Early Childhood Development | Sappi

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.

Branching out 

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;

These practitioners are now equipped to implement programmes at each of their sites that promote the child’s holistic development, which includes attention to their physical health by providing improved daily care, early learning and stimulation through structured playgroup programmes, improving parental support and facilitating grant funding from the government. The training has provided them with the knowledge and ability to provide the children with better care, greater understanding and they are better equipped to improve their circumstances. Their training taught them how to use the material and resources that they have at hand (waste material such as paper, wood, fabric) and to turn it into educational toys and teaching aids.

The practitioners attended training at the TREE premises in Durban and they agree that the training does not only greatly assisted them in offering holistic and targeted learning interventions when they return to the crèches , but they all experienced personal growth due to the opportunity to interact with other practitioners during their training sessions at the TREE Centre. Between training sessions, TREE conducts continuous quality assurance through various methods such as On-Site Support visits to ECD sites, quality assurance checks on all TREE Training centres and venues as well as continuous resource support to both trainers and practitioners.

We believe that by partnering with TREE we have been able to make a real difference for the better in our communities; by doing it in the very earliest years of young children's lives.

Visit the TREE website: http://www.tree-ecd.co.za/ for more information on this programme.