Early childhood development (ECD) is a field dealing with the physical, psychological, cognitive and social development of child between birth and school-going age. How a child is nurtured and what they experience during this time plays a critical role in determining how they develop and how much of their potential they are able to access.

Read on to find out more about how TWNAF is involved in ECD!

The importance of ECD

The first five years (particularly the first thousand days) of a child presents us with a once in a lifetime opportunity.

During this period children learn faster than at any other time in their lives. At the same time, they develop the necessary cognitive and socio-emotional skills that are fundamental to their future achievements in school and later. Research confirms that environmental influences and early experiences have an enormous impact on a child’s development.

This sentiment is echoed in the work of James Heckman, acclaimed Nobel Prize-winning American economist. He concluded that:

“…participants of the program had significant gains in personal and family life outcomes. Also, early childhood education results in stronger families and significantly contributes to upward mobility in the next generation – an indication that early childhood education can be an effective way to break the cycle of poverty.”

Heckman Equation, 2019: 1
Children are particularly vulnerable early on in life
  • 61.8% of children in South Africa grow up without a father, and only 35% grow up in homes where both parents are present.
  • Only 17% of the most impoverished children (0-17 years) in South Africa live in a home with both parents.
  • Research results describe the alarming consequences of fatherlessness, whether emotional, social or intellectual.
But there is good news when fathers are involved
  • A systematic review of 18 studies indicates that father engagement positively affects social, behavioural, psychological and cognitive outcomes of children.
  • High levels of father involvement have been linked to higher levels of cognitive and social competence, increased social responsibility and capacity for empathy, positive self‐control and self‐esteem, more positive interactions with siblings and fewer school adjustment difficulties and better academic progress.
  • Healthy development depends on the quality and reliability of young children’s relationships with the significant people in their life.

Early in 2019, TWNAF partnered with Brightstar, BabyGym, Oyster Ministries and Vredelust Church to develop and present the First-time Dad program in three pilot areas, Khayelitsha, Bellville and Mbekweni.

We learned valuable lessons during the pilot, and Legacy Dad was developed explicitly for fathers in more deprived areas where awareness about positive and authentic fatherhood and masculinity is relatively low.

The programme aims to help fathers with pre-schoolers build their legacies by creating awareness and equipping them to be intentionally involved by implementing two key roles; help children thrive through talking and playing techniques, and impact others around them through thinking and listening skills.


TWNAF has supported three research projects in the ECD field; Towards building ECD best practices in the Wellington area, Setting a new standard in Nurturing Care: Building an integrated ECD management system and Standards and Best Practices for quality early learning.

The main goals of these projects were to positively impacting the quality of life of children and consequently change the community for the better. The current project is designed to conceptualise standards for early learning as one of the six components of Nurturing Care, best practices for the above-developed standards and develop assessment tools which can be used by mentors, principals and educators.

Want to find out more about TWNAF’s involvement in ECD?