Early learning as a platform towards Sustainable futures

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Nosakhumzi (Nomzi) is one of eight facilitators in the Lynedoch Early Learning Centre, assisting 72 children from ages 0 – 6 years to realise their full potential in a prepared environment that enables this to happen. Since Nomzi joined the centre over three years ago, she has since completed her NQF Level 4 Early Childhood development (ECD) SETA accredited qualification and is currently pursuing an NQF Level 5 certificate. Nomzi plays a facilitative role by working with the child individually – following the child in their natural process of development. As the child gains more competence and self-actualisation, Nomzi introduces more complex learning material to further stimulate the child’s interests.

The centre is based on the Montessori philosophy where the magic and mystery that exists within each child moulds into something beautiful – if harnessed. It is understood that the experiences during the first year of a child’s life are the most powerful and affect the child’s whole being. This stage is referred to as the absorbent mind.

“The child… is a spirit embryo which needs its own special environment. Just as a physical embryo needs its mother’s womb in order to grow, so the spiritual embryo needs to be protected by an external environment that is warm with love and rich with nourishment”(Montessori 1966:34)
The Montessori classroom is divided into different learning areas namely: Practical life, which focuses on life skills; sensorial, which encapsulates numeracy and literacy through sensory learning. and Arts and Culture. It is designed that all learning material is accessible to the children at their height, enabling independence. They also partake in healing and bodywork (such as tai chi and hand massages) on a daily basis to instil calm in the children. The classes are mixed age to encourage peer to peer learning on various levels.

One afternoon while visiting the centre, astonished by the level of freedom and confidence present in the room, I sat quietly in the corner to observe the children’s daily activities hoping to get a story for the newsletter. Paballo (5) speaks to Joshua in perfect English, turns around and speaks to Tshiamo in Sesotho and explains an activity he was working with to Aluva in isiXhosa. Allistine shares a joke in Afrikaans all the children around him begin to laugh including Paballo who then adds his little bit back in Afrikaans. In total, Paballo is able to communicate in 4 different languages with ease. In a country with 11 official languages, I should imagine that a child speaking four languages gains self – confidence as he feels he is able to participate usefully in the society around him.