As millions of people across the country eagerly await their chance to be vaccinated, a circular from the Department of Health has clearly stated that only Early Childhood Development (ECD) practitioners and staff registered with the Department of Social Development (DSD) on the Stimulus Relief Package will be eligible for vaccination in the next roll-out.
This is another blow to the sector, as in the first vaccine roll-out to teachers, ECD owners and employees were entirely excluded from the register, and only teachers registered with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) were considered.
The problem lies in the fact that a majority of preschools are not registered or were unable to register and benefit from the Stimulus Relief Package, which involved a complicated online process. So the current exclusion means that only a tiny fraction of the total number of ECD employees are eligible for vaccination now.
As of March 2007 there were 9 726 ECD centres registered with the DSD. Although these numbers have increased, so have the numbers of unregistered and unregulated ECD centres, which function without funding from government.
Some of these ECDs are not registered due to the registration process being near impossible for ECD owners from impoverished rural areas and townships. Another reason for unregistered centres is that the costs involved to meet the requirements set by the department are prohibitive.
'The forgotten sector'
Parent24 asked Jennifer McQuillan, an Early Childhood Development provider, trainer, advocate, and writer, how the Department of Social Development could have done more for this 'forgotten' sector.
McQuillan says that she is appalled by the department’s decision that only ECD practitioners and support staff who have benefited from the stimulus fund should be vaccinated, when so many ECDs did not benefit from that fund.
"That they would consider this as an excellent way to vaccinate ECDs is upsetting," she told us.
McQuillan says that the DSD should have asked all ECDs to sign up their stuff, by sending letters to all the principals.
McQuillan added, "we should be able to register our schools on a simple portal and go to the vaccination station with a letterhead from our ECD Centre, confirming employment and our identification. Why does this need to be so regulated? This is for vaccination, not funding."
ECD practitioners and support staff also weighed in on a post on the Facebook group HELPSAECDs sharing how disappointed they are with the vaccination process underway.
One ECD practitioner, Natasha, commented that she thinks that unless all Early Childhood Development centres close down, the government will never see their importance.
"It's high time ECD centers closed down so that the government and its people can see why we are also important. Until then we will always be seen as nannys who can be replaced,'' she said.
Trained ECD teacher Tiffany, wondered why the department chose this path instead of finding a decent type of database like the Vangasali system they all registered on last year, in order for ECDs to reopen.
Other ECD practitioners and teachers also admitted to randomly visiting nearby vaccination centres with their Identity Documents for identification, for a walk-in vaccination, and many of them were vaccinated on request.
One teacher shared "I just took a chance at Witkoppen clinic and was only turned away because my ECD is in Joburg East and not Joburg North. Otherwise, they would have allowed it."
What do you think is the fair way to vaccinate the Early Childhood Development sector?
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