February 2021.

Hundreds of young children in the rural communities of Philipstown, Hanover, De Aar and Britstown, failed to attend their Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres and crèches last year, as families were fearful of the possible risk of COVID-19 infection. Principals and the Department of Social Development are now concerned that if safety measures aren’t put in place, this fear will once again result in children being left alone, without the necessary care, education and sometimes adequate nutrition, when schools re-open this month.

“School attendance has been negatively affected, due to fear around the current pandemic, but children have to be stimulated to promote growth. We believe that with the right protective equipment and sanitation measures in place, children will come to school more willingly, as it will feel safer to socialise, which is so important for young children,” explained Carlo Roberts, Principal at ACVV Haasbekkie in De Aar.

In an effort to help, De Aar Solar Power has funded hats with visors, especially designed for young children, as facemasks are not ideal, as well as PPE in the form of latex gloves, protective aprons, thermal scanners, faces shields, disinfectants, sanitisers and other health and sanitary provisions to help equip 19 ECD centres in the identified communities, which care for 1 500 young children.

“We have ensured that the identified PPE, is supplied directly to the Department of Social Development, in time for when children go back to school, mid-February, in the hope that they can feel safe and cared for,” said Anita Takor, Community Liaison Officer at De Aar Solar Power, who provided this funding as part of their Socio-Economic Development Programme that includes benefits for ECD centres.

Research shows that young children find it hard to have to cope with the discomfort of wearing a face mask at school all day, a burden that should not be underestimated. So, to alleviate the stress, protective visors, which are attached to sun hats, are an ideal alternative as they are more comfortable to wear and allow easy breathing.

Whilst it is not compulsory for all children at ECD centres to wear masks or visors, it is a good precaution, as advised by the Department of Social Development, especially when young children may be experiencing COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms.

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