A SoundStart for Preschool Children

South Africa

The importance of a preschool education cannot be underestimated. For many children, it’s their first experience in a structured setting with a teacher. It’s an opportunity to learn to share, to follow instructions, to build connections with other children and to manage their emotions. It’s the foundation of a child’s lifelong learning. Yet in South Africa, only about a third of preschool-aged children are registered. That number is far greater for children from poor families. SoundStart wants to address this.

Why SoundStart is Needed

Preschoolers at Cape Town preschool.

We’re proud to be a part of a preschool interactive audio education initiative called SoundStart. Our main partner, GROW with Educare, is a local leader in the field, is raising the standards of preschool education in South Africa. The solar and wind-up Lifeplayer MP3 is being used in over-crowded and under-resourced preschools in Cape Town townships. The Lifeplayers will provide locally created music and songs from Wriggle and Rhyme.  Wriggle and Rhyme produce highly interactive music content which helps develop listening skills, concentration and fine and gross motor skills.  Children will also listen to South African stories on the Lifeplayer, which will give busy teachers and caregivers a break.

There is limited government oversight in South Africa for early childhood development (ECD) programing. For many children, Grade R (kindergarten) provides their first exposure to any education. Well-resourced preschools exist in affluent areas where parents can afford to pay high school fees. In informal settlements and township areas, most preschool facilities simply act as “holding pens” while parents work. They have few facilities and learning resources. In a country with an estimated six million children of preschool age, more than 70% of ECD facilities in South Africa are subpar.  They are not suited to provide the standard of service and resources needed to support a solid learning environment.

Worse still, the closure of training colleges for preschool teachers has caused a severe shortage of trained preschool teachers. Caregivers are seldom formally trained, and are often grandmothers or women who simply want to help. Wages are low, and teacher turnover is high. Neither teachers nor students can thrive in such a system.

Investing in Preschool

Investment in early education has greater cost savings and payback return than at any other time in life. Many studies from around the world show that poor and vulnerable children benefit most from ECD.

The children that SoundStart aims to reach live mainly in shacks in peri-urban and crime-riddled informal settlements and townships. Many lack access to proper sanitation, reliable electricity, and security at home. Their parents work as domestics, petty traders, gardeners or day laborers and have a limited education themselves). Many are economic migrants or refugees from other African countries (such as from Zimbabwe, DR Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi).

Placing Lifeplayers in preschool classrooms will help children build the learning foundation they need to succeed once they enter primary school. Children will have a better chance to create a positive future.

Please consider donating to SoundStart. Few donations are as cost-effective and effective with long-term benefits. Any contribution helps. Thank you!

 

The Lifeplayers are very helpful to our young learners.  The songs help them memorise and listen and to learn English.  For many of the children, English is not spoken at home and it helps the children communicate with each other.  Also they're learning to dance and move to the music.

Connie, Principal