How to start a farm school
The government is not doing public education any favours. How can farmers ensure the education and care of youngsters on their farms and surrounding areas? By starting or supporting an early childhood development (ECD) school.
Children learn more in the first six years than they do at any other point in their lives. During these six years, more than one million neural connections are formed per second in a child's brain.
Studies have shown that ECD results in better concentration, communication and listening, following instructions and completing tasks. It also teaches self-regulation and encourages independence.
Learning is inherently a social process and in an ECD setup, children learn to listen, play with others and set boundaries. Children develop social and emotional skills that will see them through life.
However, children in agricultural communities often live in circumstances of social and financial deprivation, far away from towns and access to ECD facilities.
Of the 3 million children under six years living in rural areas, half of these will have dropped out before finishing secondary school. The numbers are staggering when aggregated over a generation.
How can farmers help?
Farmers can support the development of farm workers' children by bringing NGOs on board to support their ECD centre, suggests Estée Heyns of The Pebbles Project Trust. The farm owner can also provide a suitable room and be willing to pay the salaries of the ECD staff.
Jill Sachs of Caversham Institute suggests farmers pooling together to form an ECD facility or share costs for transporting youngsters to a nearby ECD facility.
Farm owners can also contribute to resources needed. This includes stationary packs for kids and teachers, kitchen appliances, fire and safety equipment, bathroom essentials as well as carpets, table, chairs and mattresses.
The starting of a school on a farm is not a straightforward endeavour.
Registration of an ECD facility is required in terms of the Children's Act 38 of 2005 to regulate children's safety and to qualify for a subsidy, but it can take up to six months to receive registration certificates.
There are two types of ECD modalities.
Model 1 is the provision of ECD services in a centre (building) and Model 2 is the provision of ECD services such as playgroups, mobile ECD centres or toy libraries.
From 1 April 2022, the ECD sector has moved over to the Department of Basic Education, not the Department of Social Development as it was before.
More information is available about the registration of ECD services.
Institutions like Caversham Institute (KZN and Western Cape) train ECD teachers by providing training and psychology qualifications both online and in person. Lesedi Educare Association is based in Bloemfontein and Treasure Tots training centre is in Gauteng.
TREE in KZN offers ECD certificates and life skills courses while Pebbles Project upskills rural women to work as ECD practitioners in farming communities in the Western Cape.
For more information and support on starting an ECD facility, make contact with Estée Heyns of The Pebbles Project Trust on firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Marinda Louw Coetzee