“Although the Mikhulu Trust book-sharing is just a drop in the ocean with the numbers we reach, it’s actually a big thing that can change a lot as far as the community is concerned. Here, we talk about a culture that is instilled in our mind – the manner in which we are brought up – and we did not see anything wrong with it until we came across the Mikhulu Trust.”
These are the words of Mr Bongi Mgquba, facilitator at the Men’s Fellowship in Kraaifontein, a faith-based organisation which runs under the banner of the Presbyterian Church. While the Men’s Fellowship is a national body, each church has its own group and each has a common goal: to promote outreach to all, with a particular focus on men. When the opportunity to become a part of Mikhulu’s book-sharing course arose, Men’s Fellowship in Kraaifontein jumped at the chance.
Millions of children in South Africa are growing up without a father in the home. Some may have a relationship with their dads that is somewhat positive, but many don’t have a deep relationship with their fathers at all due to societal practices that have become the norm in many instances.
Facilitator, Bongi, a father himself to children in their late teens, told us: “Fathers are always reserved – you will not find them in these workshops which is why Mikhulu Trust is zooming in on the men. The fathers are the ones who are always dragging their feet to come out but in the meantime, they are the main culprits and perpetrators of the violence.”
When asked about how the Mikhulu book-sharing project was impacting fathers in the area, Bongi explained that it was making men “softer” and explained that in the African culture, times are changing and book-sharing promotes the involvement of fathers in the upbringing of their children. “Fathers realise they cannot keep doing things in the same way they were doing things. We need to change our attitudes and our behaviours,” says Bongi.
Through the book-sharing training, fathers have reportedly become more attuned to their own behaviour towards their children. They have also become more aware of the necessity to be involved in their children’s lives and the fact that they are sending their children messages that can potentially lead towards future violent behaviour. “We learned at the book-sharing training to never spank your kids and to not talk to them with a particular attitude,” says Bongi. ”You can’t say you don’t spank your child but you still shout at your child because it’s really the same thing. When you are spanking your child each time they mess up, what you are saying to them is that every conflict in the world is resolved by violence. Continue speaking to them calmly, otherwise, we’re teaching them that differences are solved by violence. That is what this project has taught us.”
To learn more about Mikhulu Trust’s book-sharing project please visit their website:
Seven Passes Initiative (SPI) would like to formally introduce you to their new director- Sive Vaaltein.
Sive, who took over the reins from their incredible and influential former director, Wilmi Dippennar, started at SPI on the 1st of September 2023. She holds a Masters and Bachelor's Degree in Social Work and comes with 10 years of experience in the field, having worked in the academic institutional context, for private businesses, and served in the non- profit sector.
It was while working in the non- profit sector that Sive realised that she had a passion for children and families and as such devoted her youth to help organisations develop programmes orientated towards helping them build resilience. This, coupled with her career aspirations, led her to lead family strengthening programmes.
Sive is eager to serve in the Touwsranten community and hopes to assist SPI in its journey to cultivate relationships that will assist the organisation in becoming a leader in violence prevention nationally and in Africa.
If you have any questions or comments for Sive, please don't hesitate to contact her on email@example.com. Your input is valuable to SPI as they continue their journey toward becoming a leading organisation in violence prevention.
Claudine Ribeiro, director at Johannesburg Parent & Child Counselling Centre, recently shared her thoughts on the effects the aftermath of Covid-19 has had on the global youth and what we should be focusing on in order to address it. Below follows her thoughts on the matter:
Once the COVID dust had settled, and people tried to return to some kind of normality in their lives and in their families, those of us working in the Mental Health space soon realized that whilst the overt risk of death and loss had largely passed, the disease had done its damage in a far more insidious and unexpected way.
It is apparent to all those who offer therapeutic work with children and adolescents that the increase in mental health challenges has been overwhelming. Children have been experiencing unprecedented levels of anxiety, depression, and suicidality. This appears to be a global trend and South Africa is by no means exempt from this. Symptoms such as sleep disruption, school difficulties, high stress levels and PTSD symptoms are but a few of the issues being dealt with by practitioners. It is estimated in some studies that the incidents of anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation doubled during the COVID epidemic, but have not yet subsided. Higher levels of teen suicide were seen early on in the Pandemic. Again these have not subsided. If anything, they are rising.
