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"This would make God smile" – using church buildings for early childhood development

Church in the Community - Media Release in the Herald: 5th February 2024

Source: TCN /
Date Added: 2024-02-05

Category: General NewsTCN NewsIssues - GeneralIssues - Education
The Anglican Board of Education in Southern Africa (ABESA) has joined forces with other stakeholders to address the South African education crisis by establishing new Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres.

Quality early learning programmes prepare children for adulthood by providing them with the necessary opportunities for social, cognitive, spiritual, physical, and emotional development. These programmes lay the foundation for holistic development, whilst cultivating a love for lifelong learning.

Together with ECD champions in our 25 Dioceses across Southern Africa, we are identifying suitable underutilized infrastructure on church sites which could house new ECD centres. Over the next five to eight years, the Anglican Church of Southern Africa could enable the establishment of 1 500 new ECDs.

To quote Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, “This would make God smile!”

ABESA helps Anglican Church schools to overcome significant challenges.

These include issues of inclusion, institutional integrity, financial sustainability, how to “show up” in a world in such a state of flux (economically, environmentally and socially), together with the journeys of healing tied to our past.

Some 366 schools are associated with 18 Dioceses in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA).

Of these, 71 are independent non-subsidised schools, 14 are independent state-subsidised schools, and the remaining 281 are state-funded schools on church land.

In South Africa these schools form a small but significant part of the landscape of around 26 000 public schools, wherein around 405 000 educators are entrusted with the educational needs of over 13 million learners.

South Africa has over seven million children ages under the age of six.

The National Development Plan envisions that every child in South Africa will have access to high-quality early childhood education by 2030, which makes early childhood development a top priority among the measures to be taken to improve the quality of education and long-term prospects of future generations.

Some of the key components in achieving these goals include a strong partnerships and dedicated resources channelled towards ensuring that all children are cared for from an early age and receive appropriate emotional, cognitive, and physical development stimulation.

Affordable Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres are highly impactful in bringing quality education to those previously excluded.

While government and other stakeholders recognize the importance of accessible, high-quality early childhood education, there are still significant challenges facing the sector in South Africa. The predominant challenges that ECDs face are;
  • Limited access to education and poor-quality education: More than 62% of children do not attend an ECD
  • Lack of qualified practitioners coupled with lack of adherence to curriculum standards
  • Financial Pressures: Funding and cash flow limitations
  • Infrastructure: Limited suitable facilities with not much opportunity for development as finances are tight.

Through leveraging partnerships, we aim to address the challenges that ECDs are facing by converting under-utilized church spaces to house ECD centres.

This activity is seen as a catalyst that would lead to safe spaces for students and teachers, improved infrastructure to address ECD needs, educator training to improve education quality and access to capital for the ECD to invest in improvements, such as acquiring classroom materials.

The moving of ECDs into church cites creates employment opportunities for the female congregants of the church and will help keep children safe. Moving an ECD to a structured space allows for the ECD owner to separate the business finances more easily from personal finances, ensuring more accurate financial record keeping for business growth opportunities.

Our implementation partner is SmartStart which was established to close the access gap to early learning opportunities.

By harnessing the power of partnership, community, and collaboration, SmartStart provides a unique national delivery platform that addresses the lack of affordable, quality early learning programmes, the shortage of pre-schools and the dire need for trained and licensed practitioners, while creating new employment opportunities.

The pilot stage of this project has been implemented in the Diocese of Pretoria, with a scoping of 115 church sites.

Of these, 30 have been earmarked as potentially suitable for the establishment of new ECD or to house existing ECDs needing more suitable premises.

The pilot phase has also identified 40 existing ECDs on Anglican church sites In the Diocese of Mthatha, or related to the church in some way, all needing support in terms of practitioner training and mentoring, school registration as well as infrastructure improvements.

The first half of 2024 will see us engaging with seven additional dioceses across the country (including Port Elizabeth, Grahamstown, Mbashe and Khalhamba) in the scoping of under-utilized infrastructure on around 1 500 church sites.

This could yield upwards of 250 sites with potential for housing new ECD initiatives in those communities.

Our scriptures – in respect of Jesus’ engagement with children, the “five marks of mission” of the global Anglican Communion, the Anglican Church’s presence in the South African education landscape since the 1840s, the imperatives identified for education by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as our very own Constitution and Bill of Rights, form a strong theological, theoretical, and political framework to guide the essential nature of this work.

This is a “work” that cannot be done alone and needs your support:
  • Pray for the children of Southern Africa and their educational needs
  • Pray for Educators, ABESA and your local Diocesan response to educational challenges
  • Support the work financially or with your expertise and experience by contacting us on: admin@abesa.co.za

Jaques Pretorius
Executive Director; Anglican Board of Education for Southern Africa
Source: TCN /
Date Added: 2024-02-05

Category: General NewsTCN NewsIssues - GeneralIssues - Education
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