One of the most impactful actions that any society can take to improve its future is to actively nurture and support the development of its youngest members.
The importance and value of early childhood development (ECD) has been repeatedly proven by researchers across the globe, so it is little wonder that ECD is one of the top priorities for most governments, social development organisations and even private companies that are serious about contributing to sustainable social development.
FNB CEO, Jacques Celliers says, “FNB has been a dedicated investor in ECD and youth development.
In 2017, we formalised our support of ECDs, which we recognised then as a grassroots social development area that had been largely overlooked.
We initiated an ECD adoption programme with the aim of providing much-needed support to ECD centres and facilities across the country.
The programme gives our employees an opportunity to ‘adopt’ an ECD facility in their community or elsewhere in SA, to date our employees support approximately 60,000 children in more than 1,000 ECDs across South Africa.”
Celliers says the value of this support to the adopted ECD centres cannot be overstated, particularly given that many of them are not registered with the Department of Social Development (DSD) when they are adopted, and therefore do not receive any government funding.
“Employees work closely with their adopted ECD facility to get it registered with the DSD so that it can start receiving grant funding.
Our employees partner with their chosen ECD facility to share their knowledge, expertise and skills, leveraging their networks to raise funds, and generally assisting the facility to overcome operational challenges so that it can focus fully on delivering optimum education and development, ultimately helping them achieve self-sustainability,” says Sipho Silinda, CEO of FNB Public Sector Banking.
“A core component of this self-sustainability is ensuring that ECD teachers and facilitators have access to quality training, not only to enhance the value that they deliver to these young children in their care, but also to raise the professional profile of the facility, thereby attracting more parents who want to enrol their children.
We have found that when ECD educators and carers receive good training, their motivation levels increase and that passion for teaching and nurturing almost always translates to happy, motivated and more enthusiastic children,” adds Silinda.
In addition to providing direct support to the centres, the ECD adopters help many of these facilities become community development hubs establishing vegetable gardens to feed the children, providing teachers with the means of supplementing their income by selling healthy produce to feed community members, and creating invaluable sustainability learning opportunities for children and adults.
The full value of this extended support approach was demonstrated during the Covid-19 lockdowns when most education facilities had to shut down, leaving educators without an income and many children without a daily meal.
Thanks to the well-established networks that the adopted ECD centres have built up, FNB was able to partner with ECD educators to raise funds for the delivery of 7,000 food parcels, which were then handed out to feed vulnerable families during the pandemic.
FNB’s contribution to ECD has also been channelled through the FirstRand Foundation and the FNB Fund in the form of interventions that are geared to enabling inclusive access to quality early childhood care and education, supporting nutrition improvement strategies, and developing systems for early detection and referral pathways for children with disabilities.
Similarly, the ECD sector partnerships with the National Department Social Development, National Treasury and the ECD Consortium have generated increased ECD resource support amounting to R 3.1bn in the last 3 years.
The result was an increase in ECD subsidy grant from R15 per child per day to R17 per child per day, with roughly 620,000 children as recipients of the subsidy.
“They say it takes a community to raise a child, and at FNB we absolutely buy into this philosophy.
We realise that these noble efforts would not have been possible without the ongoing commitment of our partners on this journey including but not limited to the Do More Foundation, Pusontle Farm and Stark Ayres who help with veggie gardens.
We also welcome the support of NGOs like Initiate Life for training assistance, Talisman Hire for infrastructure, and DSV Couriers who transport our ECD donations for free across all parts of the country.
As we accelerate our pace to build a digital financial services platform, we also want to leverage our platform for social good.
As a result, we are excited about the imminent launch of our ‘Care’ applet on the FNB App to assist our employees with the process of ECD adoption, donation facilitation and digitising many other manual functions,” concludes Celliers.