On Thursday 6 April 2017, we attended the ECD awards which celebrated practitioners and centres which are playing a key role in forming a solid foundation for children in early childhood. The event was hosted by the NDA (National Development Agency), a subsidiary to the Ministry of Social Development. In attendance was the Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini as well as the Deputy Minister Henrietta Bogopane-Zulu. Both these women displayed a passion for their professions and the air was infused with a love for children and a desire to see a successful South Africa.

It was certainly an honour for us to be part of the event and it became even more apparent that the need for material which educates and celebrates African children exists and Toys with Roots has a role to play.  Whether it be creating or supplying story books to needy schools or providing black dolls which will celebrate girls in their formative years, we have to do what we do and it is our responsibility to ensure that many more people are aware of our existence and that they make use of our services. “Whatever you teach them through play they will never forget” – Bathabile Dlamini in addressing ECD practitioners.

The Early Childhood phase is where children are taught skills to develop thinking. A key caution which the minister made to the practitioners was that they teach children HOW to think and not WHAT to think. This country needs, now more than ever, a new wave which will have a fresh thinking in order to be able to solve the problems we face. The role of the practitioner cannot be emphasised enough.

In the room were practitioners from rural, urban and informal society who were honoured for establishing centres of excellence through ensuring against malnutrition, writing their own books due to a lack of resources. This spirit of soldiering on despite adversity is certainly what I hope these practitioners will be able to pass on to their learners. A resilient spirit and instilling the values of OR Tambo in these children will certainly hold them in good stead.

Thank you to the NDA for inviting Toys with Roots to such a prestigious event.