Questions of causality have arisen, and perhaps an examination of these factors is relevant. During COVID, children and adolescents were not shielded from the disease. They too had to practice stressful social distancing, be excluded from school, and remain at home. Knowing how important the peer group is for children from the ages of 10 upwards, it is clear that being separated from each other in a physical way was detrimental to their mental health. Whilst there was the possibility of connecting online, it simply was not the same. In fact it runs the risk of higher levels of bullying and abuse due to the “not present” nature of having a screen relationship. It is much easier to get away with abusive language, taunting and bullying than if you were encountering the person “in person”. We know that empathy falls away when a screen is involved. Together with the challenges of online interaction children also experienced isolation, the loss of family and friends, and the actual experiencing and coping with COVID itself along with some of the long term physical effects of the disease.
We also know that due to the isolation, families experienced high levels of stress. Unemployment skyrocketed, and existing abusive families became more abusive. The stress on families in under-resourced areas was extreme, adding further psycho-social stressors to an already difficult situation. Children without question became more vulnerable.
I also do not think that we can overlook the huge amount of material and information and contributions that there are online for children who are suffering in this way. Suicide is easily found online, from information about how to do it, to self-diagnostic messages and encouragements. And with an allied decrease in religious censor of suicide, it suddenly becomes a much more real option for so many children.
Where does that leave us now with our adolescents and our youth? And with our services?
For those of us who practice counseling in schools, as well as long term therapeutic management of these issues, our focus has to shift to include strengthening our therapists and counsellors, teaching them and training them with new skills, encouraging more debriefing and supervision. We have also had to change the nature of supervision to become a lot more trauma-oriented. We have had to streamline our services, following a step-by-step approach when dealing with each indiviudal in crisis. This allows us to provide more, be more confident and assured in what we can do, as well as be willing to work with our networks to support the child.
But this is not enough. We also need to focus our attention on interventions with parents that promote resilience in our children. We need to work on parenting training that increases connection, self-awareness and encourages support and trust. We need to debunk the mystery and vilification of mental illness and encourage our parents to care and not further reject their suffering children. And we need to do the same with our schools, and our communities.
In our corner of the word, we have had some success in encouraging parents to be the support system and helper when their child needs help. Organisations need to find innovative ways to work with parents, educating them about mental illness, about how to treat it, and how best to assist their children. The Pandemic lives on in a surprising way. And we have to constantly ask ourselves “how are we going to respond to it?”.
An exciting process is underway in Zambia, as Clowns Without Borders South Africa (CWBSA) collaborates with a non-profit partner, the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia, CIDRZ, to develop the content needed for the Parenting for Lifelong Health (PLH) implementors app.
PLH is a suite of open-access, non-commercialised parenting programmes to prevent violence in low-resource settings.
Many facilitators find they are not able to practise their skills when needed or are restricted by limited support. The implementors app, PLH Connect, aims to fill that gap and act as a support tool for facilitators as personalised support during the implementation of parenting programmes.
CWBSA will join CIDRZ facilitators, IDEMS International and the Global Parenting Initiative to review the existing content, test acceptability and useability, as well as develop videos and scripts.
Pilot testing with facilitators in multiple countries will hopefully start next year.
April 2021 marked the International Day of Action to End All Corporal Punishment against Children. As part of building global momentum to end all forms of violence against children, we at Save the Children South Africa committed ourselves to encouraging parents, caregivers, government and organisations to work towards ending corporal punishment against children. In South Africa, corporal punishment had long been prohibited by law, both in the school and home settings. However, it was still the preferred method of punishment in some of our schools and homes.
Corporal punishment is the most common form of physical and emotional abuse against children worldwide, leading to the injury and death of thousands of children each year.
It is a severe violation of a child’s right to human dignity, physical integrity, healthy development and freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. It could also be harmful to development, affecting a range of health and social outcomes. Unbelievably, such violence is seldom considered abuse.
As an organisation, we have committed ourselves to accelerating the elimination of corporal punishment, by drawing up and implementing a national plan that includes public education campaigns, positive parenting, support for change to parents and caregivers and the promotion of safe schools and communities. We work extensively with caregivers, parents and educators to help them understand the impact of violence on children and to replace violent child-rearing practices with positive parenting through:
Through our Parenting Without Violence programme, our aim is to promote positive parenting techniques that do not involve violence or harsh discipline. We want to emphasize the importance of creating a safe and nurturing environment for children, where their emotional and physical well-being is prioritized.
“I would like to show my appreciation to Save the Children for giving all the staff, including security personnel, an opportunity to attend training. This is the first time we have had the opportunity to take part. It was an amazing experience and I have learned a lot about parenting, that I can now apply at home with my own children”. Parent Testimonial
This year The Parent Centre celebrates its 40th Anniversary of serving the community by empowering parents through positive parenting and it is a year of changes.
