2009 Cape Town «Birth to three» project

Report from Cape Town August/September 2009

27th August 2009 – My annual trip to South Africa started with the usual 24 hours traveling before reaching Cape Town. Fortunately I arrived a couple of days before I had to start work, which gave me an opportunity to catch up on the news from everybody at the Centre. I do so look forward to my stay and work with CCE

The weather was the same as last year, cold and rainy, but we had some lovely days in between, with sunshine!

My first task was to train the students:

Work at Wetton (where the part-time training takes place)

Second Year Students: The Art of Storytelling and Development of Early Literacy Skills.This was their seventh and I worked with them on telling stories. In addition to the teaching the art of story telling, we also looked at the importance of books for children (and for us as adults), especially in respect of the communities the students teach in.

Each of the 25 students created their own little story suitable for the age 4-5 and presented the stories to us – either by telling or reading. Some of the stories had wonderful pictures. All imparted a sense of magic.

We worked long and hard for two intense weeks. But, as always, with the seriousness of the work at hand, came a lot of laughter.

Visiting kindergartens
I visited some of the baby kindergartens not only to check on the infants, but to see how things were progressing. I also needed to look for improvements and for the requirements of the various kindergartens. My leading question is always `how is the relationship between the staff and the babies? `I am pleased to say that there is a lot of love coming from the adults, even though there has to be more awareness of the needs of the child.

However, there are still a lot of concerns:

  • Woefully insufficient space to move
  • Not enough time to give each baby the touch and the attention they need, (too many children in the groups).
  • Not the right kind of food.
  • Very few facilities and equipment for the cleaning and caring of the babies,
  • Not enough cots/beds
  • Very few toys. The lack of toys and warm colourful surroundings is a source of great concern and worry to me.

The teachers are changing nappies, giving the babies food and putting them to sleep. But that is not enough – I must ask the same question – what is there that the child can imitate and develop the way it should? How can we create a place that will give these children a better start in life to what they have at the moment?

A new Project:

Working together towards a better plays for 0-3 children in the Townships:

In my two last reports from 2007 and 2008 I wrote about the needs of the babies in Cape Town and my concern about them and their situation. The situation is more or less the same and the needs are still there. We need to build up, or transform, one Educare centre into a good place for the babies. Thoughts and ideas have been discussed and we have been raising money towards a new project for the last two years.

I have spoken to many people who share my concerns. On this trip I had the good fortune to meet with Helen Stotko (Managing Director of Centre for Creative Education). Helen also has the same concerns as we do and she is committed to try and make a difference for the babies.

At the moment CCE (Centre for Creative Education) has 27 young volunteers from Germany. (Facilitated by Freunde der Erziungskunst) These youngsters work every day in various Educare-Centers in the Townships, they are sponsored by the German Government and they will stay for one year. Their help is invaluable. The main focus of the volunteers is to try and improve the situation for the child from 0-3 year. We know from the past years that it has been and still is a big issue in the Township. The Volunteers are trying to uplift the Centres and they are making toys, blankets, and pillows etc…… things that are so desperately needed in the Centres.

CCE together with Stjerneglimt (our kindergarten in Arendal, Norway) would like to build up an Educare Centre for the youngest child and to turn that Educare into a model. In other words, how to run a Centre for the small child in the best way they deserve and need? We would like this model centre to be a place where the children have every possibility to develop in a healthy way, with the best environment, healthy food and care and looked after by trained teacher.Together with the help from the Volunteers, CCE and Stjerneglimt; I am hoping it will happen!

Helen Stotko from CCE and I met every week to discuss how we can start this project and what is needed to make it come true.
We are looking for people who would like to support the project, internationally but particularly in Cape Town where it will take place. More information about the project will follow at a later date.

I also had the opportunity to give two workshops for the teachers at the Educare Centers in the Townships and the Volunteers from Germany. One on Saturday and one Thursday (a public holiday). During the week everyone works, which meant they had to use their day off to join the workshop!

Workshops on baby-care:

  • Who is the baby?
  • What are the needs? And what can we achieve with the possibilities we have at the moment?

On Saturday we had 27 participants, 6 Volunteers and 21 teachers from the Township.On Thursday we had 21 participants, 15 volunteers and 7 teachers from the Townships.

To work with the mixed groups of staff from the Educare-Centres and the young volunteers, was interesting and most enjoyable.
We discussed the infant, its needs and what the babies have at the moment. The participants learned a lot by listening to each others questions and comments during the workshop. And even though we know about all the needs and what can be done we do see the importance of the relation between the caregivers and the child

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Again, my grateful thanks to IASWECE and Stjerneglimt, who make my work possible each year!

Eldbjørg Gjessing Paulsen October 2009

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