ECD prof makes global list of influential academics

Director of the Centre of Early Childhood Development, Professor Eric Atmore

Professor Eric Atmore, who has spent almost 40 years fighting for children’s rights, has cracked a list of the world’s 100 most influential academics in government.

The list was compiled by Apolitical, a company that has created a global learning platform for government and civil servants.

The list highlights the work that has influenced the policy-making process by providing insights into policy problems, solutions, innovative ideas, or adding relevant and informative data.

Professor Atmore, 66, of Woodstock, is named in the list’s “social policy” category. Other categories include “recovery from Covid-19”, “employment and skills”, “climate and sustainability”, and “policymaking process and approaches”.

Apolitical notes that Professor Atmore uses his research into the field of early childhood development and education to advocate for young children to access early education throughout South Africa. Apolitical says he speaks up to government officials without fear and uses his academic research work to back up his advocacy work.

Professor Atmore says making the list is recognition of the work done by early childhood development (ECD) teachers around South Africa.

“There are an estimate of up to 200 000 ECD teachers who work under difficult circumstances every day. This is recognition of the role that they play in nation-building.”

Professor Atmore is the director of the Centre For Early Childhood Development (CECD) in Claremont, which has been in existence for 28 years. He has previously worked as a deputy director of the Grassroots Educare Trust, a director at the Lady Buxton Children’s Centre, and a fieldworker at the Foundation for Social Development in Bishop Lavis.

“One cannot be complacent or rest until the rights to quality early education programmes and healthcare are realised for each and every child.”

Children should be safe in their communities, they need opportunities to learn through play, and they need a caring government that looks after their best interests, he says.

“In South Africa, we do not yet have this; it keeps me motivated to keep going.”

He hopes to turn every South African citizen into a child-rights activist who speaks out when there is injustice. Children should never again be allowed to fall into pit latrines and drown and children should never be allowed to be caught up and shot in gang activities, he says.

During the past two years, the CECD has worked closely with hundreds of ECDs that have struggled because of the impact of the global pandemic.

Professor Atmore says many ECDs could not open during hard lockdown, ECD teachers lost their jobs and children were left in dangerous communities as they could not attend their ECDs.

He praised the CECD staff for being highly motivated individuals who strove to put young children first every day through activism, teacher training, supplying education equipment and upgrading education infrastructure.

Professor Atmore also congratulated other South Africans, including professors Glenda Gray, Linda-Gail Bekker, Shabir Ahmed Madhi and Tulio de Oliveira, who are working in the health sciences, especially those combating Covid-19.