What better way to celebrate than with the launch of a new building. This new vibrant building, the first big change, includes more office space for staff, training facilities for internal and external training, and new counselling rooms ensuring that services can continue and be increased for many years to come. With 40 years of knowledge, experience and evidence based responsive parenting programmes, The Parent Centre is looking at new ways to empower parents by being a voice responding to parenting issues at the forefront of families in our nation. Plans for growth include new training and workshop material development and parenting resources.
In June this year, the organisation experienced their second big change, as The Parent Centre bid farewell to Venecia Barries, our outgoing CEO. Venecia has served the organisation and at-risk children and parents for the past twenty-two years. While changes in the leadership in an organisation can be uncomfortable, the staff, and management continue to operate with the same dedication and passion in providing our services. The Parent Centre’s new Acting CEO Kate Brydon has taken on her new mantle with competence, dedication and vigour.
Kate Brydon is a social worker from Australia who moved to South Africa over 12 years ago with a passion for seeing children, parents and families, empowered, strengthened and supported. A mother of three young boys (5yrs, 3yrs and 5mths), Kate knows firsthand some of the challenges parents face today; parenting in a foreign country, parenting without immediate family support, raising a child with chronic illness, finding a work-life balance, being a breastfeeding mother in the workplace, parenting in communities of violence, and raising boys to be engaged fathers.
Upon her appointment as CEO, Kate had this to say: “After years of working in the foster system and at children’s homes throughout Australia and South Africa, I am passionate about seeing families empowered and strengthened to prevent children from being removed or abandoned. Working in the prevention space is an exciting venture in which we can see tangible change. For us to see a healthy, resilient, secure generation, we need to empower and support parents. We often hear the saying it ‘takes a village to raise a child’, and at The Parent Centre, we are just one part of that village. I believe The Parent Centre has so much to offer to parents and caregivers within our society, and I am excited to see how we grow over the next few years as we continue to use our knowledge and experience to help parents from all walks of life. Every parent needs support, whether it be practical, emotional, or community support. I truly believe that together we can make a difference, one family at a time.”
The family at The Parent Centre wish both Kate and Venecia well on their future endeavours in the parenting sector and applaud the important work that they do.
The Mikhulu Trust has joined a collaborative research project with Brookings - Centre for Universal Education (CUE). This US-based organisation is a leading policy centre focused on quality education and skills development on a global level. With a focus on transforming education systems, the CUE recognised that we are unlikely to see major changes if families and schools have a different understanding on the purposes of education, or the types of learning experiences children should have.
The idea is that, before we can transform education systems, we need to understand the beliefs and perceptions on education from the different people in the system, i.e., learners, parents and teachers. We can then work with these beliefs and perceptions to find common ground and address any differences in opinions.
The CUE developed the "Conversation Starter Toolkit" for this purpose. With support, the toolkit helps learners, parents and teachers begin to explore a shared vision of education for their community.
For the first time, the CUE is testing the toolkit in an Early Childhood Development setting globally, and they have chosen to do this in South Africa. They have partnered with the Mikhulu Trust who have been using the toolkit, with their support, to identify how we can help ECD teachers in South Africa to be more supportive of parents.
What are we doing, and why are we doing it?
For this project, the Conversation Starter toolkit is being used to better understand parent/caregiver and educator perspectives on education at ECD Centres. In other words, we want to learn about parents' beliefs about the role of education, and also understand teachers' opinions and beliefs about the role of parents in children’s early development.
The Conversation Starter toolkit includes:
Using the toolkit, we are exploring how parents’ thoughts and ECD teachers’ views differ within the ECD centres in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.
Surveying parents and teachers from ECD centres in Khaylitsha
Working with the CUE, Mikhulu adapted the Parent and Teacher surveys to be more appropriate for an ECD setting and translated it into isiXhosa. The survey was then administered by trained Research Assistants to anonymously capture data from ~500 parents and ~70 teachers from 10 ECD centres in Khayelitsha. We worked closely with Sikhula Sonke, an NPO that provides support services to ECD cetnres in Khayelitsha, to help us identify a range of ECD centres that would capture a variety of settings. They also provided valuable logistical support and we are grateful for their ongoing support.
Next steps – having conversations about perceptions and beliefs
All the surveys have been completed, and are being analysed by the CUE. Based on the insights in the reports, Mikhulu will host a series of workshops with each ECD Centre - all parents, teachers and staff will be invited to participate in the discussion. The discussion will be guided to help us build a deeper level of understanding and cooperation between parents, teachers and other staff on how to work together to provide effective early learning support to the children at each ECD centre.
