Eunice Tokota is an ECD practitioner, but she is also an ECD champion, dedicated to helping families in rural Eastern Cape. She walks long distances to visit homes, sharing early literacy messages from our Every Word Counts (EWC) Programme.

Before Eunice was introduced to EWC at the aftercare where she works, she did not know that we can support very young children to talk. Now that they are using EWC, she says the children are speaking well. They are learning to use the correct names for things – even while playing games.

Once Eunice had experienced EWC, she spoke at a community meeting about ways to reach children. Small groups began to run EWC workshops. One group asked her to run a refresher course so they could get certificates. Eunice says she is keen to run the EWC refresher course because: ’Before they can train people in the community, I need to know that they are sure of what they are doing.’

An EWC participant working at Peddie agricultural development gave Eunice some seedlings. She passed these on to parents, for making small gardens at their homes. Her message is simple: ‘Whatever you do, you can work with your child. When you dig a hole, tell the child that this is imbewu (seeds); this is izityalo (plants) and intswele (onion). Tell your child it’s going to be a big onion one day! And fathers, when you work with your cattle, tell your child that the milk in the cupboard is from the cow. One day we’ll realise our knowledge is good; it won’t be lost; we will use it in the future.’

Eunice says that as she visits families, she has to change her approach for each home. She shows interest in what they are doing. If a mother is sewing, she encourages her to make time for her children, such as giving them pieces of material to do pretend sewing. When parents say that ECD centres are too far away or too expensive, she tells them that they can start the programme at home, playing games with homemade toys.

Eunice says: ‘Every Word Counts is not about today; it’s about the future. When I say that to parents, I see the change in their faces … EWC is going to change everything in the family, but the parents must be part of that. It’s not about the teachers at school – the teachers are already doing their jobs. It’s the parents’ role that is the most important.’

Thank you to Kathryn Torres for sharing  notes from her interview with Eunice.