Muslim charity takes literacy of toddlers from soup kitchen floor to mobile classroom

By Al Qalam Correspondent

For years, a voluntary soup kitchen in Chersterville, Durban, has been providing much needed nutrition and a dose of a early childhood education on the floor of their cramped premises – but all that changed when the South African Muslim Charitable Trust (SAMCT) stepped in to provide a R170 000 mobile classroom.

After hearing of the Icebolomkhumbane Foundation’s plight, the Trust (SAMCT) decided to provide more effective vital literacy and early childhood educational development in a community battling against exceptionally poor levels of education.

Speaking at the official hand-over to the Icebolomkhumbane Foundation of the new facility, Gaf Osman, a representative of the SAMCT, said: “A sound education is the fundamental right of every child in South Africa, regardless of their economic circumstances, and a proper education begins with early childhood development. This is all the more critical for historically disadvantaged young learners who need every assistance if they are to have any chance of breaking the cycle of poverty and to go on to enjoy an improved quality of life and become effective contributors to the economy.”

Early childhood education is widely regarded as providing the vital foundation of very young children, at a time when they need to develop social, emotional, cognitive and physical skills.

Osman added: “Early investment in literacy development and the education of children introduces these young minds to the prospect of life-long learning and a more promising future in the world of work. There can be no question that education benefits provide economic benefits.”

He stressed that the Foundation and its dedicated team of volunteers had recognised early childhood education-particularly amongst disadvantaged learners – to be of critical importance.

“This team has done amazing work in teaching some 25 youngsters from severely disadvantaged backgrounds how to interact with others, while promoting the development of social and emotional skills in the face of the most daunting conditions. Staff has been forced, by circumstance, to attempt this critical work with the children on the floor of a soup kitchen. That is extremely challenging and the individuals are to be applauded for their efforts, but this is no way to prepare children for a successful future.”

“Imagine the strides both the team members and the young minds in their charge would make if they were to operate in a more conducive classroom environment. Early childhood development, if carried out successfully, lays the foundation for a child’s entire education. Investment in fit and proper early childhood education – particularly amongst disadvantaged children – improves not only their cognitive abilities, but also critical behavioural characteristic, such as sociability, self-motivation and self-esteem. This is exactly what the team has been attempting, in spite of the severe limitations it has faced on a daily basis”, Osman said of the Foundation’s work with young Chesterville learners.

It was against this background that the SAMCT intervened, bringing to the Foundation and the economically-challenged Chesterville community it serves, a solution designed to formalise early childhood education in a classroom environment.

Osman said : “We were delighted to have been in a position to provide the Foundation with an equipped mobile classroom, valued at some R170 000, so enabling them to both continue and significantly improve the laudable work they do in affording the youngsters of Chesterville a chance at a better life – an educated and meaningful life.”

The SAMCT, created in 2008, was established to provide funding, services and other resources for the improvement of the lives of the vulnerable, deprived and disadvantaged.

It has successfully delivered sizable assistance solutions throughout the country, irrespective of race or religion and works to support needy organisations in the fields of health, social development, poverty alleviation and education.

“I hope our intervention here and the provision of a mobile classroom will effectively remove the obstacle to the more successful delivery of literacy and early childhood development initiatives within the Chesterville community, improving the state of education here and affording youngsters now and into the future, the platform they deserve to become academic achievers and economic contributors”, Osman added.

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