SOME of South Africa's unsung heroes, who continue to discover, nurture and promote the nation's future leaders, were honoured in Pretoria recently.
This was at a gala truly befitting the yearly Absa and Sowetan Early Childhood Development Awards. It boasted representatives of community development organisations, particularly those from the ECD sector, who rubbed shoulders with dignitaries such as Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, senior Absa executive Venete Klein and Aida Girma, the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund head in South Africa.
Sowetan, Absa and Unicef are part of a partnership that drives the awards, the Aggrey Klaaste Nation Building Foundation, SA Congress for ECD, Basic Education and Social Development departments and SABC Education.
Finalists from all nine provinces were brought to Gauteng for an adjudication process to select the top three ECD champions in categories that include the Home-based Centre of the Year, Community-based Centre of the Year, Resource and Training Organisation of the Year, ECD practitioner of the Year, Innovative ECD Programme of the Year and the best ECD publications.
All the partners recognise that for early childhood development to make a tangible contribution in the national campaign to nurture a healthy, educated population, and boost the economy, a joint effort between parents, the community and the government is needed.
Through the awards this almost peerless nation-building partnership contributes towards a proper system of early childhood development, starting with ensuring children's health, nutrition, education, psycho-social, spiritual and emotional development, while preparing them academically for proper school.
By providing a supportive platform for people and centres working in ECD, the Absa Sowetan Early Childhood Development Awards is able to highlight its importance and how this vital phase of human development is so critical in shaping not only an individual's future, but goes a long way to dictating the strength and vitality of a nation.
All the nominees and national finalists receive formal and informal educational and training support to help them run their centres better, financial and logistical support to create the best atmosphere and conditions for proper and prosperous learning and teaching, while the practitioners are given a chance to obtain and even improve their qualifications, up to National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Level 5.