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The importance and value of early childhood development (ECD) has been proven by researchers across the globe. Picture: 123RF/WAVEBREAK MEDIA LTD
The importance and value of early childhood development (ECD) has been proven by researchers across the globe. Picture: 123RF/WAVEBREAK MEDIA LTD

One of the ways a society can improve its future is by nurturing and supporting the development of its youngest members. The importance and value of early childhood development (ECD) has been proven by researchers across the globe. It’s a priority for most governments, social development organisations and even private companies that are serious about contributing to sustainable social development.

FNB CEO Jacques Celliers says: “In 2017, FNB formalised our support of ECDs, which we identified as a grass roots social development area that had been largely overlooked. We initiated an ECD adoption programme to support ECD centres and facilities in SA. The programme gives our employees an opportunity to ‘adopt’ an ECD facility in their community or elsewhere in SA. To date, our employees support about 60,000 children in more than 1,000 ECDs.”

Celliers says the value of this support to the adopted ECD centres cannot be overstated, particularly given that many of them are not registered with the department of social development (DSD) when they are adopted, and therefore do not receive any government funding.

“Employees work closely with their adopted ECD facility to get it registered with the DSD so that it can start receiving grant funding. Our employees partner with their chosen facility to share their knowledge, expertise and skills, leveraging their networks to raise funds, and generally assisting the facility overcome operational challenges so it can focus on delivering optimum education and development and become self-sustainable,” says Sipho Silinda, FNB Public Sector Banking CEO.

“A core component of this self-sustainability is ensuring that ECD teachers and facilitators have access to quality training to enhance the value that they deliver to these young children in their care, and raise the professional profile of the facility, thereby attracting more parents who want to enrol their children. When ECD educators and carers receive good training, their motivation levels increase and that passion for teaching and nurturing almost always translates to happy, motivated and more enthusiastic children,” says Silinda.

The ECD adopters also help many of these facilities establish vegetable gardens to feed the children, help teachers supplement their income by selling healthy produce to feed community members, and create invaluable learning opportunities about sustainability for children and adults.

The full value of this extended support approach was demonstrated during the Covid-19 lockdowns when most education facilities had to shut down, leaving educators without an income and many children without a daily meal. Thanks to the well-established networks that the adopted ECD centres have built up, FNB was able to partner with ECD educators to raise funds to deliver 7,000 food parcels, which were handed out to feed vulnerable families during the pandemic.

FNB’s contribution to ECD has also been channelled through the FirstRand Foundation and the FNB Fund with interventions to enable inclusive access to quality early childhood care and education, support nutrition improvement strategies, and develop systems for early detection and referral pathways for children with disabilities.

Similarly, the ECD sector partnerships with the department of social development, National Treasury and the ECD Consortium have generated increased ECD resource support amounting to R3.1bn in the past three years. The result was an increase in ECD subsidy grant from R15 to R17 per child per day, with about 620,000 children as recipients of the subsidy.

“It takes a community to raise a child, and at FNB, we absolutely buy into this philosophy. These noble efforts would not have been possible without the ongoing commitment of our partners, including but not limited to, the Do More Foundation, Pusontle Farm and Stark Ayres which help with veggie gardens, the support of NGOs such as Initiate Life for training assistance, Talisman Hire for infrastructure, and DSV Couriers who transport our ECD donations for free across SA.

“As we accelerate our pace to build a digital financial services platform, we also want to leverage our platform for social good. We’re excited about the launch of our Care applet on the FNB app to assist our employees with the process of ECD adoption, donation facilitation and digitising many other manual functions,” says Celliers.

Click here for more information on the FNB Fund

This article was paid for by FNB.

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