Original Research

Parent perceptions: How disparate early childhood care and education centres in South Africa foster belongingness and well-being in children

Aletta J. Van As, Lorayne Excell, Naseema Shaik
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 19, No 1 | a1225 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v19i1.1225 | © 2023 Aletta J. Van As, Lorayne Excell, Naseema Shaik | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 April 2022 | Published: 17 May 2023

About the author(s)

Aletta J. Van As, Department of Foundation Studies (Music Education), Wits School of Education, Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg, South Africa
Lorayne Excell, Department of Foundation Studies (Music Education), Wits School of Education, Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg, South Africa
Naseema Shaik, Faculty of Education, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa


This article explores parents’ perceptions of their children’s belongingness in early childhood care and education (ECCE) centres. It stems from the unexpected findings of a transformative ECCE pedagogy research project, which was characterised by multicultural, multiracial and varied economic conditions. As such, the authors expected controversial parental perceptions of the quality of the care and education their children experienced in these centres. However, this was not the case. Drawing on the theory of salutogenesis and its key concept, namely a sense of coherence, parents’ responses about their children’s early learning and well-being across diverse ECCE contexts were overwhelmingly positive. This prompted the question: what was it in these centres that allowed parents to experience a strong sense of belonging and such positive sentiments concerning their children’s sense of well-being? This phenomenological study was informed by the narratives of 19 parents, collected through the transformative pedagogy project, set in rural and urban situations, and at well-resourced and under-resourced centres. Findings reflected four identifiable themes. Firstly, parents favoured the diversity of influences at the centres, viewing these as rich opportunities for their children’s development and learning. Secondly, parents felt a strong conviction that the ECCE teachers were genuinely concerned about and sensitive towards their children. Thirdly, parents believed that their children were learning playfully in safe, loving spaces, and fourthly, parents were confident that their children were happy in the centres. These findings are particularly welcomed in the ECCE space, which is often demoralised and marginalised within the broader schooling system.

Transdisciplinarity Contribution: The article shows that quality early childhood learning and teaching can take place across disparate contexts, be they urban or rural, well-resourced or under-resourced. This study identified factors that led to parents perceiving that their children experienced happiness and a sense of belonging in different centres.


early childhood care and education (ECCE); belonging and belongingness; salutogenesis; sense of coherence (SOC); well-being.


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