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Toddlers getting a “Starting Chance” to benefit from UCT Involvement

   Prof Eric Atmore and Stuart Hendry      

Prof Eric Atmore and Stuart Hendry outside the new custom-built early education centre at Mfuleni‚ outside Cape Town.

Children need cognitive stimulation from a very young age if they are to become university graduates with good employment prospects‚ says Faculty of Commerce academic Stuart Hendry‚ who is driving fundraising for the Starting Chance Campaign.

The R150 million Starting Chance Campaign was initiated by the Southern Africa Sustainable Development Initiative (SASDI) following the successful delivery of the Mfuleni Centre for Early Childhood Development in partnership with the City of Cape Town and the Commerce Faculty of the University of Cape Town in 2011.

SASDI board member Stuart Hendry said the campaign goal was to deliver 30 Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centers of Excellence in the Cape Metropole over the next five years. SASDI’s integrated approach to developing physical infrastructure and the people who will operate the centres will enable registration under the new regulatory requirements‚ making it possible for the centres to run as sustainable community-based social enterprises.

Beneficiaries who will operate the centres will be selected from existing best-practice‚ shack-based centres that have been under stable management and kept in business by payments from parents for a minimum of 3 to 5 years.

Adjunct Associate Professor Eric Atmore‚ Founder of the Centre for Early Childhood Development‚ who is working with SASDI on this project‚ says: “A large-scale project such as this will have a huge impact on early childhood development in the province‚ providing quality early learning for some 3 000 children. This will bring substantial benefits to the children‚ their families‚ their communities and to the economy of the province in the years ahead.”

The Starting Chance Campaign will require monitoring and assessment as it rolls out. Although education is a wealth-increasing investment for a poor family‚ it is also a risky one. UCT is partnering with SASDI to design and implement an innovative series of household surveys and behavioural decision studies to elicit parents’ preferences over risk and time‚ including a longitudinal study to research the benefit delivered by the campaign. The research relating risk and time preferences to education and poverty alleviation is very timely‚ and should be well received by top international academic journals.

The Starting Chance Campaign urgently needs financial support from UCT alumni. Two Starting Chance pilot pre-schools‚ are now operating in Mfuleni. For information on the Starting Chance Campaign and the pilot programme‚ please visit www.sasdi.org.za or contact Stuart Hendry at stuart@sasdi.co.za .

Posted by Carolyn McGibbon on 09/05/2012

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