Government to boost early childhood development

2016-09-11 06:03

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Government wants to introduce minimum qualifications for people who care for and educate young children in a bid to give them a better start.

Its plans will affect thousands of daycare centres and crèches, which are often run by women in their homes.

This week, Parliament heard government plans to expand and professionalise the early childhood development sector to cover children from conception until the year before they enter formal school – and, in the case of children with developmental difficulties and disabilities, until the year before they turn seven.

Connie Nxumalo, deputy director-general for welfare services at the department of social development, said the national integrated policy on early childhood development – approved by Cabinet in December – was proposing age-appropriate and developmental programmes for children to ensure that there was universal access.

Nxumalo said government recognised the long-term benefits of investing in children. “That is the reason we are moving early childhood development towards the public good. The service has been provided mainly by nongovernmental organisations (NGOs). Now government is saying: ‘Let us take charge because it is an important area of work which will give us results later on’.”

At least one NGO said the document was “encouraging”, but expressed concern about the lack of political will to implement government’s well-intentioned policies.

Nxumalo said they wanted to ensure that early childhood development practitioners were professionalised, trained properly and remunerated properly, “because you will not have motivated practitioners if they are not properly skilled and remunerated”.

“We also need to resource early childhood development services, which are currently not well resourced,” she said.

Treasury was amenable and had allocated a conditional grant of R812.8 million for these services – R319.8 million in 2017/18 and R493 million in 2018/19 – to increase the number of children subsidised and improve childhood development centres.

Government would monitor whether the services were working and were being provided in a safe space.

The new policy also proposes a government-regulated dual model of public and private delivery of childhood development programmes.

Nxumalo said the proposed comprehensive package would focus on the first 1 000 days of life. “We need to take care of pregnant mothers because that is where development starts.”

The policy proposes that pregnant mothers register their unborn babies for social security so that when the child is born, there are already systems in place for that child to access services.

Pregnant women will undergo a means test to see whether they have enough resources or are eligible to qualify for a child support grant.

Pregnant women also stand to receive nutritional support from conception right through their pregnancy as this is “critical for infants and young children”.

Nxumalo was quick to reassure people who do not have qualifications but provide this service to young children. “The policy is not really saying you must close shop or you are not going to be recognised; all we are saying is that we must have a tailor-made training programme for them.

“They have been there and will continue to be there to stimulate our children. We just need a training programme targeted at their level ... to ensure that children are stimulated properly,” she added.

Professor Eric Atmore, director of the Cape Town-based Centre for Early Childhood Development, said the policy was comprehensive and encouraging, but warned that “policy is only as good as your ability to implement it”.

“My concern is that the political will to implement that policy does not appear to be there. To make that policy work, you have to have substantial resources.

“There is no history of government putting substantial resources into early childhood development,” he said.

Atmore said it was critical that people who run childhood development centres had training. “But if we set that bar too high, we are going to lose thousands of women who are very good at what they do, but for historical reasons, have never had the opportunity of formal training.”


Do you think the political will is there to make this new policy work?

SMS us on 35697 using the keyword CHILD. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50

Read more on:    parliament  |  childhood development

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.