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Julie Hay - Singakwenza
In an ideal world, there will be no plastic packaging to enter our rivers and oceans.
However, until we reach that stage, Singakwenza has decided to foster a circular economy and reuse packaging that most people throw away to create a sustainable Early Childhood Education programme that gives young children a better chance at a brighter future.
Did you know that almost 80% of a person’s brain potential is developed by the age of 4? Researchers around the world have proved that access to stimulation through play activities during the early years builds strong foundations for formal education. In South Africa there are approximately 5.7 million children under the age of four, most of whom have limited or no access to educational toys and materials because of the cost. Singakwenza believes that it is the access to toys, not the cost of toys, which enables young children to build these foundations. Whether a child skips with a rope made from bread bags or one purchased from a shop, the skills they are developing are the same. But how can we get a large variety of toys into the hands of all these pre-schoolers?
Nine years ago, I started experimenting with the household packaging that I had in my recycling bin to see if I could create similar toys to the ones that are for sale. The Singakwenza programme was born in 2010 and is based completely on household packaging. Crèche teachers, parents and caregivers only have to buy a pair of scissors and a marker pen, and they will be able to create a multitude of toys and educational materials for their children. Bread bags become balls, skipping ropes, swings and toddler pull toys; cereal boxes become puzzles, maths games, books and literacy games; plastic lids become construction materials, matching games, threading activities and posting games. We have more examples on our website – www.singakwenza.co.za.
In the past 9 years, we have reused approximately 500 000 bread bags, 200 000 plastic lids, 25 000 yoghurt containers and 40 000 cereal boxes. These amounts do not include the packaging used in the homes and schools of the 7 600 adults that we have taught in South Africa, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Swaziland and Botswana. Children and adults are seeing the value in packaging, meaning that less goes into the environment and more toys are made. And if one breaks, it is easy (and free!) to make another one.
Like Nelson Mandela, we too believe that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”, and Singakwenza is changing the world one child and one toy at a time.