The CUE is immensely excited to see the results coming out of this project, while Mikhulu Trust is elated to be the first organisation, globally, to be conducting such valuable research in the ECD sector. This project is important to Mikhulu because of our strong belief that parents need more support in South Africa and greater involvement in their children's development and a big part of achieving this goal is to create better engagement between ECD Centres and parents. This project has helped us do exactly that.
At Clowns Without Borders South Africa (CWBSA) the majority of work focuses on capacity building and mentoring facilitators from partner organisations and government departments. Our key role is to ensure facilitators are confident in delivering the Sinovuyo programme as well as ensuring that the implementation over a period of time contributes to behaviour change.
Therefore, it was a privilege for the organisation to be invited to speak at the Gauteng Family Day on 15 July in Pretoria. Spearheaded by Dr Emmi Muleya, at the Gauteng Department of Social Development, parents and implementors were brought together to celebrate the valuable role that parents and caregivers play in the lives of their children and communities.
Smiling faces and stories of hope were shared by parents who had found such a diverse way of using the skills and knowledge shared through parenting programmes. This for CWBSA makes it all worthwhile.
As one parent said: " The calm, relief and positive feelings I felt after sessions, the feeling of not being alone, helped me at home to be able to support my children in a myriad of ways I had not previously done." As we SAPPIN members know, parents who can self-care and be able to spend some time with their children or teens at home, are already halfway on the journey.
The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) believes that the private sector has a fundamental role to play in breaking patterns of violence towards women and children, normally happening in the family setting. This is achieved through the facilitation of a cultural shift in the workplace, involving management and employees to shape and influence change around domestic violence.
One such company, Tikketai, has joined forces with the ISS to do just that, with the participating employees naming the programme “Free to Grow”, which fits in so well with the sector they work in, a national wholesaler of broccoli and cauliflower all year round, and the level on which this programme empowers them.
Tikketai CEO Burger Gericke says that they see and acknowledge that violence at home also affects the workplace. “We can link it directly to increased absenteeism and reduced productivity. However, this is not our only motivation. We truly care for the people that work at Tikketai and want to empower them with skills that make them happier, healthier people. We want to equip and support them to cope with work and home life stresses,” he states.
This 12-week gender-violence programme has been running at Tikketai since 2019. The human-centred design methodology is used to build an effective programme for the people who need it and can benefit from it. Rapid testing is done where the programme is facilitated, feedback from the voluntary attendees is gathered, and the programme is adapted, refined, and represented again. To date, about 40 employees from Tikketai have voluntarily participated in the programme.
Beyond helping the staff at Tikketai, programme coordinators have seen participants taking the tips and tools back to family and friends which has a far-reaching and momentous effect back in the community. In the workplace, they have clearly seen a return on investment since the programme has been running. There is less conflict on the production line, improved relationships between staff members, reduced absenteeism, and increased productivity. Partnerships like these are win-win deals for businesses and communities alike.
Tikketai has shown, that even small businesses can become industry leaders in supporting women and enabling violence prevention and SAPPIN applauds the work they and the ISS are doing for our communities.
Dlalanathi has received a grant to launch their partnership project entitled “Championing ECD at home: Advocating for home-based, parent-led ECD in SA communities.
Dlalanathi, the lead partner, together with 2 other KZN-based organisations, Thandanani Children’s Foundation and Singakwenza, have collaborated to bring together a suite of different, essential and complementary skills and expertise to design an integrated pilot programme, responsive to a critical gap, to provide support to parents and caregivers through home-based early learning and responsive care.
The grant was provided by The Nurturing Care Framework (NCF) for Early Childhood Development: A framework for helping children survive and thrive to transform health and human potential.
The NCF was co-developed by the World Bank, UNICEF and other partners to provide a road map for systematising the provision of ECD services to equalise development to build human capital.
The NCF draws on evidence generated over the past two decades to provide the formula to change the situation of young children to enable them to escape the intergenerational poverty trap, and in so doing, set the country back on course to achieve its inclusive, sustainable development goals. The formula is well-recognised and embedded in South Africa’s ECD policy which commits to the sustained provision of services in 5 key areas:
Whilst most young children in South Africa (70%) receive health services through a well-developed health system with a sound community- and home-based delivery footprint, only 30% receive responsive caregiving and early stimulation and learning (Ilifa Labantwana, ECD Review, 2019).
We at SAPPIN wish Dlalanathi well in this endeavour and applaud the work they are doing.