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Investing in early childhood development is the future

Below are extracts from an article published on STATS SA.  Read the full article here:

“If we are to break the cycle of poverty, we need to educate the children of the poor.” – President Cyril Ramaphosa, SoNA 2018

The first one thousand days in a child’s life could hold the key to unlocking his/her life-long potential. By the age of 5, almost 90% of a child’s brain will be developed. These are the formative years where factors such as adequate healthcare, good nutrition, good quality childcare and nurturing, a clean and safe environment, early learning and stimulation will, to a large extent, influence his/her future as an adult.

According to a new report released by Statistics South Africa based on the findings of the General Household Survey data, Early Childhood Development in South Africa, 2016, there were close to 7,2 million children aged 0–6 in South Africa[1] in 2016. The report focuses on the latest evidence in early childhood development of children aged 0–6.

The environment in which children grow up also plays a role in their cognitive and psychosocial development. Activities that involve playing, singing or reading and that stimulate the brain through all the senses can help improve their ability to think and communicate. Children living in poor households, where parents are less able to spend time or money to feed and educate them, may grow up in a less stimulating home environment. A breakdown by monthly household income quintile revealed that close to half of the children in the lower household income quintiles did not attend any educational centre, while 40% of the children in the highest household income quintile attended out-of-home early learning programmes. Children in mostly black African families received suboptimal stimulation as 31% were never encouraged to imitate daily activities and 35,2% were never given answers when they pointed at objects and asked for explanations.

Children in poor households may thus start life at a disadvantage and can fall further behind their more advantaged peers throughout their lifecycle.