Annual report 2020

Executive Summary

What could have been a report on the paralyzing effect of COVID-19, has turned into a reflection on a year of adaptability, innovation and prominence.

Blocks4Growth (B4G) is an Early Childhood Development (ECD) therapeutic programme
launched by The Learning Initiative (TLI) in 2016. The programme promotes holistic child
development to better prepare 4 to 5-year-olds for optimal functioning within a formal schooling
environment. The fundamentals of the programme are built on an integrated approach in which
therapy groups are complemented by recognising and strengthening the roles of parents and
teachers in children’s developmental progress.

In 2020, COVID-19 challenged every component of the standard B4G offering. During the first
quarter of 2020, 851 children were screened by TLI (85% of target) and 452 by the Knysna
Education Trust (KET) (75% of target) before lockdown restricted further screening. Of the
children who were screened, 488 were identified to be developmentally at risk by TLI, and 255
at KET.

With lockdown halting the programme’s core services during the second and third quarters,
the B4G team pushed boundaries in innovation and creativity to meet the need via remote
offerings. Without access to schools for more than 50% of usual therapy time, the focus of the
programme had to shift from on-site therapeutic intervention to equipping parents with the
necessary knowledge and resources to provide at-home stimulation. To that end, new, relevant
programme material was developed and distributed to parents through existing networks. In
addition, the B4G team leveraged technology by posting fun, interactive activities, workbooks
and parent wellness books on social media and the TLI website, which reached a much wider
audience than originally intended for the primary beneficiaries.
Upon returning to the sites on October 5th, therapy groups were reinstated by first assessing the
needs at the respective sites, and adjusting the year plan accordingly to optimise the available
time left. Groups were smaller than in previous years as fewer children returned to the sites
after lockdown, and also to ensure adherence to COVID-19 safety regulations. The programme
was expanded to cater for individual therapy sessions in cases where children were lagging
developmentally or where venues were too small to enable social distancing. Given the high
workload within a short space of time, teachers requested in-classroom assistance in addition to
teacher training and resource packs. This adjustment enabled children who were not placed in
therapy groups to partake in programme activities as well.