Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU NPC) is focusing its work on the most vulnerable children living in South Africa’s informal settlements through a population-based model. We believe that none of this can be achieved without partnerships and collaboration and advocate strongly for a transdisciplinary approach. A transdisciplinary model is the most relevant model for early intervention especially for at-risk children (Briggs, 1997).
It further allows for collaboration with multiple sectors and integrates family into the team. Family is regarded as an equal member and encouraged to actively participate in accordance to their readiness. This model is most beneficial to the South African context wherein fragmentation of services is rife especially for children with disabilities (Orelove & Sobsey, 1996). This model will bridge the gap between the sectors and support in the development of a viable collaborative and effective intervention. It is impossible to effect change without collaboration. Collaboration breaks the silo-based approach and demands the attention of all disciplines towards the development of children. The transdisciplinary model accommodates for intersectoral collaboration, the generation of knowledge and skills and reduces the burden of capacity (Briggs, 1997).
This approach realizes that the development of a child is dependent on many disciplines who work collaboratively to provide services and resources essential to the adequate development of a child. Collaboration occurs when members from multiple disciplines apply their knowledge and expertise towards achieving common goals for children and families (Rainforth, York & MacDonald, 1992).
Collaborative environments require commitment from all disciplines in a team to work towards fulfilling the needs of the families and children that they serve, (Johnson, Ruiz, La Montagne & George, 1998). In South Africa, we cannot achieve positive outcomes with children and families without collaboration. Collaboration is a critical component of emitting change , breaking the cycle of fragmented and uncoordinated services and improving the outcomes of children and families (Spath et al, 2008). Ebersohn and Eloff (2006), emphasize that vulnerable or disabled children require the collaboration of services from multiple sectors because their challenges are multi-faceted. Vulnerable children ( all children in fact) can immensely benefit from interventions that are developed through intersectoral collaboration (Ramduny, 2008).
VPUU together with residents of informal settlements and partners co-create an appropriate model for informal settlements consisting of enabling infrastructure such as Emthonjeni’s (small safe public spaces) and Active Boxes (Neighbourhood Resource Centres) to increase access to safe educational spaces that includes both in-centre and out-of-centre models of ECD.
Linking the intervention to developmental and health services of the public sector enables addressing and remediating the underlying social determinants of child health and development. Through ongoing community engagements, VPUU continuously identifies the needs of children and parents and develops interventions collaboratively.
Investing in great teachers is the key to unlocking the potential of all children. Training local women from the area as ECD teachers hold many advantages in terms of the project’s sustainability and scalability and are aligned to an asset-based model of development. An asset-based approach is imperative in the development of children as it develops community agency and sustainably.
This approach promotes intersectoral collaboration, generates knowledge production and enhances resource allocation. (Ebersohn & Eloff, 2006). The potential of families and communities in the development of interventions should be harnessed. Families especially generate the knowledge, expertise and abilities to actively influence the systems for children through collaboration with other service providers in a transdisciplinary space.
Interventions are increasingly sustainable if they are performed in collaboration with families and communities (Osher&Osher, 2002).
While VPUU is building a knowledge-network of resources in informal settlements, VPUU is also literally providing a wifi mesh network (V-NET) to host educational and entertainment content that can be accessed locally.
VPUU early childhood development (ECD) teachers can connect globally with other teachers, share lessons and access innovative teaching models, share experiences and benefit from a connected collective community. This network enables for daily data collection and rigorous monitoring and evaluation (M&E) that tracks, assesses each child’s development.
VPUU is working closely with the community, partners and programmes committed to innovative models, including ELOM, Wordworks, Carol Du Toit Audiology, JAM SA, Rise Against Hunger, and The Unlimited Child to provide a holistic, equitable ECD service that provides children with the best start in life.
Briggs, M. (1997). Building early intervention teams: A systems model for early intervention teams Ch 7 (pp. 89-120). Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen.
Briggs, M. (1997). Building early intervention teams: Working together for children and families. Gaithersburg, Maryland: Aspen.
Ebersöhn, L., & Eloff, I. (2006). Identifying asset-based trends in sustainable programmes which support vulnerable children. South African Journal of Education, 23(3), 457-472.
Orelove, F.P., & Sobsey, D. (1996). Designing transdisciplinary services. In Orelove, F.P., & Sobsey, D. (Eds.). Educating children with multiple disabilities. A transdisciplinary approach. (pp.1-33) Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.
Osher, T.W., & Osher, D.M. (2002). The paradigm shift to true collaborations with families. Journal of child and family studies,11(1), 47-60.
Rainforth, B., York, J., & MacDonald, C. (1992). Collaborative teams for students with severe disabilities: Integrating therapy and educational services. Baltimore: Brookes. Ch 2 pp. 9-22.
Ramduny, V. 1998. Intersectoral Working: Intersectoral Collaboration: An Overview. HST Update, Issue No 32, pp. (5-8). Retrieved from http://www.hst.org.za