SUPPORTING YOUNG CHILDREN DURING COVID
Community Playgroups in the Saldanha Bay Local Municipality towns of Hopefield and Koperfontein have continued to provide educational support and meals to around 100 children, who remain at home, months after the initial COVID-19 lockdown, which began in March this year.
In addition to nutritional support, which includes cooked meals or food parcels, children are also receiving at-home educational packs, put together with the help of Grassroots Educare Trust. The packs aim to keep children educationally stimulated at home and include activity sheets, reading books, colouring in books, educational toys, hand sanitizers and masks.
“Our Playgroup Leaders have done a remarkable job by providing daily cooked meals to children, following safe COVID-19 protocols, and supporting parents and children under very challenging circumstances,” said Celiwe Mabaso, Community Operations Manager for Umoya Energy Wind Farm, who fund the programme.
The COVID-19 lockdown required Early Childhood Development (ECD) specialists to think out of the box and implement new methods to operate, keeping children stimulated, in addition to providing a daily meal.
Interventions have meant that Playgroup children have continued to be nurtured and cared for by their parents or care givers at their respective homes, whilst Playgroup Leaders engage with parents via face-to-face interaction maintaining a safe physical distance and following protocol via phones.
The purpose of the playgroup programme is not only to create safe spaces of learning for the children away from home but to also get parents more involved in the development of their children.
“The changes brought about by the current health pandemic have given us the opportunity to strengthen this aspect of our programme and also ensure that children will continue to get the support they need once they are out of the playgroup and in mainstream school, Grade R,” explained Mabaso.
The Playgroups address the effects of the lack of access to ECD provision by providing a quality ECD service to those that would otherwise not be able to access these services. The programme further benefits children who need increased exposure to quality learning and caring programmes; skills for women and men who can become ECD practitioners serving the young and vulnerable in their respective local environments; families and parents who will be exposed to the needs and necessity of early childhood development; and play group leaders will also be paid a stipend to facilitate the play group sessions.