Early Childhood Development in South Africa and the Need for Volunteering

Early Childhood Development (ECD) services within South Africa require huge amounts of support from the government as well as large agencies in order to see them prosper. Organisations such as UNICEF are actively trying to improve the lives of children in SA. However, this still isn’t enough. Therefore, people such as you and I need to come together through volunteering in order to help make the youth of today enjoy the fruits of the future.

What is ECD like in South Africa?

What is ECD like in SA?


According to a new report released by Statistics South Africa based on the findings of the General Household Survey data, Early Childhood Development in South Africa, 2016, there were close to 7,2 million children aged 0–6 in South Africa in 2016. Many of these children are from poor or rural communities. These communities that might not have sufficient support in the form of food, clothing or shelter. At the moment, though, food is the top priority for children in South Africa.

As we know, good nutrition is vital for children at this age, especially with regard to breastfeeding. In the years 2015 to 2016, the stats showed that 61% of pregnant women made their first antenatal visit before 20 weeks. Also, South Africa has a high number of people infected with HIV, making it even more difficult for any child to enjoy a stable childhood. 

However, their future is slowly improving. This is because of antiretroviral treatment (ART). Treatment with a combination of HIV medicines can prevent transmission of HIV to your baby and protect your health. Coverage for pregnant women was at 93% in 2016 This high percentage means that children born to HIV-positive women stay HIV negative and healthy. 

Positive results are also coming from efforts to encourage mothers to breastfeed more often. In 2016, almost 73% of children aged less than one years old were breastfed. Also, 32% of the same age group were exclusively breastfed.

Malnutrition still very high in SA

These may seem like good figures, however, malnutrition is still a challenge in SA. UNICEF states that the main causes of malnutrition are “household food insecurity, inadequate care for the vulnerable groups such as maternal and childcare, insufficient essential human services including health, education, water and environmental sanitation and housing.”

Because of this, around 1 out of every 3 children from Gauteng and the Free State were stunted as a result of chronic malnutrition.

The poverty in South Africa also leads to low-birth-weights, with a 13,3% occurrence of live births of babies under 2,5kg nationally. 

While the South African government is trying its best to improve these situations, the majority falls on the support of its citizens to help children in need. There are few ways to help Early Childhood Development in South Africa, namely through volunteering and donations.

The Value of Volunteering

The value of volunteering

There are many different ways one can help improve ECD in South Africa, however, more can always be done. One cannot assume that others will assist. Just helping out for one weekend can make a huge change for a child’s life in SA.


“If we are to break the cycle of poverty, we need to educate the children of the poor.” – President Cyril Ramaphosa, SoNA 2018


Where to Volunteer

Volunteering is a great way to help out children in South Africa. You get to see the smiles on children’s face immediately after helping out. There are many different types of volunteering out there. These can range from creating art with children to teach kids how to use money and other economic skills.

Hero Holidays projects are designed with the purpose of building a better South Africa through the sustainable and meaningful development of our youth. Some of our projects include the building of essential infrastructure, teaching essential skills or early childhood development programmes. Click here to find out more information.

The Benefits of Volunteering

Volunteering always goes a long way for a child’s life. Quite often, we feel that sending money to an organisation can feel a bit empty, and you can’t always be certain where that money is going. Here some benefits of volunteering:

  • Volunteering can make you feel part of a community and meet new people
  • It can help you learn new skills and take on a challenge
  • Make you see a difference in children’s lives
  • Volunteering can help you gain confidence and try new things

Quite often, people feel that they are helpless in making the children of SA have a safe and supportive life. However, through the options mentioned above, anyone in the world can now help support Early Childhood Development in South Africa.

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