It is widely accepted that quality early childhood education is very important in improving life chances in areas of social disadvantage. For this reason, Khanyisela Projects remains committed to supporting and developing of preschool provision for Early Childhood Education in the Amazizi area of the Northern Drakensberg.
However current opinion and research also suggests that input to children needs to be provided as early as possible, in infancy, and ideally by their parents or carers This excellent letter (ref 1)cogently argues the central and very important role of the carer in fostering development early on.
This advice comes in the wake of increased understanding of early brain development. We now know that normal brain development and growth is extremely dynamic in the first 2 years of life and that positive interaction with caregivers and the environment at large is critical in infant brain development (e.g. Ref 2)
In recognition of the importance of this critical period, initiatives have started to embrace and deliver early caregiver coaching on interaction globally, particularly recognising the need for it in areas where communities face significant challenges due to poverty.
Outcomes are encouraging and create an imperative to provide such support where possible(Ref 3).This particular reference is an excellent resume of the need for this work, taking account of experience of disadvantaged communities across the world.
The BabyBoost programme
In 2017 while working with Khanyisela Projects an NPO in South Africa, I began to develop a programme called Babyboost which follows the principles of responsive caregiving and which has been developed with regard to the context in which we operate, a rural mountainous area of KwaZulu Natal in SA.
Babyboost is a group programme where carers and their babies approximately 4-21 months meet with trained members of their community to learn about the importance of 6 key interactions:
talk to your baby
cuddle your baby
read to your baby
respond to your baby
sing to your baby
play with your baby
The project comprises a package of 4 components (coaching groups, home visits, playgroups and toy and book libraries)and spans 9-12 month in a child’s life. It will be delivered in one -two locations at a time with the intention of eventually rolling it out ( if relevant) across the area of approximately 14 communities.