Challenges of Early Childhood Development

Many children in South Africa, specifically those in informal settlements, face hunger, poor water sanitation, limited education, poverty, and health problems, including HIV and AIDs. The social and economic pressures present in these communities can effect the priorities of solving these five major challenges. For example, when an informal settlement faces all of these problems, education can often take the back seat in the community members minds. The community can often pressure the caregivers of these informal settlement ECD centres to do what they want, while the community can often not financially or resourcefully support the centre. Overall, each of the five major obstacles present separate troubles for children, which all connect and correlate with one another.

According to Atmore, Niekerk, and Ashley-Cooper, 59.2% of children, approximately 3.8 million children, have been reported to live in dire poverty. In turn, since many children live beneath the poverty line, approximately 16% of children live in households where child hunger has been reported (Atmore, Niekerk, Ashley-Cooper, 2012). Atmore, Niekerk, and Ashley-Cooper state that malnutrition has an effect on a child’s cognitive and physical development, thereby decreasing a child’s concentration and focus within ECD centres and at home (ibid.). At home, the living environments of most children are destitute with terrible water sanitation levels, where the majority of children use buckets and dug up toilets for daily use. Health is defined by the government as “the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health” (ibid.). Unfortunately, the government is unable to meet this standard in all communities of South Africa, leaving number of children in poor health environments. In addition to little support for good health, South Africa has a large population of HIV positive people. Approximately 438,000 children under the age of 15 are HIV positive, who most likely do not have access of anti-retroviral treatments (ibid.).

Another hardship that the children of South Africa experience is the after math of the apartheid era. According to Eric Atmore of South Africa’s Centre of Early Childhood Development, the quality of education provided in the country is in a pyramid formation, with the bottom 40-50% of the population of children receiving this “shoddy education.” The teachers of these centres are not trained properly, there is no parental involvement and overall it can be considered “glorified babysitting,” according to Eric. The population receiving this type of education mostly consists of blacks and coloured children. This has to do with the after effects of the apartheid era. The type of education provided to these black and coloured children due to the apartheid is another obstacle many children face in every day South Africa.

Along with the after effects of the apartheid, the lack of availability of ECD programmes and centres for children directly correlates to the poor conditions in which they live as discussed above. Affected by these poor living conditions, many of these ECD programmes, mainly non-centre based, are lacking in learning materials, qualified teachers, a security system, and appropriate toilet accommodations. Taking all of these pressures and challenges into account, children have many hardships to overcome in pursuing schooling in both formal and informal settlements.