When Papama Mateza completed high school in 2009 he planned to become a lawyer. Instead, a job opportunity at a local non-profit organisation, Sikhula Sonke Early Childhood Development, introduced him to the world of early learning and he has become a passionate advocate for children.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for kids but never thought I’d be directly involved in working with them. I wanted to become an attorney. In my culture, it is traditionally women who take care of children.”
Papama initially trained as a playgroup facilitator: “Not having a background in ECD was quite difficult, but I enjoyed it. We work with vulnerable children, many of whom – like me – don’t have a father. I found being a positive influence in their lives very rewarding.”
“I realised how important it is for young children to have the chance to grow and learn, regardless of whether or not they are privileged.”
Papama thrived in his job. Today he is Sikhula Sonke’s Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, overseeing early learning programmes and more than 350 children. He is also an accredited ELOM assessor and trainer.
Why become an ELOM assessor?
Papama’s employer encouraged him and two colleagues to train as ELOM assessors, for several reasons: it gave them effective tools to assess Sikhula Sonke’s programmes; it created a new revenue stream for the organisation, and it allowed them to earn additional income.
“When we do ELOM assessments, Sikhula Sonke is paid for our time and the assessors receive a percentage, on top of our salaries. You can earn good money as an assessor, especially with the projects that take a month or more.”
Learning to use the ELOM tools
Papama is trained to use ELOM’s 4 & 5 Years Assessment Tool and the Social Emotional Rating Scale in English and isiXhosa. He has been rated as one of the top assessors in the Western Cape and South Africa.
“If you are used to working with children, learning to use the ELOM tools is easy; most people pick it up quickly. After a day of theory, you spend the rest of the week working with kids. It’s practical and fun.”
ELOM has taken Papama across the Western Cape, rural Eastern Cape, and even Johannesburg. “I have assessed organisations like Lunch Box, SAEP, FCW and WordWorks. I was also involved in the Thrive by Five Index 2021 assessment of over 5,100 children across South Africa.
Qualities of a good ELOM assessor
Papama believes a good ELOM assessor needs to have a passion for working with children and basic tech skills to work the tablet. “Using the tools calmly and respectfully allows the child to feel comfortable and free to be themselves.”
“I would encourage anyone who loves working with children and has a background in ECD to become an ELOM assessor. When you use the tools regularly they are easy to master.”
Making an impact
Papama is proud that the data ELOM gathers is being used to help close the gap between privileged children and those from disadvantaged communities. “ELOM is helping children get on a more equal level.”
He has seen the immediate benefit of ELOM first-hand. “We used the tools in March 2017 to assess Sikhula Sonke’s programmes. We could see some gaps and used these insights to strengthen the programme. There was a measurable improvement by October when we did the follow-up assessment.
“This work changes lives. We work with some of Cape Town’s most vulnerable, children whose parents don’t have the resources to pay for early learning. Every year around 100 to 150 of our children enter Grade R. When we do follow-ups at their schools we can see that our graduates are doing very well.”
Papama believes investing in early learning is an investment in the future. “Raising better citizens begins at a very young age. The children of today are the ones who will make the decisions and lead the country. If we give them a solid foundation from an early age we will build a better South Africa.”