Happy Monday, folks!

Hope your Sunday blues weren’t so bad and you’ve had at least one cup of coffee this morning. Now I know how hard it can be to get out of bed on a Monday morning and face the world, but spare a thought for a few people who are having a bit more of a challenging Monday than you are.

6 South African adventurers are starting their summit of Ojos del Salado, the world’s highest active volcano. Let me make sure you got that: the world’s highest active volcano. They are starting their ascent today and hope to reach the summit on 24 February. Kudos to them, I hear you say, but why on earth do you care and why should I?

Well, the reason I care is that they are doing it to raise awareness (and money) for The Unlimited Child, a skills development non-profit organisation focussed on improving access to early childhood development in marginalised communities throughout South Africa. The reason you should care is that this affects the future of our country – which means it affects you and me and all of us.

The Unlimited Child logo

Let’s look at a few depressing statistics to help us understand this better:

  • Over 1 million South African children under the age of 5 do not have access to early childhood services
  • 80% of South African Grade 4 pupils fall below the lowest internationally-recognised level of reading literacy in their language of learning
  • South Africa ranked LOWEST out of 50 countries in the Progress in International Reading Study (PIRLS) in 2016
  • South Africa ranked SECOND WORST IN THE WORLD for Maths and Science across different grades in the Trends in International Science and Maths Study (TIMMS) in 2016
  • Almost 50% of our students drop out of school between Grade 1 and Grade 12

If a child doesn’t receive the support they need to grow and develop before the age of six, this severely impacts on their school readiness. If our children are not ready for school, they will fall behind and won’t be able to progress in school as they should. This is one of the (many) reasons students in our schools perform so poorly. Performing poorly in school is not only about getting good matric results (though it would help to improve those): school is preparing you to succeed in the real world. Without adequate preparation, our students are doomed to failure once they leave school, if they ever finish.

Does it make more sense now why these guys are doing what they’re doing?

Key to sorting out this massive educational mess we have found ourselves in is to deal with Early Childhood Development.

The Unlimited Child currently supports over 1200 ECD centres across seven provinces. The organisation provides skills development training to teachers at each of the ECD centres –  ensuring the deliver a quality early childhood education programme – plus educational toy resource kits to support the transformation of classrooms into stimulating learning environments. The Unlimited Child aims to support 5 000 ECD centres by 2021, which will mean that more than 600 000 children will have access to a high quality early learning programme.

As you can tell, this campaign is all about the numbers.

Ojos del Salado is over 6 000m high, 6 climbers are committed to summiting, and 6 is the crucial age by which a child needs impactful pre-school years in order to lay a strong foundation.

These guys are committed to making the numbers count. And so should you be.

Visit their website www.makethenumberscount.co.za to read more about the expedition, meet the team and do your bit and make a donation. The future of this country thanks you.