A group of six South African adventurers is planning to summit the world’s highest active volcano to raise awareness for The Unlimited Child, a skills development non-profit organisation focused on improving access to early childhood development in marginalised communities throughout South Africa.

The expedition to Ojos del Salado on the border between Argentina and Chile in South America will see the courageous explorers attempting the peak of 6893 meters in the harshest conditions imaginable in an effort to call attention to the plight of early childhood education in this country.  The hardship facing the team during this ambitious challenge pale in comparison with the struggle faced by millions of pre-school children in South Africa on a daily basis.

Recent statistics show that over 1 million South African children under the age of 5 do not have access to early childhood services, which are critical during a child’s formative years. According to Candice Potgieter, CEO of The Unlimited Child, this lack of opportunity to receive a strong foundation for growth and development before the age of six has a crucial impact on a child’s school readiness. “Investments into creating access to quality early childhood development services levels the playing field for our children, ensuring that they are not only school ready but life ready too,” says Potgieter.

The Unlimited Child aims to create impact through the support of 5 000 Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres by 2021, which will mean that more than 600 000 children will have access to a high quality early learning programme.  “The Ojos campaign and similar initiatives will help us to reach this goal.  It is our hope that through awareness raised by the expedition, the need for ECD will resonate with corporate and private donors and inspire them to change the future of South Africa through investments into this sector,” Potgieter explains.

The importance of intervention in the current status of early childhood education was recently highlighted by a literacy survey, which revealed that 80% of South African Grade 4 pupils fall below the lowest internationally-recognised level of reading literacy in their language of learning.  The fact that South Africa was ranked at the bottom of the list of 50 participating countries made national headlines and underscored the severity of the early childhood education problem and its long term implications.

The Unlimited Child currently supports over 1200 ECD centres with a footprint that extends across seven provinces. The organisation provides skills development training to teachers at each of the ECD centres – ensuring the deliver a quality early childhood education programme; together with the educational toy resource kits to support transformation of classrooms into stimulating learning environments. 

The Unlimited Child Ojos expedition will begin their ascent on 12 February 2018 and the team is expected to reach the summit 11 days later on 24 February.  Expedition member Wallis Watt, the only woman amongst the six-man team, hopes that their journey will put the spotlight on the incredible work being done by The Unlimited Child.  “During our summit attempt, we will be pushed to the limits in extreme conditions and an unforgiving environment, which will definitely challenge our physical and mental fitness.  But we are committed to this campaign to focus attention on the cause and to ensure that the children of South Africa receive the educational and developmental resources that will enable them to reach their full potential.”

Follow their progress and support their fundraising efforts on www.makethenumberscount.co.za

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