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The importance of play for vulnerable children

NGOs are integral to uplifting vulnerable communities

By Juanita Pardesi, CEO of the Seriti Institute 

Few sectors in South Africa have been as badly disrupted by the arrival of COVID-19 as education. This included Early Childhood Development (ECD) which is a key part of the education system. The early years of a child’s development are critical to building a solid foundation. A whole host of factors need to be present to ensure that children develop optimally.  

The reality is that many children in poor or marginalised communities do not have the benefit of these vital ingredients. This lack of access was exacerbated by the lockdown which the  government implemented to protect  citizens.  Standard Bank and the Seriti Institute are partners in ensuring that children from vulnerable communities receive access to these necessary foundational elements.  

This manifested in a project known as aRe Bapaleng. aRe Bapaleng is a Sotho word which means “Let’s Play”. Learning through play forms a big part of the way children develop, especially in their early years, and this is the core of what we are trying to communicate to primary caregivers. Play sparks imagination, enhances creativity, problem-solving capacities, promotes teamwork, and instils empathy. 

The programme is specifically targeted at supporting under-served communities in the Tshwane metropolitan municipality. The townships include, Soshanguve, Temba, Stinkwater and Hammanskraal. The project has expanded into Alexandra township which is in the City of Johannesburg municipality in Gauteng and the Midvaal Local Municipality.  

As part of creating ECD awareness, Standard Bank and Seriti were able to negotiate a 25-minute radio show on Moretele Community Radio (Moretele FM) where we talk about the aRe Bapaleng programme. The show is hosted every Tuesday between 10:30 and 11:00 am and there are also live reads on air three times a day from Wednesday to Friday.   

Seriti has also partnered with the Grow App to provide a platform where primary caregivers can access ECD content on their mobile phones. Through using media and digital platforms, we have been able to reach people despite the covid-19 lockdown restrictions. We have also made available through our website, resources that primary caregivers can use to help with the development of their young children whilst they are at home.  

The Seriti Institute is constantly working in communities to help bring development where it is needed the most. We pride ourselves on being an organisation that responds to the needs of our communities. After Covid-19 struck in South Africa, we saw clearly that the most pressing need was for food and the need for alternative food provisioning systems. 

People are hungry and no development can take place when the minimum basics of staying alive have not been met. This is how Seriti’s C19 Community Response was born.  

This programme aims to provide immediate food relief for the most vulnerable households whilst we focus on realising our “Resilience Agenda” and moving away from food relief towards working with communities to start food gardens to enable greater food self-sufficiency. Since the start of lockdown, C19 Community Response has delivered over 2 185 food parcels to households in North West and Mpumalanga, and through our affiliation with the C19 People’s Coalition delivered over 22 017 parcels in Gauteng.   

The contents of our food packs are chosen carefully to ensure that they are nutritious, and that fresh produce is sourced from small scale farmers for delivery to those in need. Standard Bank also contributed to this programme by donating R250 000 for the distribution of food parcels in Gauteng and donating around 2000 masks which Seriti Institutes has handed out as part of Covid-19 awareness.  

Seriti Institute