The first 5 years of life have a profound effect on a child’s future. Events in early childhood – even before birth – play a vital role in shaping health, education, social and economic outcomes for the duration of the child’s life.

Growing up in a situation of poverty, which is the case for nearly 2 out of 3 young children in South Africa influences their survival, growth and educational opportunities.

Evidence has shown that poor nutrition, hygiene and healthcare, insufficient psychological stimulation, and exposure to neglect, abuse or violence during early childhood all have detrimental effects on development, which are nearly impossible to fix in later life.

(Data sourced by UNICEF)


South Africa has a population of 5.1 million children below the age of 5 years. Only 43% have access to Early Childhood Development Centres/Nurseries (ECD Centres). This leaves millions of underfed, under-stimulated children at risk of not being ‘School Ready’.

For many of those children who do have access the story isn’t much better.

ECD Centres in the townships are traditionally shacks, with no running water, no sanitation, no real flooring, leaking roofs and rudimentary cooking facilities, if food is provided at all. Winters are bleak and summers are overwhelming. They are not healthy or hygienic. And most of the care-givers are not educated or trained in education/ Early Childhood Development.

This all compromises physical and healthy brain development, setting children up for a very difficult future.

But ECD Centres are critical to the children as they provide shelter and safety, alleviate hunger and offer a young generation an opportunity for a better future – all through education. Providing good quality ECD Centres can change the lives of these children at the most critical stage of their development.

Investments in ECD Centres have high impact returns, but this is not always immediately visible or obvious. Some benefits may only occur in later life. Research also shows that investment in nutrition during the early childhood years yields around 10% greater returns than on investments made at older ages.

(Data sourced by UNICEF)


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