On the occasion of Grassroots Educare Trust’s 50th anniversary, the graduation of 32 learners on the NQF Level 4 ECD qualification and 22 learners from De Doorns on the Babies and Toddlers Programme, offered by Motheo Training Institute Trust and Grassroots, PROFESSOR ASLAM FATAAR presented the following graduation speech on May 24, 2022.
AN ECD [early childhood development] qualification has given you, as students, ownership over your own stories. Your studies have enabled you to interrupt narratives of hopelessness. You are now ready to write your own children’s stories and the stories of the children you will be educating.
Today’s significant story is the Grassroots Educare Trust’s 50-year-old history. Grassroots has left a heroic legacy that enabled many ECD educators to interrupt the community’s underdevelopment. The people of Grassroots have written a story of love all over the province. Starting small, they have spread out to many sections of the Western Cape’s rural and urban areas. And Grassroots is currently still flourishing under the dynamic leadership of Director, Mrs Mareldia Tape, and her inspiring team.
Grassroots’ story is a story of interrupting the legacy of underdevelopment in our communities. Grassroots has been offering a story of hope and development in our communities. Grassroots is similar to organisations such as Gift of the Givers, which has provided emergency relief for three decades and the Peninsula Feeding Scheme, which has been feeding children at school since 1958.
Can you imagine the love of humanity and dedication to children that Grassroots was founded on and are currently still operating on? I can think of no better display of love than Grassroots’ commitment to our children’s development and future. This commitment is based on the promise of a better life and a better future for the people of the Western Cape.
Yet, the work of Grassroots is so much more. Their work in the ECD sector is based on the necessity of intervening in patterns of human underdevelopment in our most under-resourced parts of society. Working in the ECD sector means that Grassroots is working in the most under-resourced sector of our education and social development systems.
This is where love must become practical. If the engine of the ECD sector is primarily based on love, not money or riches, then love in this sector must get practical. Practical love is love at its most compelling. Grassroots is a manifestation of such practical love. Their work involves networking, raising resources and money, developing curricula, syllabi and resource materials, continuous investment in training, and travelling all over the province to deliver programmes. Grassroots lobbies various sectors of government, educare centres, hospitals and antenatal clinics, providing educational toys and equipment, educating parents, and encouraging good health and breastfeeding. They do all of this, and more, courageously and selflessly, to serve our communities.
This is breathtaking and admirable, yet, it’s all in a day’s work, all done while the people of Grassroots also have to raise their own families and live their own lives. They have been creating infrastructure to make love practical for building new stories for our young children, their mothers and fathers, and their communities.
As today’s graduates, this is the path you have been put onto. You are now the new story. You are now empowered to live more purposefully in the world. Your teachers and courses would have provided you with new understandings of childhood development, Freud, Piaget and Erikson perhaps, new classroom management techniques, pedagogical techniques and teaching styles.
You would also have understood how to be a teacher of young children; courteous and smiling, yet stern and rule-following; personable and friendly, yet teaching with a firm hand; compassionate to all the children in your care, yet also alert to specific challenges that each child represents. And, you would have understood how to communicate with parents about their children’s needs, educating their parents about the need to properly support their children and create nurturing home environments for them.
In your ECD course, you would have been taught the importance of holistic approaches to child development education. You know the link between social, emotional, physical and mental/cognitive development. You’ve come to understand deeply the importance of reading in the child’s cognitive and emotional development, the importance of reading to children consistently and when to introduce which age-appropriate books.
You’ve come to understand how the stories you read to the children would stimulate moral development. Your reading and explanations would allow your learners to distinguish between good and bad behaviour. You can now provide the moral foundations to children at an early age so that they are a benefit to their families. And, you would have understood how reading stories and educating children based on cognitive and emotional competence and awareness can stimulate and build their imaginations. The way you choose to read the stories, dramatise their meanings and sing, when necessary, would grip the children’s imaginations.
You will send them on a flight of fantasy and cultivate their ability to imagine themselves as wonderful beings. They’ll start believing that they can aspire to greatness. They would imagine becoming scientists, astronauts, doctors, lawyers, engineers, builders, electricians, teachers or ECD teachers. In other words, the work of the ECD teacher is the work of cultivating the imagination, getting children to imagine becoming a productive member of your family and community, and in service to humanity.
You have chosen to live and work in the ECD sector, where love manifests as its most compelling and beautiful. This is where you have chosen to live your life and service in commitment to our infants, toddlers and preschoolers. This is the phase of life where our interventions, developmental support, educational development, care and social protection have the most incredible pay-off.
The ECD teacher is involved in interrupting old narratives of brokenness, hopelessness and loss. As newly qualified ECD teachers, you will give children hope, teach them moral values and cultivate their imagination. You could not have made a better life choice.
Aslam Fataar is a professor in the Department of Education Policy Studies at Stellenbosch University and currently a Research and Development Professor attached to the university’s Transformation Office.