A structured and stable education in the early years is crucial to giving children the best developmental start to life. Unfortunately, not all South African children have access to a good early childhood education, but NPO, The Unlimited Child, is looking to change that.
This Youth Month, The Unlimited Child's CEO, Candice Potgieter explained how the organisation is raising the standard of Early Childhood Development in disadvantaged areas, thereby giving youth the best chance to grow to their full potential.
Tell us about The Unlimited Child and how it all started?
The Unlimited Child (TUC) is a registered skills development and early childhood education non-profit organization (NPO), which was started eight years ago to make sure that all children in their formative years (0-5years), in the most disadvantaged communities across South Africa have access to quality learning programmes.
The building blocks are created in these years and we make sure that children in preschools across South Africa are not staring at empty walls, but rather are taking part in a learning programme at the preschools that they attend with practitioners/teachers who are knowledgeable, trained and equipped with the necessary toys and equipment. As we say, a child that is school ready is certainly life ready.
The Unlimited Child is also extremely fortunate to be parent funded by The Unlimited (direct marketing and sales business based in Hillcrest). This means that all the operational expenses are paid for and all money raised or donated to The Unlimited Child goes directly to the beneficiaries of the programme.
Why is it so important to raise the standard of early childhood development in South Africa, and how do we do this?
Early Childhood Development (ECD) is the all-round development of children to help them to further develop into childhood and adulthood. The development of babies, toddlers and young children form the foundation for all further development that a child undergoes.
During early childhood, rapid development (physical, cognitive and emotional) takes place; this development is crucial in readying children for school. Children who are ready for school will be friendly, confident, and social; they will have good peer relationships, language skills and they will communicate well. School-ready children will be less likely to fail a grade and will perform better overall.
What kind of support do you provide to ECD centres?
The Unlimited Child is a rapid impact model that includes the training of preschool practitioners, the supply of educational toys and equipment – thereby transforming the areas into learning classrooms.
We host regular cluster workshops that include refresher courses and peer evaluation, and most importantly, monitor and support each preschool through monthly visits to ensure that the programme is being carried out correctly.
Share with us some of your success stories...
The Unlimited Child’s programme was the subject of a recent independent research study by Prof. Jane Kvalsig of the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, which looked at the quality and impact of the programme. The key outcomes investigated in this study were expressive language and comprehension. The research showed that the children from The Unlimited Child treatment group ECD centres scored significantly higher on this measure than children from the control group ECD centres.
To date, The Unlimited Child supports and has trained and equipped over 1,000 preschools, over 3,200 practitioners and has shifted the lives of over 125,000 children across South Africa since inception. There are currently over 55,000 children attending preschool classes with a teacher that has curriculum based knowledge, who is attentive to their needs. Most importantly the children are learning through play with the right toys for their age group.
What’s at the top of your wish list for The Unlimited Child?
Early Childhood Development is a vital area of learning that often gets overlooked. The Unlimited Child looks to creating greater awareness of the impact that early learning initiatives have on our children and society, in a way that allows every child across the country access to our stimulation programme through skills development training of practitioners.
We also look to growing our programme from what starts as centre-based intervention, to community intervention through parenting programmes and toy libraries. We thus want to partner with like-minded organisations to grow exponentially and with that a great deal of funding is required.
Where do you see The Unlimited Child in five years?
Our five-year plan is to increase five-fold, reaching 5,000 preschools (otherwise known as early childhood development centres). If we can do that, it means that the course of more than 600,000 children’s lives will be shifted for the better. They will benefit from this strong foundation in all aspects of their lives and learning, and will be well set to become tomorrow’s leaders.
Our experience has shown us that when children are school ready, they’re life ready. It’s time to make that change to our children’s future now – and stop just talking about it.
The Unlimited Child welcomes partners from the private and corporate sector, as well as individuals looking to make a difference. As a non-profit organisation that is in the fortunate position of having The Unlimited as a parent funder, this means all funds received through funding partnerships and donations go directly to the beneficiaries of the programme.
Creches or donors looking to get involved can get in touch with Candice Potgieter (; www.theunlimitedchild.org) or with our Donor Relations Manager, Nazley Giquel () or call the office on +27 (0)31 716 9670.
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