It appears that South African Early Childhood Development centres (ECDs) have many reasons to be dissatisfied with their governance over the past years, and this discontent has only developed further during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Those who work in ECDs have named their industry 'the forgotten sector' as owners and employees were forced to go to extreme measures to be heard by the Minister of Social Development(DSD), Lindiwe Zulu, under whom the sector falls.
Last year, after months of no directives from the DSD, ECD owners and teachers who did not know if they could open their doors through the lockdown levels resorted to public protests, and eventually took the department to court in order to gain permission to reopen their premises.
Soon after that, ECD practitioners were invited to apply for the ECD Stimulus fund, but many complained it was not accessible due to the complicated and lengthy application process.
As if that was not enough, Minister Lindiwe Zulu kept quiet as the Department of Basic Education announced that their teachers would be included in the vaccination roll-out currently happening now. Staff of ECDs are not included, as teachers across SA step up for vaccinations, and there is no word yet as to when they will be eligible.
With ECDs seemingly rightfully feeling like a forgotten sector, the transition of ECDs to fall under the Department of Basic Education has been a process awaited with anticipation.
Talks about the ECD migration to DBE started when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced during a State of the Nation Address (SONA) that ECDs will be migrated to the Department of Basic Education by March 2021.
Thanks to the pandemic, social workers assigned to work on this migration had to deal with gender-based violence and other matters that took priority during the pandemic, resulting in the deadline for ECDs to move to the Department of Basic Education shifting to 1 April 2022.
Parent24 chatted to Jennifer McQuillan, an ECD owner and co-founder of ECD Owners of SA, about how she feels about this transition and what it means to ECD owners and staff.
McQuillan admits she is delighted about the move, as she explains that "DBE Minister Angie Motshekga takes care of her members, more especially with communication."
"The DBE has a minister who rallies behind her members, and she does good for her members. I think the ECD sector will feel more looked after when they're under the Department of Basic Education," she says.
However, McQuillan says that there are more unknowns, such as how the registration process will work. But she looks forward to the move.
While many Early Childhood Development owners are excited about this move, others have more questions than answers as they're wondering if there will be any changes in salaries.
A disaster waiting to happen?
Not everyone is as happy though. We asked News24 readers what they think about pre-schools moving to Department of Education management and only 22% said that the move is long overdue and much anticipated.
Of those polled, 12% responded that the move is just a lot of empty promises while 66% responded that the move is a disaster waiting to happen.
'I am very hopeful'
Parent24 also asked daycare owners situated at Mfuleni Township, in Cape Town, how they felt about this transition.
One ECD owner, entrusted with at least 16 children, including children under two years of age, said that she is pleased with moving to the DBE because of the challenges they faced due to Covid-19 in the past year. She hopes that the transition will solve some of their problems as owners and teachers.
Another ECD owner who also asked to remain anonymous in the same area told us that since the lockdown started, her ECD has not fully functioned or has as many children.
She said, "my daycare is struggling, and because it is not registered I am not sure if this transition to the DBE will allow people like us who are not registered. But, I am very hopeful knowing how transparent Basic Education is in terms of communication compared to Social Development."
Dad Steve Ntuntulu, a father of three boys between the ages of 4 and 10, summed up many parent's thoughts on this move when he told Parent24 "I don't think anything will change when the ECDs are under the Department of Basic Education. I am just grateful that they're open for some of us parents who are working during this pandemic," he said.
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