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Grassroots

Organisation Profile Grassroots is a non-profit accredited organisation located in Cape Town and works throughout the Western Cape Province in the field of Early Childhood Development.

Grassroots Education Trust was established in 1972 under the Chairmanship of Achmat Davids. The policy declaration was “that Grassroots was to be an entirely non-racial body and was to serve all children in greater Cape Town”. Its first project was called Project HELP (Home Early Learning Programme) which made provision for training mothers and their children in their homes. This was done through the employment of home educators who were then trained to teach mothers how to interact with their children and to show mothers that purposeful play could be used to inculcate learning skills in their children.

This was followed by the development of a support programme for centre based educare. This programme was based on the following policy directives: “that Grassroots shall assist and community groups who have the use of a venue to establish a pre-school facility: that such groups shall be representative of the community and shall enter into a contractual arrangement with Grassroots; that Grassroots provide them with equipment and technical know-how to establish their school and shall train them until they are capable to run the school themselves”.

The Adventure Bus programme began with the creation of the Trust. The funding that started the organisation came from 1 cent per week from each member of the Garment Workers Union and the Tramways and Omnibus Workers Union, the Western Province Furniture Union, and NUWCAW.

Grassroots has gone through many changes since its inception. During the 1980s Grassroots was a large national organisation of over 100 staff working throughout the country. As a result of the changed political and economic climate since 1994, Grassroots has repositioned and rationalised itself to create the stable but contained organisation of 13 permanent staff and employing the services of contract workers and volunteers.

Grassroots is 34 years old and is governed by a Board of Trustees. Grassroots is situated in Rylands, a suburb in Athlone in a building with the following facilities:

  • Workshop facilitation (hall which accommodates 150 people)
  • Resource Centre
  • Library
  • Office Space (13 offices)
  • Shop
  • Reception area

What does Grassroots do:
Focus
Grassroots took a decision to concentrate on the 0- 5 year old age cohort. This decision was taken in light of:

  • the status of children
  • the focus of government Early Childhood Development policy and delivery on 6 year olds
  • the focus of many sister NGOs on 6 year olds as a result of government tender processes which concentrate on this cohort
  • the difficulty of delivery of government services to 0-5 year olds..
  • the fact that only 16 % of 0-6s are in some form of Early Childhood Development provision.

Approach
Grassroots decided to consolidate its holistic approach. To create safe and secure environments for our children we need to:

  • involve all stakeholders/members of a community if such an environment is to be possible. Community may mean a particular community – based pre-school, a geographically-based community defined by municipal boundaries, a group of farms, a church community, and so on.
  • work more closely with parents as parents are the primary caregivers of their children and their safety and security directly impacts on that of their children
  • ensure a partnership relationship to enable medium to long-term independence
  • ensure that each approach is flexible and contextually adapted to the particular circumstances of a particular community
  • form partnerships with Small Micro and Medium Enterprise (SMME) training and support organisations in order to introduce income generating projects alongside ECD sites.

Action
Pre 1994, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), generally, were anti-apartheid organisations, worked in relative secrecy and worked as major delivery organisations stepping into the place of non – existent government services for the disenfranchised and disadvantaged. Given the new political dispensation in South Africa, NGOs have had to adapt and change their mode of operation. It has to be the responsibility of the government, and not of NGOs, to provide basic services to its poor and marginalised citizens. Many NGOs see their role in relationship to government as a supportive one, particularly with regard to the development and implementation of new policies.

In the light of the above, Grassroots has decided to orient its work towards

  • Piloting innovative strategies, that can be replicated in other parts of the country, for the inclusion of the poorest of the poor into ECD provision.
  • Concentrate on piloting training strategies and curricula aimed at the improvement of the quality of provision in existing and future sites
  • Advocating for and assisting with the improvement of delivery of existing government services
  • Advocating for the extension of government services to 0-5 year olds in the light of their continued neglect.

For more information visit grassroots.org.za

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