Annual report 2021

Executive Summary

The Learning Initiative (TLI) and Knysna Education Trust (KET) entered
2021 with ambitious targets and open minds amidst a sea of uncertainty.
Despite the lack of clarity on school term dates and restriction levels, the
teams’ flexibility and responsiveness ensured a strong foundation for the year

After five years of successful delivery of Blocks 4 Growth (B4G), an Early Childhood Development (ECD)
therapeutic programme developed by TLI to promote holistic child development for 4- to 5-year-olds,
TLI expanded its programme offering in 2021 by launching Step Up (SU) for 5- to 6-year-olds. The new
programme’s key objective is to better prepare Grade R’s for optimal functioning in Grade 1. SU was
rolled out in Cape Town at 9 sites across 4 communities.

Upon reopening of schools on 15 February 2021, 1453 children were screened by TLI (SU = 354; B4G =
1099) of which 1069 children (SU = 240; B4G = 829) were identified to be developmentally at risk. At KET, 550 were screened (B4G only), of which 254 were selected to participate in the programme.

Operations were challenged by the inevitable repercussions of a persisting pandemic. Children started
from a lower developmental base than in previous years, with therapy limited to one session per week
for smaller groups to ensure Covid-19 compliance – as opposed to the standard programme offering of
bi-weekly therapy sessions. Continuity was hindered by various levels of lockdown and exacerbated by
the prominence of trauma in the family, hunger and parental substance abuse.
However, building on the strong foundation laid for remote offerings in 2020, the TLI and KET teams
were able to underpin the limited time for group or individual therapy sessions with at-home
intervention and support. To promote parents’ involvement, 6245 stimulation packs were distributed
by TLI and 1608 by KET, whilst therapist-led WhatsApp groups for parents ensured continued
interaction. At school, weekly teacher training sessions empowered teachers with knowledge and skills
to optimise in-class stimulation. TLI’s reach was expanded further with the assistance of digital media
specialists to amplify their therapeutic offering via social media.