Most 5 year olds in SA are not ready for school

Early childhood development is a crucial foundation for a child’s future success in education, health, and overall well-being. However, the recent statistics on the development of South African children are shocking and disturbing. According to the Thrive by Five Index 2021, only 35% of 5-year-old children in South Africa were at the correct level in their early childhood development in three critical areas: learning ability, physical growth, and socio-emotional functioning. This is a concerning statistic that requires attention, as early childhood development is essential for a child’s future success.

The study measured children’s abilities in three critical areas. Firstly, the children’s learning ability was measured by evaluating their language skills, cognitive development, and basic numeracy skills. Secondly, their physical growth was evaluated by assessing their height, weight, and overall health status. Lastly, their socio-emotional functioning was assessed by looking at their social skills, emotional regulation, and general behaviour.

The findings of the study are alarming. Less than half of the children could perform tasks expected of their age group, with the majority failing in one or more of the tested areas. The consequences are significant, as it puts these children at a disadvantage in their school careers and prospects for success.

Sadly, most South African children grow up in poverty-stricken and disadvantaged communities. These communities lack access to proper nutrition, healthcare, and quality early childhood education programs. The lack of resources and support in these communities means that children are not allowed to develop to their full potential, resulting in low levels of early childhood development.

This article will now explore the causes and effects of this issue.


The causes of this problem are multifaceted and can be attributed to various factors. The following are some of the contributing reasons:

Poverty – Poverty is a significant contributing factor to this problem. Children who grow up in poverty are less likely to have access to quality education and healthcare, which is crucial for early childhood development.

Lack of parental education – Poorly educated parents are less likely to understand the importance of early childhood development and their role in their child’s development. This can result in neglect, which can have lasting effects on the child.

Malnutrition – Malnourished children are less likely to develop optimally in their early years. Malnutrition can have lasting effects on a child’s cognitive and physical development.

Access to resources – Children living in rural areas or disadvantaged communities are less likely to have access to resources such as books, toys, and learning materials, which are essential for early childhood development.


The effects of a lack of early childhood development can be profound and can last a lifetime. Children who do not receive adequate early childhood development are more likely to experience the following:

Firstly children who do not receive adequate early childhood development are more likely to experience cognitive delays, affecting their academic performance and ability to succeed later in life. Secondly, they are more likely to develop behavioural problems, such as aggression and difficulty socializing. They are thirdly more likely to experience poor physical health, including stunted growth and malnourishment. Lastly, children who do not receive adequate early childhood development are more feasible to have limited life opportunities, including limited education and employment access.

The causes of this problem are multifaceted and require a holistic approach to address.

South Africa is a country plagued by poverty and inequality, and the government must address this issue at a grassroots level if they are to combat these issues. Investing in early childhood development programs, and providing access to quality healthcare, education, and nutrition for disadvantaged communities is vital for ensuring that all children can develop to their full potential. This is the only way to ensure that all children in South Africa have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Failure to do so will result in continued deprivation and imbalance, hindering South Africa’s progress and development.

Children who grow up in a safe, caring, and nurturing environment where they are exposed to proper age-appropriate early childhood development have a much brighter future. They are likelier to have higher academic achievements, better health outcomes, and increased social and emotional intelligence. These children also have a better chance to be productive members of society, contributing to the economy and building a brighter future for their country.

Early childhood development is critical for a child’s future, and its effects can last a lifetime.

We at THE CRADLE OF HOPE, believe that a good education is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty. Our ASSIST A CHILD PROGRAM aims to financially support the children attending our Community Pre-School CRADLE – TJOKKERTJIES FOR JESUS, and ultimately, with all their needs so that they can grow up well, and rise from the circumstances in which they were born into.

If you can ASSIST A CHILD with an R500-00 sponsorship per month, we will forever be grateful.  

With your support, we can make a difference in many children’s lives.