Early Childhood Development in Monwabisi Park


The South African Department of Education defines ECD as “an umbrella term which applies to the processes by which children from birth to nine years grow and thrive, physically, mentally, emotionally, morally and socially” (The Department of Education of the Republic of South Africa, 1 May 2010). According to the South African Constitution, it is the duty of the local government to provide ECD facilities for all children in the area.  The City of Cape Town’s ECD policy recognizes the city’s responsibilities to protect the rights of children established by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), to provide, fund and regulate ECD facilities, services and programmes and to assist other groups who are contributing towards ECD services.  While many of these goals have been implemented in wealthier areas of Cape Town, most children in informal settlements are left without adequate ECD centres, funding, and resources (City of Cape Town, 2006).


One such settlement is Monwabisi Park, an informal settlement located in the township of Khayelitsha on the outskirts of Cape Town.  The total number of people staying in Monwabisi Park is approximately 25,000, making it one of the fastest growing informal settlements in Khayelitsha (VPUU, 2009). Monwabisi Park has a young age population profile, as the majority of the population is younger than 30. (Statistics South Africa, 2001; City of Cape Town, 2005). There are currently eight crèches, or preschools, located within the informal settlement but only a small percentage of children attend these ECD centres. In a recent survey by Violence Protection through Urban Upgrading (VPUU), it was determined there are currently 2,700 children between the ages of zero and six living in Monwabisi Park.  Of these 2,700, only 43% receive any type of formal ECD, leaving a majority of children without formal ECD services.  The available resources and infrastructure for ECD, provided mostly by the eight crèches located in Monwabisi Park, are unable to support the amount of ECD aged children living in the settlement. No outreach programme or standardizing measures currently exist in Monwabisi Park.  This means the families of the 57% of children who do not attend a crèche have no support in providing developmental opportunities for their children.

Several outreach programmes have been designed and implemented in other nearby informal settlements in an attempt to reach children that are unable to attend a formal ECD centre.  The most common ECD outreach practices rely heavily on outreach workers having direct contact with children and/or parents.  Some current practices include parent empowerment, playgroups, and home visiting. Parent empowerment includes lending supplies to parents and outreach workers meeting with them one-on-one.  Playgroups involve outreach workers working with small groups of children to provide them with the opportunities to develop. Through home visiting programmes, outreach workers visit families in their individual homes on a regular basis to do activities such as counting, songs, games, puzzles and blocks to foster their development.  Sikhula Sonke, one of our team sponsors, has developed a home visiting program from their office in Khayelitsha.  Sikhula Sonke’s outreach programme has had great results with individual children, but currently only reaches 20 families. Since these programmes depend heavily upon one-on-one interactions with the outreach workers, they are expensive to use on a large scale.