The early childhood development (ECD) sector’s pleas for the Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu to urgently pay ECD workers from the ECD Stimulus Package Relief Fund is being met with silence.
Zulu was scheduled to brief members of the media on the progress made on the payments of the ECD relief fund, Temporary Disability Grant and Special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant in Pretoria on Monday 29 March. However, the briefing was cancelled. Thus far, no new date for the briefing has been announced.
Prof Eric Atmore, director of the Centre for Early Childhood Development (CECD), says the fund was expected to pay workers by Wednesday 31 March – almost a month ago. “The DSD (Department of Social Development) has missed the deadline for payments to over 100 000 ECD principals, managers, teachers, cooks and other staff. The sector has been informed that the money has been distributed to some of the provinces, but has not made any announcement in this regard. It is unclear how far DSD is with processing payments,” he says.
People’s Post contacted Lumka Oliphant, spokesperson for Zulu, last week, asking what the reasons for the delay in payments were and by when the payments would be processed. By the time of going to print, no feedback had been received.
The ECD Employment Stimulus Relief Fund of R496 million is a part of the R1,3 billion allocated towards the ECD sector originally announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in October last year.
People’s Post reported on the ongoing crisis in the ECD sector earlier this year (“Vulnerable ECD centres suffer most”, 9 February). In an open letter to the Minister of Social Development this month, the CECD details “the challenges experienced by ECD principals, owners and managers in a desperate attempt to access the stimulus relief funds for their staff who are struggling to put food on their tables, and to keep the doors to their ECD programmes open, to care for, educate and feed the young children in their care”.
Says Atmore: “We call on the minister to instruct the provincial social development departments to urgently pay out the funds.”
Fund applications opened on Friday 5 February and closed on Friday 19 February.
According to Atmore, despite a “highly problematic application process”, the ECD sector came together with an incredible amount of energy and support in the three-week time frame to ensure that ECD workers across the country could access the funds. “The ECD community heeded DSD’s call to stand together to ‘Leave no ECD Behind’. ”
On Friday 12 March, DSD announced that after removing duplications, they recorded 25 571 applications on the system which translates to 116 102 staff members who have been successfully registered on the system and will be part of the verification process. “The ECD workforce, by applying for the ECD stimulus relief fund, is expecting this money and is in desperate need of payment. DSD cannot be such an uncaring government department to be silent on the matter, and allow this situation to continue indefinitely,” says Atmore.