Project helps children get school ready

An early childhood development programme in Fisantekraal is helping to prepare children between the ages of 4 and 5 for formal schooling.

The programme, Blocks 4 Growth, works with registered creches in Fisantekraal, screening children to pick up early on development, hearing and vision problems.

Children who are “at risk” are enrolled in the programme and attend two weekly group sessions with a therapist and facilitator for 45 minutes.

Programme director Dr Ingrid Ahlert said they focused on important areas of early development including gross-motor development, fine-motor development, vocabulary building and literacy and numeracy.

“We are trying to open children up for learning, for them to read and ask questions about what they just read,” she said.

Dr Alhert said it was vital to spot problems in a child’s development early.

“Sometimes the children simply can’t see or read. With our vision and hearing tests, we can pick up on this,” she said.

Children who have been identified with severe development delays, physio-social or safety concerns are referred to the relevant organisations or department.

The programme was rolled out in Fisantekraal in May last year.

Dr Alhert said common problems included children not knowing the basic concepts of shapes and numbers, writing, small movements, problem solving and colours.

“Some of the children would know the number one but can’t point it out; the same goes for colours,” she said.

Dr Alhert said they involved parents by holding workshops for them and by giving the children homework they could do with them.

“Every day we would give them a task to get them to engage with their children and incorporate learning in this way,” she said.

At the workshops, parents are given practical ideas for playing and engaging with their children, using either recycled material or items from an education pack, which they are provided with.

Therapist Callan van Veen said they worked with the creche teachers and provided them with a “teachers kit” to use in class.

The teachers also meet weekly with the therapists, going over practical activities to do in class and discussing any child-related concerns or difficulties.

Ms Van Veen said they had received positive feedback from the teachers in Fisantekraal, with many saying the children were now able to work in a team or identify shapes and colours.

They have eight teams dedicated to the programme and provide services to 10 communities including Fisantekraal, Macassar, Ocean View, Westlake and Mitchell’s Plain. The programme is funded by the Department of Social Development.