Setting up in the North West province

I’m not sure how much you are willing to sacrifice for your job but this week I realised that I was privileged to be part of a team who were not only willing to make personal sacrifices but also face some real challenges to ensure that children have access to early learning programmes. 


Over a period of two weeks we needed to work in collaboration with many stake holders (Government departments, other NGO’s, community members, and the local ECD services) to screen and interview 125 applicants so we would have suitable candidates to start the non-centre based early learning play groups in the identified communities in North West.

The applicants would have to be screened for criminal records, undergo computerised personality assessments, and practically demonstrate their ability to work with young children, be interviewed and write a literacy and maths assessment. I had to wonder if this was a fair and even necessary selection process. But as the process unfolded I realised that the people who were selected would be instrumental in providing early learning opportunities in the North West Province where 70% of children 0 – 5 years are not involved in any early learning programme. If we wanted to ensure the children received a high quality programme we needed to find the best candidates.


While conducting interviews I met some wonderful people who have amazing stories to tell. Here are just a few stories that inspired me.

Mary caries a list of the 22 children’s names and personal details in her hand bag as a constant reminder of the promise she made to help the children in her home village be better prepared for formal school through ECD services. Mary is a retired domestic worker with no formal training.

Sipho was super excited to go home and tell his family that he not only touched but worked on a lap top for the first time in his life. Sipho is 42 years old.

Thembi was exceptionally anxious about the interview since it would be conducted in English, but when I asked her to tell me about herself she very briefly said she was a kind person. To prompt her I suggested she tell me about her children…. Thembi doesn’t have children of her own but lights up when sharing many stories about the children in her community that she help’s to feed and clothe. Thembi is part of the local CWP programme and only earns a stipend.

Considering the plight of children in the North West Province, it is imperative that we do all we can to find the candidates who will take up the challenge to change the face of early childhood development in their province.

  • There’s an estimated 408009 children aged 0-4 (Stats SA 2014a)
  • In 2011 40% of the children younger than 6 live in ultra-poverty and 34% of the under sixes live in a home where there is no employed adult (Hall,Sambu and Berry, Early childhood development: A statistical brief 2014)
  • Stunting effects 23,7% of the boys and 17,8% of the girls (Shisana,et al,2013)
  • 74% of the children younger than 1 year are fully immunised
  • 29,5% of the children 0-4 years are participating in a structured early learning programme
  • An estimated 280 000 children are not enrolled in an structured early learning programme