ECD principals make their voices heard

Zainab Smart of Smarties Montessori, Michelle Africa of Grassy Park Nursery, Fatima Smart and Hajiera Williams of Rhoda-Tul-Atfaal said the march was well attended from all areas in the Western Cape.

Determined principals of early children development (ECD) centres across the Western Cape marched to Parliament with a memorandum of demands, on Friday January 25.

The demands, which focused on the needs of the poor children of South Africa, was directed at the office of the Minister of Social Development, Susan Shabangu, who was asked to respond within seven days.

In the memorandum, Melissa Jacobs, chairperson of the South African Congress for Early Childhood Development Western Cape, wrote: “Today’s ECD march and accompanying memorandum, is about
our growing concern about the state of our children in South Africa.

“The next decade needs to be the ‘Decade of the young child’, if we are to meet the policy objectives by 2030, and are serious about breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty in which so many of our communities are trapped.”

Fatima Smart, principal of Rhoda-Tul-Atfaal Day Care Centre, in Grassy Park, said the march had been well supported. “We want government to recognise the ECD staff as we are working with the foundation of our country – our children.”

Ms Jacobs said there were approximately six million children over the age of 5, in South Africa and of these 12% were orphans, 27% were stunted, 64% lived in poverty and 74% did not have access to ECD services.

“Children in South Africa continue to face many challenges which include inequality, poverty, unemployment, abuse, violence, child deaths, substance abuse, lack of access to services for poor rural and urban children, those with disabilities, their families and communities. The situation for young children in South Africa remains dire.”

In 2015 Cabinet approved the National Integrated ECD Policy and acknowledged ECD as a priority within its National Development Plan 2030: Our Future – make it work. The long-term goal of the policy is to ensure the universal availability of, and equitable access to, quality ECD programmes and services, to all infants, young children and their caregivers.

The memorandum further notes that: “While government has taken steps towards meeting the objectives set out in the policy, ECD is not receiving the recognition and adequate resources required to deliver on the critical foundational and developmental needs of young children.”

Ms Jacobs added: “For years NGOs, churches, the communities and ECD entrepreneurs have both driven, and been the backbone of ECD and should be given the necessary acknowledgement and recognition for their valuable input, in developing the ECD sector, without proper funding, remuneration and resources.”

Among the other requests contained in the memorandum are:

* A national ECD summit should be held in 2019, as committed to by the president of South Africa, in his State of the Nation Address in 2018. The outcome of the summit is to set priorities for ECD that meets policy objectives and that addresses the most urgent and immediate challenges faced by young children with a clear timeframe for deliverables.

* The equitable distribution of the budgets that ensures universal access to quality ECD programmes and services. The child subsidy must be accessible to all those who need it and must be based on the actual cost per child. The allocation of budgets must also be transparent.

* A communication policy that ensures that all communities are
kept abreast of major policy de-
cisions. All relevant information must reach the beneficiaries who are impacted by

* The proposed qualifications and remuneration framework should give recognition to practitioners currently working in ECD. The framework needs to be inclusive of the thousands of practitioners in ECD without
qualifications (below Level NQF4), but who have extensive experience and knowledge and who have been part of the backbone of ECD. The framework should also define the levels of remuneration for ECD practitioners.