By Otsile Mabote
The Centre for Social Development (CSD), situated at Rhodes University, hosted a graduation ceremony at the 1820 Settlers’ Monument on 10 October for 93 candidates who were awarded a National Diploma in Early Childhood Education (ECD).
A moment of silence was observed at the beginning of the ceremony in memory of two CSD staff members who taught this course and passed away in 2020. The late Mrs Ruth Nombewu was the course coordinator, and the late Mr Thuso Moss was the course facilitator. Following the welcoming remarks by the Chair of the CSD Board and Dean of Education at Rhodes University, Professor Eureta Rosenberg, Mr Mpumzi Mgijima of the Education, Training, and Development Practices Sector Education and Training Authority (ETDP SETA) delivered a speech of congratulations.
With this graduation, things were a bit different. Early Childhood Development (ECD) professionals, mostly from Makhanda and Uitenhage, were given training at NQF level 5 and had the option to further their professional career by pursuing an in-service Bachelor of Education degree in Foundation Phase Teaching. This unique career path that the CSD developed makes it possible for ECD practitioners to advance academically into the University’s suite of qualifications. Forty of the graduates are already enrolled for the BEd in Foundation Phase Teaching.
The CSD was started in August 1981 by Mrs Thelma Henderson, the wife of the then Vice-Chancellor of Rhodes University. Its original goal was to serve as a branch of the University with a focus on ECD in Makhanda. By assisting the needs of the underprivileged communities in and around the city, the CSD also served the community development sector. The CSD's role has expanded over time to include in-service training for both community development, ECD practitioners and BEd Foundation Phase teachers. , As a self-funded entity affiliated with the Faculty of Education, the CSD is now doing crucial research in early childhood education.
The ceremony was well attended by family and friends of the graduates, as well as the Rhodes University staff members, including the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sizwe Mabizela, who was the keynote speaker. In his address, the VC emphasised the significance of the ECD Diploma and the link between early childhood development and future achievement. He also encouraged the graduates to use their credentials appropriately, saying, “One of the most concerning statistics is that 78 per cent of learners in Grade 4 cannot read for meaning in any language, including their home language. This is a crisis. In fact, it is a catastrophe. There are numerous reasons for this, but the major one is the lack of access to early childhood education in this country. So, I, therefore, wish to commend each and every one of you for taking on this challenge of strengthening our early childhood development education. You have the opportunity to mould those young minds and to form those young lives.”
The CSD Director, Dr Fortunate Gunzo, concluded the event with a vote of appreciation.