Candice Potgieter

Above: SITFE Trustee Dieter Lutge interacting with the children.

Our former president Nelson Mandela once famously said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. With this quote by the father of our nation echoing in the minds of all South Africans, we must continue striving to provide quality education to children.

The Unlimited Child and SITFE (The Sugar Industry Trust Fund for Education) have been in partnership to bring high quality early childhood education to South African sugarcane growing areas since 2016. 

The Unlimited Child is a leading national non-profit organisation that seeks to ensure that young children in the 0-5 year age cohort, have access to quality, sustainable early childhood education and care so that they can develop to their full educational and personal potential. 

Currently supporting 2 835 centres and 346 733 children across South Africa, The Unlimited Child is well on its way to ensuring that together with partners such as SITFE each and every child in South Africa is given an opportunity to thrive. 

SITFE Trustees and SASA Management listening attentively.

From 2016, SITFE has partnered with The Unlimited Child to support more than 96 ECD (Early Childhood Development) centres across The Harry Gwala, uMgungundlovu, Umlazi, iLembe, uMkhanyakude and King Cetshwayo Districts of KwaZulu-Natal. This partnership provided much needed training of more than 200 ECD practitioners on a high-quality curriculum, educational toys and resources as well as mentorship, coaching and support to ensure that over 10 000 children in their care were well supported. 

During each year of the cycle, children were assessed and showed that they were achieving the required developmental milestones for school readiness. In the King Cetshwayo District in particular, the partnership has been catalytic in successfully ensuring that children had received access to early learning and support. Early learning and support improved from less than 8% to more than 95% coverage in this particular community which ensured that through this remarkable growth that the potential for school readiness was achieved.

These findings were consistent with the Early Learning Programme Outcome (ELPO) Study, an independent study which was undertaken to investigate the quality of ECD programmes in South Africa. The primary aim of the study was “to compare the extent to which different types of early learning programmes improve early learning outcomes, as measured by the Early Learning Outcomes Measure (ELOM)”. In the study it was clearly shown that The Unlimited Child programme demonstrated the greatest impact in ensuring school readiness taking children from being at risk of not reaching development milestones to attaining the developmental and educational milestones that were needed for school readiness through the year long programme.

It is through the three-year intervention that communities in the most rural and marginalized districts have recognized that early childhood education is the foundation to achieving school readiness and as an organization The Unlimited Child is extremely grateful to SITFE for their continued partnership in ensuring the expansion of early childhood education to communities where it is most needed. The success of interventions such as these means a brighter future for our children. We look forward to seeing the further success of our partnership as we expand our programme to attain maximum coverage.

Candice Potgieter is the CEO of The Unlimited Child