The first-ever SA Basic Education Conference opened on Monday, 2 April to a rather chilly reception in Durban as the city finds itself moving swiftly into Autumn. The conference organisers hope the event will provide a platform for both researchers and practitioners to interrogate some of the issues that the education system faces. The theme for the conference is “Opening the Door to Quality Education for all” – which at first glance seems appropriate. However, there is not one speaker from the field of Early Childhood Development at the conference. If we attempt to “open the door to quality education for all” when children enter Grade 1 we will have failed them miserably! Education systems, teacher quality, school management – all of these are important in ensuring the success of scholars – but if a child enters Grade 1 without having had access to relevant and stimulating early childhood activities they will have nearly zero chance of reaching their full potential academically and socially.
The most rapid phase for brain development occurs between the years of 0 and 6. If a child does not receive correct stimulation during these years of preschool before they enter formal schooling – the parts of the brain that are unused will shut down. Literally. Shut down – never available again! The Unlimited Child ensures that this does not happen – children need to develop their gross motor skills, fine motor skills, cognitive ability, emotions, social skills… These are VITAL in the development of a child and in ensuring they are successful at school. If we do not provide this, the door to quality education will forever remain closed to those children who need it the most. So our question is: when will South African educators begin to acknowledge the importance of Early Childhood Development? MF