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Catching them young in Botswana

In Botswana fewer than 20% of children under five have access to early childhood development (ECD). Which means that the vast majority of the country’s children will fail to achieve their full potential simply because they lack stimulation in their preschool years.

Nowhere is this situation as bad as in the country’s mostly impoverished villages. But a determined NGO has come up with an original, sustainable solution to deliver ECD to Botswana’s poorest – and Deloitte is helping to deliver that solution. Since September 2018, the non-profit Ithute go Tshameka programme has brought ECD to three Botswana villages whose inhabitants could never have afforded to give their children any kind of structured early development.

Ithute go Tshameka (the name means “Learn to Play”) is empowering six mothers (called “mamapreneurs”) in each of the three villages to offer free ECD solutions to more than 200 youngsters under the age of six. The programme trains the mamapreneurs in ECD, gives them monthly stipends for the first 18 months and equips them with learning materials. It also offers ongoing training and support.

But what makes Ithute go Tshameka revolutionary is its sustainability model. ECD classes are free but the mamapreneurs need to earn some cash to be able to afford to work as early development teachers. So, as well as learning to become teachers, through the programme the village women are taught skills such as sewing and bee-keeping and shown how to produce saleable goods. Ithute go Tshameka buys these goods and finds markets for them. (As far possible, the goods produced are made from recycled materials.) Not only are young children enriched, so are female community members – and their whole villages. (In one of the three villages, residents were so inspired by the promise of Ithute go Tshameka that they bandied together to build a classroom.)

In 2018 Deloitte donated P60,000 to Ithute go Tshameka but its support went beyond the financial. On Botswana Impact Day, on 21 September, all 115 Deloitte people put down their pens, spreadsheets and charts to go out and support the programme. In addition to helping mamapreneurs to design toys and learning materials, Deloitte professionals imparted invaluable skills and ideas. On Impact Day 2019, the firm donated even more and offered free basic financial skills training to the mamapreneurs.

Such has been the success of Ithute go Tshameka in a short space of time that, in 2020, two additional villages will join the programme. And Deloitte will be going to those villages too, helping to ensure that more of Botswana’s youngest get a fair chance to realise their potential.

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