Fears that state proposal could choke ECDs

At the back, from left, are South African Congress for Early Childhood Development (SACED) Western Cape provincial office bearers, additional member Melissa Jacobs, from Hanover Park; treasurer Cynthia Daniels, from Vredenburg; public relations officer Karrimah Jacobs, from Mitchells Plain; assistant treasurer Erika Isaacs, from Kensington; additional member Annette Robertson, from Grassy Park; and additional member Boniswa Mxhakaza, from Khayelitsha. In front, are provincial chairperson Augusta Brandt, from Bonnievale, in Langeberg; and secretary Jeanne-Marie de Villiers, from Malmesbury.

Pictures: Fouzia van der Fort

SACED is a national NPO focused on developing the ECD sector. They represent ECD centres, including more than 1 370 organisations, which have been registered with the Department of Social Development, in accordance with the Children’s Act.

Registration allows the department to provide funding as well as inspect facilities to ensure health and safety compliance and to check the quality of ECD curriculum.

SACED Western Cape provincial chairwoman Augusta Brandt, from Bonnievale, in Langeberg, said they represent about 52 educare forums across six regions – Cape Winelands, Cape Metro, West Coast, Eden, Karoo and Overberg.

In her provincial report, she said they were able to build strong relationships with various stakeholders in the ECD field, including government departments, NGOs, businesses, ECD forums and principals.

Ms Brandt said a lack of funds is a challenge for them and another major concern is that pre-Grade R could be enrolled at schools.

Pre-Grade R, better known as Grade RR, is a proposal by the National Development Plan (NDP) to have pupils at school from age four by 2024.

This would mean that children would go to schools earlier, and it could take pupils away from ECDs.

At the meeting last week, delegates from across the country gathered to elect national office bearers, meet with the departments of social development and basic education and decide on a national curriculum framework.

According to SACED’s management report, the Department of Social Development released the new ECD Policy in December last year, after consulting ECD teachers, centres and role-players in a process which started in March 2012.

Workshops on the policy were conducted in all nine provinces and are due to end in the Western Cape next month.

The policy deals with issues such as the human resources needed in centres and in directorates of the departments of social development, health and basic education; training for ECD teachers; a funding model; comprehensive programmes; governance of ECD programmes; communication and registration of institutions.

The Department of Basic Education has released the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) for children up to the age of four, and is now conducting training of officials and role-players.

This framework will help ECD centres develop their learning programme for pupils.

Similarly, the Department of Higher Education has developed a framework of qualifications for ECD teachers, which is important, as the Department of Social Development requires all teachers working with children to have qualifications by 2019.

The Department of Social Development conducted an infrastructure audit of all registered ECD sites , to determine the potential to have safe, secure and healthy centres.

The management report stated that funding was difficult to access, which impacts on non-profit organisations and SACED.

Albert Fritz, MEC for Social Development, addressed the congress on Thursday September 29.

The department has invested more R290 million to be used during the 2016/17 financial year.

The public can locate their closest ECD centre or check on the registration of their ECD centre by visiting any Department of Social Development local office or by contacting its hotline at 080 022 0250.