DGMT and Primedia have recently launched one of the country’s largest-ever national outdoor media campaigns, demonstrating the power of early childhood development to change the future of South Africa. The billboard campaign will showcase three large-scale initiatives to prevent nutritional stunting and promote early learning and reading –namely Grow Great, SmartStart and Nal’ibali.
It comes at a time when South Africa is looking for greater returns on investment in education, to drive employment and economic growth – yet the potential power of good nutrition and early intellectual stimulation remain largely ignored.
“Children are the source of human capital,” says Dr David Harrison, DGMT CEO, “If we want to change the education system, grow the economy and create jobs, we must invest in young children. In fact, for every one Rand invested in quality early childhood development, South Africa will get at least R10 back, but with a quarter of our children nutritionally stunted and poorly equipped for school, we are shooting ourselves in the foot for the next 20 years at least.
However, the responsibility is not only that of government; families can do much to improve the nutritional and educational outcomes of their children by:
• Ensuring that babies are breastfed exclusively until six months of age and then including eggs (high-protein) when solid foods are introduced;
• Telling stories and reading to children from an early age; and
• Enrolling children in the no-cost, high-quality early learning playgroups of SmartStart.
From 1 September 2018, a partnership between Primedia and DGMT will ensure that about 71% of South Africans have the opportunity to see messaging about early childhood development in public spaces. The collection of 705 billboards – with a radial population of over 40 million people across South Africa, but strongly focused in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape – has the potential to create public demand for ECD service delivery, while informing parents and caregivers of key opportunities to support the development of their small children.
“Early childhood development is important and it is a public responsibility to ensure children have the best start in life,” says Peter Lindstrom, Sales & Marketing Executive of Primedia Outdoor. “Billboards are known to succeed in influencing people’s behaviour and invoking cognitive responses to promote the likelihood of open discussions. As Primedia Outdoor we couldn’t be more honoured to support DGMT’s mandate to mobilise South Africa’s potential, and inspire change for our children and generations to come.” Adds Jade Jacobsohn, Managing Director of Nal’ibali: “We believe that our 2014 outdoor campaign of 500 ‘Story Power’ billboards coincided with a significant increase in public and political interest in early reading, therefore we are enormously excited about this opportunity.”
The success of the campaign will be tracked by monitoring public engagement with the advertised response mechanisms for Grow Great, SmartStart and Nal’ibali respectively. Says Dr Harrison: “We know that parents want more for their children than they themselves have. They want them to have better nutrition, early learning and access to books. Billboards can help them give expression to that demand in a way that politicians will sit up and take notice.”
Grow Great, SmartStart and Nal’ibali are funded by DGMT, together with a number of other funders (see below for more about each programme).
Grow Great: aims to drive a national commitment to a stunting-free generation by 2030. Says Grow Great Executive Director, Kopano Matlwa Mabaso: “The billboard campaign will help us raise awareness on stunting, and how it stands in the way of our greatness as a nation, as well as encourage South Africans to support moms to exclusively breastfeed for six months (or as long as they are able to) and to give babies over the age of six months’ eggs to help them Grow Great!”
SmartStart: this early learning social franchise is made up of a network of licensed practitioners who follow standardised practices to deliver quality early learning outcomes to children. Since its inception in 2015, SmartStart established more than 3 400 franchisees reaching over 32 000 children – and they are set to grow even larger, with the aim of reaching a million 3 and 4 years olds annually by 2026.
Nal’ibali: through its network of reading clubs and literacy mentors, training partnerships and media campaigns – as well as the development of children’s stories and other literacy resources in all 11 official languages – Nal’ibali works to support parents, teachers, caregivers and communities to root reading and writing habits in children’s daily lives.