Home Institution

University of Texas at Austin

Publication Date

Fall 2014

Program Name

South Africa: Community Health and Social Policy


Childhood, including the antenatal period, is a time of invaluable physical and mental development – the effects of which last a lifetime. These experiences are shaped by a host of external factors (such as nutrition or mental stimulation) that are heavily affected by socioeconomic status. A study by the United Nations International Childrens Emergency Fund (UNICEF) found that South African children in rural areas are more physically and cognitively delayed than their less-rural peers (2007). Thus, the purpose of this study was to gain insight into the rearing and development of young children (5 years and under) in a rural South African setting through the lived experiences of primary caregivers, early childhood development teachers, and healthcare workers.

This qualitative case study involved gathering narratives (through interviews and observation) of several individuals in the rural town of Nzinga, Impendle, South Africa. I aimed to investigate themes of 1.) pregnancy behaviors (diet, antenatal care-seeking behavior, etc.), 2.) childbirth experiences, 3.) childhood health and nutrition 4.) early childhood education/cognitive stimulation, and 5.) perceived social support. In total, six primary caregivers, one community caregiver (CCG), one clinic worker, one daycare teacher, and one Grade R teacher were interviewed. Additionally, one day was spent shadowing the Grade R teacher.

Findings included both assets and needs within the Nzinga community. Assets included trained teachers and a well-implemented curriculums in both the crèche and the Grade R classroom, frequent health-seeking behaviors and adherence to emphasized health advice (including an impressive commitment to vaccination), high prevalence of hospital births, and general satisfaction with amount of psychosocial support (including government support) in caregivers. Weaknesses included late onset of antenatal care, insufficient and uneducated hygiene behaviors, lack of resources at education centers, and a prevalence of long-hidden pregnancies among teenagers and the unmarried.


Disability and Equity in Education | Education Policy | Family, Life Course, and Society | Inequality and Stratification | Place and Environment | Race and Ethnicity | Rural Sociology | Social Welfare


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