The Covid-19 induced lockdown and the need for social distancing have prompted a review of approach in training Early Childhood Development (ECD) practitioners to include greater use of digital platforms.

“As an organisation, we have long held the view that we should explore a blended model of training where we leverage to the full extent possible, all available digital platforms at our disposal,” says Sarah McGuigan, executive director of ECD capacity development group, Ntataise.

“The operating environment brought on by Covid-19 accelerated our plans to make this a reality.”

McGuigan explains that ECD training programmes typically include theoretical and practical face-to-face elements such as work-place practice and assessment.

She says when the national lockdown was introduced at the end of March, there was concern all around that the 2020 training programmes would be affected and might not be completed.

“The lockdown turned out to be an opportunity for us to find our true strength,” says McGuigan.

“We not only managed to complete the theoretical part of the training, but we also challenged ourselves to fast-track the move to integrate digital platforms by throwing ourselves into the deep end and not only were we able to float, we realised we could swim rather well.”

While the increased use of digital platforms was in reaction to the lockdown, Puleng Motsoeneng, director at Ntataise says: “The value of face-to-face engagement in ECD practitioner capacity development is immeasurable and as such, that avenue of training will continue to have a place in our programmes.”

Motsoeneng says delivering training for ECD practitioners online required some learning and agility.

This entailed among other things, deciding on the optimal number of participants and having a firm understanding of which components can be delivered electronically and which modules and/or components should remain face-to-face interactions.

“Early childhood development is definitely a calling, and it is more so for those who do it in rural and peri-urban societies where there are countless challenges.”

McGuigan says the past few months have demonstrated clearly that people within the ECD ecosystem, including practitioners and those who train them, are determined to make a difference.

“ECD practitioners are facing challenges on numerous fronts. Since the beginning of lockdown they have not had the opportunity to generate income and yet they recognise the need for the work to continue,” says McGuigan.

She says all praise must go to the ECD practitioners in training who demonstrated strong resilience.

“It’s as if the lockdown reinvigorated them to summon every ounce of energy they have to complete the programme on time,” says McGuigan.

“All the trainees in this cohort were adamant that they are not going to be left behind.

“The energy and excitement demonstrated during the lockdown period confirmed what we had always suspected, that all those who come to our environment see it as something more than just a job, it is a calling,” reiterates McGuigan.