Employees in the the Early Childhood Development (ECD) sector feel that it is the only sector that has had to fight tooth and nail to get what it deserves through the Covid-19 lockdown.
First, daycares and ECD centres were ignored when it came to schools re-opening after the hard lockdown lifted, and the sector had to go to court for clarity. Next, employees were left in the dark with regards to financial relief, and then they were left off the list of sectors approved for the Covid-19 vaccine rollout.
A circular released in the first week of July 2021 by the Department of Health clearly stated that only ECD practitioners and staff registered with the Department of Social Development (DSD) on the Stimulus Relief Package would be eligible for vaccination in the subsequent roll-out.
This decision left out a majority of ECD practitioners and staff, since many of them are not registered or did not benefit from the Stimulus Relief Package.
Practitioners and champions in the ECD sector approached the media to voice their concerns, expressing their anger towards this kind of selection as many ECD practitioners felt that they should be vaccinated the same way teachers registered under the Department of Basic Education (DBE) were vaccinated.
Read: Unregistered daycare staff not eligible for vaccinations, leaving thousands of teachers at risk
Social development sector is prioritised
However, it seems that their concerns have finally been heard.
The Minister of Social Development recently announced in a media statement that the Department of Social Development would be launching its national vaccine roll-out plan from Monday, 19 June, in all provinces, except in the Western Cape, which will start on 22 July, and in Limpopo on 23 July 2021.
Over the past few days, the Department of Social Development and the Department of Health has been working to ensure that the social development sector is prioritised in this roll-out.
"In total, we anticipate that this vaccine roll-out programme will target just over 240 000 workforces throughout the sector, and this will enable business continuity of our social services currently in high demand as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic," said Minister Lindiwe Zulu.
This vaccine roll-out will include front-line workers such as the ECD workforce that includes practitioners and staff who work in the ECD environment.
It is emphasised that no one will be left out of this roll-out as ECDs remain open whilst schools are closed, putting workers at risk of contracting the virus.
The DSD is working with ECD Inter-Sectoral Forum to ensure that no one is left behind, including all ECDs registered and unregistered with the government, including centre and non-centre-based programmes.
Must read: 'The forgotten sector': ECD teachers excluded from vaccine rollout
Parent24 chatted to Jennifer McQuillan, the co-founder of a Facebook group HELPSAECDS and an ECD owner, to determine how members feel about this provision for the ECD sector.
McQuillan told us "We are delighted that our sector can now be vaccinated and are pleased that it is mentioned that we have remained steadfast in our commitment to serving others, especially the most vulnerable, during this Covid-19 pandemic."
"An acknowledgement of the fundamentally essential and life-changing work we do is appreciated," she added.
She suggested that principals provide their staff with a headed letter confirming their employment and take along all the other items mentioned to the vaccination sites.
"We are a hardworking and dedicated sector, and it is a great shame that we always need to remind the Ministry of our existence and take action to be included. We ask for direct communication and more consideration in the future, please," shared McQuillan.
Also read: 'It's not a pretty sight': Teachers share their vaccination stories
The vaccination process
It is highlighted in the statement that only those registered on the Department of Heath's Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) will be eligible for vaccination, as there is no paper-based registration process at vaccination sites.
The details of all vaccination sites, provincial and district coordinators, including the ECD forum coordinators, will be published on DSD National, Provincial Departmental and the Departments' Agency's websites.
Members of the sector who have queries are encouraged to send their enquiries via email.
When going to the vaccination sites, members of the sector are reminded to carry with them the following items:
1. Identity document or Passport
2. Employee card; and practice card or receipt in the case of registered practitioners
3. Medical aid cards for those who are on any medical aid
After providing their cell phone numbers to the healthcare professional at the vaccination site, members must ensure that they receive further communication directly from the Department of Health.
If you are an ECD practitioner and staff share your thoughts with us; how do you feel about being vaccinated in this coming roll-out?
Share your stories and questions with us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymous contributions are welcome.
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