Unhappy ECD practitioners call on parliament for reform

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Only 626 574 (25%) of the children who need it are obtaining subsidised learning.
Only 626 574 (25%) of the children who need it are obtaining subsidised learning.

South African Early Childhood Development (ECD) practitioners are calling on parliament to implement five reforms across their sector.

This petition follows after the court case by the South African Childcare Association, along with a number of other stakeholders,  against the Minister of the Department of Social Development and related provincial MECs.

According to the group's petition the Children's Amendment Bill  does not address the core reforms needed to strengthen the ECD sectors which may unfairly burden many of these providers, who are largely poor and disadvantaged women.

The petition advocates for reforms which will ensure that all children in South Africa thrive and access inclusive, holistic and quality ECD services. 

Read: 'The reality for everyone is different': ECD educators respond to Covid-19 safety

Despite progress in recent years, ECD providers remain saddled with unattainable requirements, and according to the petition they want to address "a complicated dual registration process, pro-poor mechanisms in the Children’s Act that are not used and major gaps in the legislation that prevents the ECD Policy from being properly implemented."

The petition stipulates that it feels as though the legal system is not serving their children and communities in poor areas, as over six million South Africans are ECD-going children, excluding grade R, and the majority of these children live in poverty.

Over 3 million children are unable to access any ECD programmes, because of the impact lockdown had in some of these centres.

Of those who do have some form of access, the petition states that 2.9 million of those children are in unregistered programmes and only 800 654 children are in registered centres.

It is against this backdrop that the ECD Sector seeks justice.

Also read: Court order offers reprieve for some childcare centres, but the struggle is not over yet

Five reforms

The petition calls on the Parliament of South Africa to implement the following five reforms:

1. The process of registration for ECD providers seems to be more complex than it should be. From the explanation given it seems that there are different types of ECD programme providers within the ECD Sector, but the registration process seems to overlook that by having a one size fit all type of a process. 

2. All children attending any type of ECD programme should be able to access the early learning subsidy if they need it.

3. A simpler, adequate health, and safety and programme standards must be in place and must be assessed through one process, demands the petition.

4. It must be made clear that you can get conditional registration if you can't meet all the registration requirements. MECs must support providers servicing poor communities to meet registration requirements and they must be required to report to the Minister on progress achieved.

5. The infrastructure needs of the sector must be supported. Current providers (including on private land) should be able to receive support and municipalities must be required to provide for and maintain enough and appropriate ECD infrastructure in their regions.

No money to pay bills

The reasons for this petition can be seen in the comments that were made by some of the ECD owners who signed the petition.

Sanet Strydom, ECD owner says that her centre needs help, as the income is relatively small to cover all the necessary resources such as paying for staff training, food and many other things.

Strydom wrote that she receives no funding currently because of all the red tape and restrictions. "I don't understand why I get blocked on every help, if it is poor children I am trying to help. I so wish I can find a voice for them... I will keep on trying. Never give up!"

Must read: The silence where ECD centres are concerned is very loud

Nomsa Mandla another daycare owner said that she signed the petition because she does not have a structure for her creche, she is renting. She did not get subsidised by the DSD as she is not registered, nor is she funded.

Another ECD owner who was affected by the lockdown is Maureen Magenga, who signed the petition because she has no money to pay for bills or her staff members.

Carolyn Reid, also one of the ECD practitioners who signed the petition, agreed that there needs to be a reform on the registration process of ECDs. "The present act is overly burdensome and complicated and does not support centres in trying to become compliant. Many requirements are unreasonable and don't take the context of the centres into account."

Nomalanga Shongwe signed the petition because her centre is in one of the poorest areas. She says that in her area they do not get government funding. Her centre has been operational for 21 years now, but no funding was given at any point in time.

You can find the Real Reform for ECD petition here

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