Pretoria – The newly established Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centre of Excellence at the University of Fort Hare (UFH) has been challenged to prioritise research on how fathers can be involved in their children’s education.
The findings of research relating to the involvement of fathers in early childhood education (0 – 6 years) suggest that while many fathers see their role as putting food on the table, they were willing to be more involved if this was shown to have positive outcomes.
The research was conducted and presented by Mzoli Mncanca, a Master’s student at UFH during an ECD Symposium organised by the National Development Agency (NDA) and the university’s ECD Centre of Excellence.
Held at the University of Fort Hare’s East London campus on Thursday, the symposium was organised to explore ways to make ECD services relevant and responsive to the needs of children.
The university’s ECD Centre of Excellence has been set up to be an academic centre of both context-specific curriculum development and research in the area of ECD. It is also a legacy programme of Fort Hare that is part of their centenary celebrations.
A 2013 study by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), titled ‘South Africa’s young children: their family and home environment’, found that 42.5% of children aged below five years lived with their biological mother only, translating into less involvement by fathers in children’s lives.
The Stats SA study also found that generally, a relatively high proportion of children (less than four years) that lived with both their biological parents attended an ECD centre, thus building a case for the involvement of fathers in the bringing up of children.
According to Mncanca, ECD centres should be encouraged to collect biographical information of fathers and make regular contact with them to encourage participation.
“Fathers should be invited to attend group and one-on-one discussions about their children’s academic progress,” Mncanca recommended.
He, however, advised that early childhood education spaces will need to be prepared accordingly for this increased involvement and participation of fathers, who have traditionally stayed away.
“To this end, early childhood development practitioners should be trained on how to deal with men in the ECD space. Research on the role of men in early childhood education should also be pursued,” said Mncanca.
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, who addressed the symposium, commended the establishment of the ECD Centre of Excellence as an important part of improving the quality of ECD services to children.
“We all accept that there is a need to introduce sector-specific training for ECD practitioners in order to improve the quality of service provisioning. We are therefore excited about the establishment of the ECD Centre of Excellence by the University of Fort Hare.
“The department looks forward to the implementation of the agreement between the ECD Centre of Excellence and the NDA, especially as it relates to research and development in the field of early childhood development,” said Minister Dlamini.