[Photo caption] Learners of the Khululeka Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centre dancing in celebration of their newly upgraded facility thanks to the Rotary Club of Claremont’s Injongo Project, in partnership with the Lewis Group. [Photo credit: Slingshot Media]

Three Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres in Philippi, Cape Town were officially handed over this morning, Wednesday, 08 June 2016, having undergone a comprehensive upgrade from the Rotary Club of Claremont, in partnership with the Lewis Group.

“This official handover is much more than just a celebration of some new buildings,” says Rotary Club of Claremont President Tom Bergmann-Harris. “This is about creating a positive environment which ensures children receive the best possible educational stimulation from an early age, giving them a real hope for excelling in the future. By equipping teachers with the skills they need we can ensure these Educare Centres are sustainable in the long term,” says Bergmann-Harris.

The Rotary Club of Claremont’s Injongo Educare Project has since 2012 worked with 47 Educare Centres in Philippi, with a total spend of R12 million to date. Khululeka Educare, Zamukhanyo Educare and Noncedo Educare are the latest to benefit from the project, believed to be the largest of its kind in the country. Holistic interventions include extensive teacher training, physical upgrades to existing facilities and daily mentoring assistance for educare centres to ensure that they meet the Department of Social Development (DSD) and the Western Cape Education Department’s (WCED) requirements for official Early Childhood Development (ECD) accreditation and registration. While keeping school fees affordable, these interventions make centres sustainable, and effective in the long term, through subsidies provided by the DSD and WCED. Now, 12 educare centres have been fully upgraded and reopened by Injongo together with its dedicated sponsors.

Learners at the three centres sang songs to celebrate their excitement about their new school premises. Neil Jansen, Lewis Group HR Director told members of the community, parents and Rotarians that it was an honour for Lewis to be involved in the project. “For more than four years, we have focused on making a lasting impact in the next generation through our partnership with Injongo.  Foundation phase education lays the grounding for children’s cognitive and socio-emotional development. These Early Childhood Development Centres prepare them for school and tertiary education. The results of this project already speak volumes and it is encouraging to receive so much support from the community.”

Simphiwe Smile, 36-year-old father of Kamva, who attends the Grade R class for five year olds at Khululeka Educare was full of smiles at the opening event. “My daughter knows how to count, she can write her own name and she is confident to stand in front of her class and tell stories. Her mind is really working and she is so clever. I’m really proud to see how much she has developed at Khululeka Educare,” he says.

The father, who takes an active role in his daughter’s life says he listens to her talk happily about what she has learnt at school as he takes her to school each morning. His wife also noticed a change in Kamva’s development, to such an extent that the word has spread and many of her friends have also enrolled their children at Khululeka Educare.

Principal Nombulelo Majezi says, “All of the local primary schools want Khululeka Children to enroll in Grade 1. Even schools outside of Philippi, they say that children from Khululeka are amazing. You can just call the principals to ask and they can tell you about our children.”

Majezi explains that while many people have opened day care centres to look after toddlers while their parents work, not all of these places offer the same developmental opportunities. “Whatever activities we do with the children, whether it’s reading stories, singing songs, games or craft activities, we follow the standards and norms and keep to the Grade R syllabus,” she said. Training workshops for educare centre principals and teachers, provided by Injongo are extremely valuable, says Majezi. “We are updated with new aspects to the syllabus and always learn a lot about how to practically run our centres efficiently and effectively. Injongo is really helping the educare centres in Philippi.”