Caption: Teachers all the way from Connecticut in the United States of America (USA) shared exciting new perspectives on Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres in Philippi, Cape Town during their five day visit last month (08 – 13 February 2016).

The Rotary Club of Claremont’s ambitious Injongo Educare Project in Philippi has reached new heights to empower teachers at the Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres to nurture the minds of our future. Five American teachers, selected to be part of Rotary’s Vocational Training Team (VTT) have just completed a three week teaching exchange programme where they visited ECD centres around Cape Town, sharing their experience about curriculum and classroom structure.

The Injongo Educare Project is a comprehensive ECD initiative that has addressed a variety of needs at 47 Educare centres in the Philippi area. The main intention is that the centres become self-sustaining beacons of hope in the communities. The whole-centre approach includes equipping teachers with the necessary skills, providing on-site mentoring support and educational resources, upgrading buildings and ultimately enabling children to flourish during a critical stage of their development before they reach Primary School.

The teaching exchange programme with the American teachers is the start of what Rotary hopes to be a long international partnership. The project will be driven by two international Rotary districts namely Rotary District 9350 (including South Africa, Namibia and Angola) and Rotary District 7890 (including the four shoreline counties of Connecticut, United States of America). By working closely with the Department of Social Development and Department of Education of the Western Cape Government, the project aims to create a platform where innovative methods in ECD are shared, fosters new approaches and betters the overall quality of development for each child.

The teaching team from Connecticut spent a week working with staff and children at two ECD Centres in the Injongo Project; Albertina Sisulu and Khululeka Educare Centres, both in Philippi. “As part of the programme, we are excited that five of our local ECD teachers from the Western Cape will travel to Connecticut in April for a four week visit as part of the exchange,” says Tom Bergmann-Harris, President of the Rotary Club of Claremont. “The teachers have already met each other in Cape Town, so the information sharing relationships have begun, the idea is for knowledge and best practice to be shared so that the best teaching methods can ensure optimal development for all the children attending ECD Centres.”

Elizabeth Cannone, one of American teachers shares, “In every classroom we entered, we were welcomed so warmly. The children and staff were so excited to learn and while we have shared from our experience in the US, we feel just as fortunate to have learnt so much from the incredibly strong women here who are such passionate teachers.”

Bergmann-Harris explains the importance of working closely with child and child care workers during a key stage of their development – the first 1000 days of their lives, “Research has shown how a child can truly flourish with the best possible outcomes when their early development is prioritised. All young people should be able to benefit from a world class standard of education. This teaching exchange has injected a new level of interest into the programme and its goals. We have enjoyed every part of this programme so far and new relationships have been established at a number of different levels,” he concludes.

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