Early Childhood Development Centre of Excellence


Dr. N Sotuku
Director: Early Childhood Development Centre of Excellence

The University of Fort Hare is well known for its commitment to the National Development Plan which strives to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030 through uniting South Africans to work together in unleashing the potential of all its citizens. To this end, with the support of the Department of Higher Education and Training, the National Development Agency, ELMA Foundation, South Africa Partners and Wheelock College in Boston, USA, and stakeholders that will become involved in the future, the University of Fort Hare has embraced a transdisciplinary approach to Early Childhood Development through the establishment of an Early Childhood Development Centre of Excellence. The Centre of Excellence will be built alongside the Education Faculty offices in East London, the launch of which will be one of the flagship projects for the University's Centenary celebrations in 2016.

The Vision


The vision of the ECD Centre of Excellence is that of families and communities capable of providing safe, secure and nurturing childhoods in which young children grow, play, learn, and develop their fuII potentiaI as South African citizens.


The Mission


The mission of the ECD Centre of Excellence is to advance knowledge of the development of young children in their communities in the region, and to use this knowledge for building capabilities and transforming lives through the provision of integrated early childhood development.


This will require the ECD Centre of Excellence to:

  • Stimulate, support and undertake transdisciplinary early childhood research, teaching and learning ,and community engagement.
  • Develop transformative, affordable and contextually relevant ways of providing quality early childhood development services; and
  • Advocate and inform early childhood policy, programmes and practices by building and sustaining networks across disciplines within the university community and collaborating with local, national and international actors, organisations and agencies related to early childhood development.


The Values

The values the ECD Centre of Excellence seeks to promote and engender in the work it undertakes, are:


  • Diversity: we value the contribution of a diversity of stakeholders recognising the influence of interrelatedness, interconnectedness and interdependence in the field of early childhood development. We acknowledge that through diversity we are more than the sum of our parts.
  • Transdisciplinarity: we value the importance of seeing the development of a child from a diversity of perspectives and believe that effective ECD interventions embrace a diversity of disciplinary points of view. It is in effect through transdisciplinary collaborations that the greatest impact  on a child's life will be achieved.
  • Collaboration: we value opportunities to develop new responses to ECD and to gain insight and understanding of early childhood development through active partnership with the ECD community including practitioners, academics, NGOs and government departments.

The ECD Centre of Excellence represents the University's commitment to developing a niche research capacity that can contribute to addressing the key questions and challenges related to early childhood development in South Africa. The ECD Centre of Excellence will thus focus on developing capacity for ECD practitioners working with children from 0-9 years old, seeing children through that critical transition from early childhood development into formal schooling.

To this end, the University of Fort Hare commits itself to:


  1. Developing transdisciplinary curricula which focus on early childhood development content that speaks to the needs of ECD practitioners in the region and beyond.
  2. Developing a transdisciplinary approach to research in the ECD niche area, which will include a diversity of research approaches such as participatory action and longitudinal research.
  3. Deepening its relationships outside the University and building upon that engagement to inform the development of activities and programmes to be offered in the ECD Centre of Excellence.
  4. Creatively integrating ECD content into existing courses and programmes on offer by the University.


As a university which is situated in the heart of the Eastern Cape, we are committed to ensuring that we impact on the lives of young people in our realm of influence in ways that will ensure that they have the best chance of unleashing their potential to be active and contributing members of South African society.