positive child development, the socio-ecological model maps the systems affecting a child’s life, providing a checklist for counterbalancing challenges within them [Gabarino and Ganzel, 2000].VPUU ECD 1PAGER Theory of Change