How Sappi supports early childhood development (ECD) in its communities
Given the strong link between paper and learning, Sappi has for many years prioritised literacy and education in terms of its community support. Since 2014, this support was expanded to include our Sappi/TREE Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme. Our decision to support ECD is based on a growing body of international evidence which shows that language and cognitive development are especially important during the first six months to three years of life and that the more stimulating the early environment, the more a child develops and learns. Findings also indicate that early learning experiences determine health, education and economic participation for life. Unfortunately, many of South Africa’s young children, particularly in rural areas where our forestry operations are situated, are not exposed to early learning – which is why we decided to step in.
Where it all began
In KwaZulu-Natal we partnered in 2014 with Training and Resources in Early Education (TREE), a non-profit organisation (NPO) to train 23 women across KwaZulu-Natal as ECD practitioners. TREE is a non-profit organisation that assists adults (mostly women) from disadvantaged communities to provide young children with access to qualified ECD. These 23 crèche workers have now completed their three year training course and have received their official NQF Level 4 Accreditation as qualified ECD practitioners in 2018.
During 2017 Sappi also introduced a further 36 trainees that were selected from the nine areas which coincided with our first Abashintshi programme intake. These 36 trainees consisted of 18 crèche workers and 18 workers that were in charge of informal playgroups.
- All 18 creche workers that started out completed their training, and 14 have qualified for their NQF Level 4 accreditation, with 13 of the creches registered as NPOs and registered with the Department of Social Development (DSD);
- 17 of the 18 playgroup workers completed their training, with eight of them successfully registering their playgroups as NPOs, which now enables them to apply for social grants with the DSD;