Ajuga caring for life in the first crucial years

Ajuga caring for life in the first crucial years

How Cipla is supporting Early Childhood Development centres in disadvantaged communities.

You probably don’t remember the first things you learned. That’s because you learned them before you turned three.

The first 1000 days of are a child’s life are a crucial time. This is when their ability to learn, grow and thrive is most affected by the quality of their nutrition, education and healthcare.

That is why the Ajuga initiative was established. It’s a project that is wholeheartedly supported by the Cipla Foundation.

“Our aim is to address the need for our children to access education through our Early Childhood Development Centre infrastructures,” says Lwazikazi Sokutu who opened her ECD in the Western Cape town of Klipheuwel, in 2014 and receives support from Ajuga.

A place of nurturing and education

“When children from disadvantaged communities miss out on care and nutrition in the early years, they suffer,” says Lwazikazi, “Particularly at school where their capacity to learn is diminished and their performance is poor.” She explains that this has an economic effect on the nation as a whole, because of poor productivity and later healthcare costs.

Lwazikazi speaks about the poor socio-economic conditions of the community in which she works, where children do not receive proper care during the day.

“I would like to keep these young children off the street, allow them to play and be stimulated at an early age, and show them there is someone who cares for them, “ she says.

Teenage mothers and unstable family life

“ Many of these kids are in the care of grandparents or parents who do not have the skills or resources to provide them with early childhood nurturing. Some of the mothers of these children are themselves barely adults – they are teenagers, and many of them have alcohol or drug problems and unstable relationships. A child will often witness parents getting drunk and fighting.”

“Here at the crèche, they receive daily care and attention. I want these kids to have a better future, which is why I am committed to the project.”

There are approximately 19 971 Early Childhood Development centres nationwide, but only half are formally registered.

More than 17% of these crèches are operated from a house or garage, and 10% operate from a shack.

Under-qualified carers

“Unfortunately,” says Lwazikazi, “over a quarter of early childhood practitioners that run these centres have not completed matric. “But our hope and our vision is a higher matric pass rate. If this happens, there will be long-term social, education and economic benefits to society.”

Statistics show that children who get a healthy start in the first 1000 days and beyond are ten times more likely to overcome life-threatening childhood diseases. They are more likely to complete nearly five more grades in school, more likely to go on to earn 21% more in wages as adults, and they are more likely to have healthier families of their own.

Cipla supports the National Development plan to make early childhood development a top priority, and to ensure that all children have at least two years of pre-school education, nutrition and healthcare.

“For the sake of our country, we should address problems at an early age,” says Lwazikazi. “The children of Klipheuwel – and disadvantaged children all around South Africa – deserve a better future.”

Donations to Ajuga will help build crèches in needy communities around the country. To find out more, visit https://ciplafoundationsa.co.za/ajuga

To sponsor a child for R200 through the Pebbles Project a month, go to : http://www.pebblesproject.co.za/sponsor-a-child/

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