a keen child developer

Katlego Moeng

Katlego Moeng

A big-hearted woman who loves children with a passion has become the toast of the national early childhood sector.

Nozipho Mbeka Sijaji, winner of the Absa and Sowetan Early Childhood Development Award in the Best Practitioners category, has declared herself up to the challenge of serving as an ambassador of excellence in this arena.

Sijaji is a single mother of a 24-year-old and 19-year-old. She has been a teacher since 1993 and lives in the Western Cape's Mbekweni region.

She specialises in Early Childhood Development (ECD), dealing with children from birth to six or grade R pupils.

She teaches at the Sinephembe Pre-School.

Before becoming a teacher Sijaji was a machine operator at a food canning factory.

She is:

l An HIV-Aids education and awareness volunteer;

l One of the leaders in a local church;

l An interviewer who helps select schoolteachers;

l Serves on the branch executive of a local political party;

l A curriculum adviser at her school; and

l A committed, industrious ECD practitioner.

Where does she find the time? She replies: "I have a timetable for all these activities and there is always time."

Asked what the secret of her educational success is, she said: "We do a lot of planning in advance for the entire year."

Declaring her preparedness for the ECD teaching excellence ambassadorship, Sijaji said: "I will aim for bigger goals. I will still be a committed, dedicated and determined team player."

Sijaji's runners-up are Limpopo's Refilwe Maponya and Gauteng's Paulinah Twala and the winners in the categories are:

l Best Home-based Care Centres - North West's Legae La Bana Creche, Mpumalanga's Emfundweni Early Childhood Development and Eastern Cape's Doempie Playgroup;

l Best Community-based Care Centres - joint winners Inkanyiso Creche of KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga's IK Makuse Early Learning Centre and second and third-placed Thabong Creche of Gauteng and Western Cape's Ishraaq Edu-Care Centre;

l Best ECD resource and training organisations - North West's Keletsong Community Training and Resources Centre; Western Cape's Early Learning Foundation Montessori Teacher Training Centre and Eastern Cape's Centre for Social Development.

l Absa and Sowetan's organising partners for this crucial community development programme are SABC Education, SA Congress for ECD, the Department of Education and the Office of the Rights of the Child in The Presidency.

It is all part of Sowetan's Aggrey Klaaste Nation Building Foundation, and among several high-profile nation-building partnerships honouring and continuing the legacy of visionary national goodwill and brotherhood philosophy pioneer Aggrey Klaaste. - Additional reporting by Victor Mecoamere.