There is an old Setswana saying that holds: "Llore lo ojwa lo sa le metsi." Loosely translated, it refers to the need to mentor a child from an early age.
Children's early development has been identified as the key to a nation's successful development.
Last week a number of individuals and organisations that have worked tirelessly in the field of early childhood development received recognition for their endeavours.
The Early Childhood Development Awards, sponsored by Absa Bank and Sowetan, brought these hard-working caregivers, mentors and trainers into the spotlight at the Johannesburg City Hall on Thursday night.
The idea of having the awards originated from Absa and the South African Congress for Early Childhood Development, an NGO that represents the interests of children up to the age of nine.
All nine provinces were represented by 24 finalists at the awards in the categories of community-based care centre of the year, resource training organisation of the year, practitioner of the year and home-based centre of the year.
Masesi Nsimbini from Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, was voted practitioner of the year.
"I love my job and nothing makes me happier than seeing a child smiling," Nsimbini said.
Together with her staff of 10 at Ekhulangwelati Pre-school, Nsimbini mentors and cares for 165 little boys and girls up to the age of six.
Grace Mahlalela's Ithuseng Pre-school in Mpumalanga took home the community-based centre of the year award.
Pam Picken's Tree, a 23-year- old training organisation in KwaZulu-Natal, won the resource and training category.
"We provide training for home-based caregivers and those who are involved in childhood development.
"The recognition of Tree's work is the most important highlight," Picken said.
Limpopo was represented by the Tintlhari Day-Care Centre in Tzaneen which took home the home-based care centre award.
In addition to the recognition and certificates for their important work, the winners received R15000 each.
During a panel discussion on the importance of childhood development, Thabo Leshilo, editor in chief of Sowetan and chairman of the Aggrey Klaaste Nation Building Foundation, emphasised the need to make the public aware of such important initiatives.
"The late Aggrey Klaaste reiterated the fact that we should be self-reliant and not just despair.
"We must make sure these champions of our communities develop and that they are provided with the skills and resources to excel in their work," Leshilo said.
Mabel Rantle, of the Office of the Rights of the Child in the Presidency, said her office would continue facilitating the awards and "all efforts to make the public more aware of the rights of the child".