Empowering Early Childhood Development: A Spotlight on Nkhensani Baloyi's Journey at JET Education Services

Nkhensani is a social worker by profession and holds a Masters degree in social development from the University of Witwatersrand, in addition to two honours degrees in social work and psychology. Her focus areas are on ECD and Mental Health. When she began working with JET in 2021, Nkhensani started work as an ECD research intern, before starting her current position in 2022. Additionally, she has been serving as a Young Upcoming Manager (YUM) for 2023-2024, which has allowed her to be involved in JET management decisions and attend board meetings.

Currently, the Anglo American South Africa Education Programme (AASA) is Nkhensani’s biggest project, which supports more than 70 ECD centres. She works closely with the Early Learning Outcomes Measure (ELOM 4&5), which assesses early learning for children age groups of 50-59-months and 60-69-months. In addition to a full agenda that she keeps with AASA Education Programme and ELOM 4&5, Nkhensani supports the LEGO Play Project 2.0, which aims to adapt tools for classroom observation and teacher surveys to be used in South Africa with children between 3-5-years-old. She also finds time for the NASCEE pilot project in the Northern Cape, John Taolo District, where ECD stakeholders collaborate to provide high-quality ECD services for children. Generally, Nkhensani’s work aims to improve both the quality of ECD teaching and learning in remote areas, finding opportunities to make teaching and learning more fun and meaningful.

Nkhensani noted several highlights from the most recent projects in which she has been involved. Phase two of the AASA Education Programme has included ECD onboarding, visiting communities where programming is implemented, as well as meeting service providers. She enjoys using her multilingual skills for the ELOM 4&5 project (Nkhensani speaks all of the official South African languages with the exception of Afrikaans and Siswati). She also appreciated working on the LEGO project that took her to Denmark for an opportunity to meet and work with people from around the world. Nkhensani is excited by the unique opportunities that these projects offer.

In addition to working with a variety of projects and having achieved a lot within her two years at JET, Nkhensani is proud of the organisation's achievements as well. While 31 years of service to the country is one major achievement, she considers JET’s continued involvement in Investors in People as one major outcome. She appreciates support from the wellness programme and senior managers as she progresses in her work. Taking that positive energy, she is developing a mentorship and coaching programme for interns at JET. She hopes the programme will build capacity for new employees who can be sustained and motivated by JET, while they begin their careers in education.

With a strong passion for social justice in the ECD sector, as well as mental health, Nkhensani keeps these values central to her work. She has observed ECD practitioners experiencing mental health challenges as they work in stressful situations with limited infrastructure. It is challenging to get their programmes registered in a system with limited indicators for requirements of registration. This is one major stressor Nkhensani sees with her counterparts in the field. Overall, she feels passionate about ‘seeing children thriving and achieving their educational outcomes’ and hopes to support the efforts that will get them there.

Nkhensani knows how to balance work with her personal goals. She ran the prestigious 90 kilometres Comrades Marathon from Pietermaritzburg to Durban in both 2022 and 2023, cutting her time from 10:42:56 to 9:44:59. Her running endurance translates into the endurance she has for the work that she does in education.

Be sure to meet Nkhensani in your next visit to JET Education Services, or out in the field!

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