Using fundamental Montessori principles and practices to follow the child, CoRE training cultivates a greater understanding of a child’s developmental needs and the co-construction of learning materials using local resources to prepare a low-cost, developmentally-supportive classroom environment that serves the needs of each, individual child in context.
Through conscious local analysis and collaboration, adaptations to the training were made for maximum local relevance and impact to pilot this training in the suburb of Kayamandi, Stellenbosch – a community which is broadly representative of the educational and societal needs across the greater Cape Winelands region. The opportunity now beckons to take the impact to scale.
In April 2021, Indaba Institute (II) successfully piloted the first EsF Community Rooted Education (CoRE) training programme in Africa in collaboration with the local government, recognised educational investors and important NGO partners from the local and international community as a Proof of Concept to make quality education accessible to underserved communities. The training was conducted in the suburb of Kayamandi, South Africa to capacitate Early Childhood Development (ECD) practitioners currently working with children from ages 0-6 in Stellenbosch.
Founded in 2017 by the Indaba Foundation, Indaba Institute’s (II) mission is to offer quality education for holistic human development that capacitates adults to support the development of children from a variety of contexts, to help each child have the best start to life to reach their full potential.
Based in Stellenbosch, South Africa, II seeks to address the urgent need for access to quality training, especially in communities historically underserved, to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma and poverty. It offers AMI-certified teacher training courses to help adults from diverse backgrounds grow their understanding of human development from birth and enhance their skills in order to create environments and learning materials that serve the holistic needs of each, individual child.
The Indaba group’s most recent project is the EsF CoRE training programme to address the multitude of legacy social ills - such as inequality, Gender-Based Violence, poverty, Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and more, which continue to perpetuate the legacy of apartheid in communities. CoRE training is designed to enable teachers, who work with children aged 0-6-years-old, to radically improve the quality of education and care in these crucial years of a child’s neurological development. CoRE was created in response to the urgent need for high quality education in underserved communities around the world - first in India, now in South Africa.
Using fundamental Montessori principles and practices to follow the child, CoRE training cultivates a greater understanding of a child’s developmental needs and the co-construction of learning materials using local resources to prepare a low-cost, developmentally-supportive classroom environment that serves the needs of each, individual child in context. Through conscious local analysis and collaboration, adaptations to the training were made for maximum local relevance and impact to pilot this training in the suburb of Kayamandi, Stellenbosch.
The main objectives of the pilot programme were to:
• Run CoRE teacher training as a Proof of Concept (PoC) on South African soil, starting in Kayamandi
• Gain an understanding of the needs of ECD teachers in centres in the area
• Navigate the complexities of offering access to quality education grounded in local context
• Understand how lessons learned could aid the roll-out of high quality, low-cost ECD teacher training and support to vulnerable communities across the Cape Winelands.
Introduction to context
Kayamandi is a suburb of Stellenbosch which began as an informal “township”, under the Group Areas Act of apartheid legislation. It is a community known for its complex history, one that has contributed to the poor socio-economic conditions of the community to date, which is also broadly representative of the educational and overall societal needs of communities across the greater Cape Winelands region. It is for this reason that Kayamandi was chosen as II’s pilot community site.
Research reveals that children in the most disadvantaged quintiles of their societies are at the greatest risk of being deprived during the ages of 0-6. Without early intervention, biological and psychosocial risk factors associated with poverty lead to inequalities which undermine educational attainment and adult productivity, thereby perpetuating the poverty cycle. Under worsening conditions, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, communities like Kayamandi will continue to face social, economic and environmental challenges that compromise the developmental trajectory of children if the nation does not focus on supporting children from the early years. And that is why CoRE holds deep relevance.
From October 2020 to February 2021, II conducted a Needs Assessment to provide the necessary context for the adaptation of the training programme. This phase of research revealed three of the biggest challenges teachers have faced with training courses namely: understanding how to help children with different abilities, understanding how to implement what they had learned on the training and understanding the language of the training conducted.
Launch of CoRE training
An Orientation session was run the 29th of March in Kayamandi Corridor before the official launch on the 19th of April, attended by 24 teachers from Kayamandi, Franschhoek and Klapmuts. Although the pilot was focused on Kayamandi, II continued to receive requests from teachers from other communities who were interested in Montessori education and wanted to take part in the training. After consulting with the Community Development Officer of Stellenbosch Municipality, who agreed to cover the teachers’ transport costs, II opened the training to centres outside of Kayamandi.
With the information gathered from the needs assessment, and with the guidance of the international EsF pedagogical team, the II local Training Facilitation team developed a 24-day CoRE course schedule for the teachers in Kayamandi. The course consisted of three modules that link theoretical sessions with practical experience, observation, and individualised assistance to support teachers through a process of exploration and reflection. Each module consisted of one week of lectures, facilitated discussions and centre site-visits as well as three days of material-making.
For this PoC, a single Lead Facilitator, Prudence Ramsey, was supported by two Assistant Facilitators, Xoliswa Bala and Piliswa Baliwe, who engaged with the teachers in both English and isiXhosa throughout the course. A vital component of CoRE is the integration of local language and culture into the teacher’s training experience which speaks to the context of the children they serve. Breaks between contact-sessions were designed to give teachers time to invest their learnings directly back into their daily classes and discuss insights and challenges, as well as cater for the needs of the ECD teachers who could not be away from their centres for long periods of time. The schedule was reviewed daily to adapt to the pace of learning and needs of the teachers on the course.
Through the pivotal support of the Indaba Foundation and Millennium Trust, 24 bursaries were secured and a significant portion of CoRE training costs were covered for the duration of the pilot. The relationship forged with the Community Development Coordinator of Stellenbosch Municipality also significantly reduced the costs of student transport, catering and the venue for the training. On 11 June, 19 teachers completed the first phase of the training programme with an Introduction to Community Rooted Education EsF certificate and in turn commenced their journey of learning and mentorship to become even greater advocates for children in their communities. The second phase of training is set to be complete by December 2021. The training has since been adapted to a 6-week training programme held over 6 months with a research component and additional post-course mentorship component in development.
Looking to the Future
In order to increase II’s capacity and ability to run more CoRE training courses within the Cape Winelands region, Indaba is in the process of identifying a number of potential, local AMI Training Facilitators to be trained by the EsF pedagogical team. These individuals will form part of the first group of AMI Teachers in the world to be trained to facilitate the training of CoRE. II is also currently in consultation with two social anthropologists to assist with the design of a research strategy to identify indicators to monitor and evaluate specific outcomes of the CoRE training. Using the insights that have emerged from the pilot, the intention is to not only track the outcomes of the CoRE training on both the teacher and the child but identify barriers to training fidelity and overall impact. II is making a conscious effort to ensure that our teachers remain connected to the community network and will continue to engage with all teachers of the CoRE training as their journeys with II have just begun. Indaba seeks to develop a model to take this training to scale and grow its relationship with local government and key players within the private sector to make the training accessible to more ECD practitioners working with children in underserved communities across the Cape Winelands.