Southern Africa Play Conference

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Non-profit organisations and government representatives from Southern Africa met to discuss the role of play in early childhood development.

The first Southern Africa play conference took place at the Randburg Towers between 12 – 15 May.

Talks by Dr. Lorayne Excell from Wits University’s foundation studies division and Professor Jannie Ferreira, former head of optometry at the University of Johannesburg offered insight into the long term effects of not creating play opportunities for young children. Both speakers focused on the importance of outdoor play especially in urban areas where children have little or no safe outdoor areas to play in.

The conference resulted in a draft advocacy plan which will be refined and released on World Play Day on 28 May 2014.

The advocacy plan addresses the crucial lack of outdoor play spaces in urban areas as well as the importance of early learning play based opportunities that have long term effects particularly in classroom settings.

Another pertinent outcome of the conference was the need to include play in the academic curriculum.

Conference organiser and Cotlands Chief Operations Officer, Monica Stach, emphasised that play has multiple benefits for children in various age ranges. “Without play based early learning opportunities children have difficulty in grasping concepts. We have found that the value and importance of play is not fully understood by communities and therefore play is not seen as an integral part of the learning process,” said Stach.

Funders of the conference, child aid organisation Terre Des Hommes Germany, added that they were very pleased with the outcomes. “We are encouraged by the level of engagement by NGO’s and Southern African government officials. It is imperative that civil society is equipped to take the issues discussed at this conference forward. Play is an essential part of children’s development and we believe that promoting play will strengthen children’s rights in Southern Africa at large,” said Leonor Quinto Terre Des Hommes Regional Coordinator.