As our class begins to come to a close, so does my conversation with 2 wonderful ladies, Gennie and Penny, who are doing early childhood education in other countries (Swaziland and South Africa).Q1. What issues regarding quality and early childhood professionals are being discussed where you live and work?
Gennie-We have three qualified social workers on our staff that do weekly trainings for the caregivers looking after the children. We also train the caregivers in the course “Growing Kids God’s Way” from Focus on the Family. However we have taken the American and examples and given Swazi examples so it can be more relevant to the women. We have also had counsellors and psychologists do trainings with the caregivers on how to deal with traumatised children. When there are cases that we feel need more in depth counselling we will refer them to a psychologist in Swaziland.
Penny-Well we have a constant discussion going on about what children should be exposed to academically before the year they turn 7. I - & other Montessori teachers - strongly feel that children from the age of 2 years should be exposed to a very rich environment where reading & maths & their foundations are prevalent. Also Cultural subjects including the study of other countries & customs, food, music etc and biology & the naming of plants correctly etc. However our Government system basically stipulates that none of this including writing should be covered until the year they turn 7. The children are to learn through play and spend a lot of time doing art activities one per day & playing outside or with fantasy inside the classroom.
Q2. What opportunities and/or requirements for professional development exist?
Gennie- Depending on the role will depend on the requirements. For caregivers we look at how far have they gone in school. If we can see they don’t have a high level of education we put them in specific roles, unlike aunts who can speak and write english well they are more suitable to be in a house with children, to help them with their studies and filling out required paperwork that we ask of them. For those who cannot speak or write English we have offered them English classes in the past. We also develop leaders amongst the caregivers in order to empower them to one day fully run the project.
Penny-Even private schools are expected to follow this system but we, & other Montessori schools simply "follow the child" and stimulate him/ her according to their readiness to absorb certain things. In using this method I have noted that all children who are not reading & writing by the time they are 5 and a half ( long before they are "supposed to be" ) there is usually some sort of difficulty eg visual or auditory perception and these areas need to be addressed.
Q3. What are some of your professional goals?
Gennie-I personally would like to further study psychology and counselling to help add onto the counselling I’m already doing with the women and children.
Penny-My professional goals. Next year I am hoping to cut my hours in my school by handing over to a younger lady & concentrating on all the music I do - 3 schools & private piano and guitar lessons in the afternoons.
Q4. What are some of your professional hopes, dreams, and challenges?
Gennie-This type of project comes with many challenges, especially when dealing with traumatised children. My hope is that I train the aunts the best way possible to be able to be able to raise these kids in a way that breaks the cycles of abuse and HIV for the future.
Penny-My hope is to do some Lecturing of student teachers in the future. Preferable Montessori lecturing - after 27 years of practical experience I believe I have some valuable insight to give to younger teachers or learner teachers.
I enjoyed learning about education in these two other countries from both of them. It made me realize how pluses and minuses in early childhood education can be the same in any country.