If you’re a woman in rural Venda in the Limpopo, the northern-most province in South Africa, then it’s very likely you’re the head of the family. You will spend your days busy with numerous tasks such as growing crops, trading in small goods, wild-harvesting foods such as Baobab, Marula, Moringa and brown ivory fruits (Munee), collecting firewood and water.
Often, your work will take you away from your village and then you have a dilemma: either you take your small children with you (not always practical or safe) or you leave them in the care of one or two other village women. This is how informal pre-schools are created.
Like all pre-schoolers, these very small children need nourishing food, a warm, clean and cozy place to nap, toys and safe play areas; however the reality in a typical Venda village is harshly different. Up to 50 children can be crammed into a tiny room with little more than a hard concrete floor, surrounded by dusty unfenced grounds and, if they’re lucky, an old car tire to play with.
The village women who care for these children do not have a background in early childhood development; as a result, the young children are not properly prepared by the time they get to school-going age.