22 Jul Leaving a legacy through Early Childhood Development
Winning the ECD Centre Practitioner of the Year at the 2018 annual Penreach Awards, was a huge honour for Sabelo Mncina, and he wholeheartedly credits Penreach for his development and success.
The first year attending workshops taught me a number of things and started him on a journey of enlightenment. “Although I understand children, and have a passion and love for kids, I was blank about the rest. The first workshop, under facilitator Leticia Mlambo, taught me a number of things, including how to set up a classroom, areas of development and how to handle myself being around children. It empowered me tremendously.”
Penreach builds on the premise that in order for the children to thrive, the correct learning environment has to be created for them. The workshops tackle the main challenges under-resourced teachers face, with intensive, ‘in service’ and practical workshops, lasting a total of 36 hours over seven Saturdays a year.
Sabelo teaches at Ekulindeni Day Care Centre in Barberton, a school which was founded by his aunt. She was also the person who introduced him to his first Penreach workshop. “The first thing I did after returning was to rearrange my classroom,” he smiles, by demarcating areas for different fields of development and learning. “Just setting up and getting organised was the beginning.”
Penreach Facilitators not only deal with the real life issues, but also tackle subject-based problems teachers may experience in their classrooms, providing them with a solid foundation from which to develop their techniques. ECD practitioners are also trained to conduct group play activities, which supports the cognitive skills of the children, as well as their physical and their social development.
However, something as simple as outdoor play can be a huge obstacle for rural teachers. “In Barberton, the social setting is not good,” Sabelo explains. “For instance, our school is next to a shebeen, and the environment impacts on the children. It’s a challenge keeping their attention. The township is not conducive towards outdoor play.” Even so, he tries to create opportunities for his class, taking them to a nearby park on Fridays and engaging them in physical activity as much as possible.
Finding resources is one of the biggest challenges, but in 2014, during his second year of attending workshops, Sabelo was blown away by the part dealing with creative activities. “We were shown how to find and make our own resources; to make use of what is readily available.” Devising plans with bottle tops and empty toilet rolls was an exercise in creativity, and suited him down to the ground. “That was amazing,” he smiles. “I enjoyed doing it – we ended up being the kids!”
In 2015, Sabelo tackled ECD Management workshops, slightly awkward, he laughs, as he isn’t the principal of a school – yet. “I learned a lot about what it takes, though,” he says. “About how to create your policies and what goes into the successful running of a centre.”
He sees it part of a continuous effort to develop himself and do better. “Penreach workshops are a life-changing opportunity. I’d like to study more and want to leave a legacy. The award inspired me to do better. It’s wonderful to know your work is being recognised.”