"For nations, the price of not investing in early moments is children with poorer health, fewer learning skills and reduced earning potential," says UNICEF report Early moments matter for every child.

"It is a weaker economy and a greater burden on health, education and welfare systems. It is intergenerational cycles of disadvantage that hinder equitable growth and prosperity. For children, especially children from disadvantaged communities, the price of this failure is lost potential," adds the report.

PMG believes that this price is too high and that it is, therefore, critical to invest in the early development of our country's children, says the group.

The group adds that interventions during a child's formative years (the earlier, the better) lead to improved outcomes. This is in everything from mental and physical health to levels of educational attainment and earning potential. It also influences lower crime rates and beyond.

"Our children are quite literally our future: Our prospects depend on whether we neglect or nurture them," says the group.

PMG says that this is why it has chosen to support the Ekukhanyeni Relief Project, an organisation that has been actively promoting early childhood development — along with food and nutrition security — since 2005.

Founded by Liza Rossi, Ekukhanyeni Relief Project operates primarily in the informal settlements of Lawley and Kokotela, south of Johannesburg. Its ECD centres provide the only formalised education available within these severely under-resourced communities.

Since 2005, it has reached 13 457 children through its programmes, with:
  • 6 454 children aged between four and six years, educated through their Early Learning classes
  • 3 421 through Grade R, and
  • 3 035 through Grade RR — achieving 84,4% school readiness since 2011.
Each year, 99 female ECD Practitioners are upskilled and are employed in the ECD centres.

The group says that this is a huge achievement, but with so many children needing support, the project must keep growing.

Ekukhanyeni is expanding, adding ten more under-resourced and fledgling ECD centres to its current network of 33 centres. 

The project will upskill the owners / operators of these centres, empowering them to run their social enterprises more effectively and to create employment within the community.

It will also oversee the skills development training of ECD teachers to better nurture and educate the children in their care, thereby furthering their future career potential.

In doing so, Ekukhanyeni's expansion project will ensure access to quality early education and care for an additional 206 vulnerable children each year, so that 1 030 more children are ultimately nurtured, fed and educated over a five-year period. It will also provide skills development and employment for 50 women each year.

To help Ekukhanyeni grow, PMG says that it will provide financial support for two of these 10 additional ECD centres.

"Protecting and developing young children is a good in itself," says Chris Hitchings, PMG's director of human capital and special projects. "It is also a way to break the cycles of poverty and inequality, and to nurture a healthy, happy society in future."

"We want to contribute to realising a country of healthy, talented, resourceful citizens. As such, we're honoured to support the incredible work the Ekukhanyeni Relief Project does. This is a way to invest in what matters and what works," concludes Hitchings. 

For more information, visit www.provantage.co.za