Political parties have added their voices to the concerns raised regarding the Early Childhood Development (ECD) sector.
This follows a nationwide week of protests by ECD workers against a decision taken by Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu to allocate R1.3 billion towards the employment of 36 000 young people as compliance monitors in ECD centres. The group is urging the department to redirect the funds to save 175 000 ECD jobs, that are at risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ECD workforce group says the government has paid lip service to the importance of the sector in the country’s national development plans. During his 2019 State of the Nation Address, President Cyril Ramaphosa committed that the government would invest in the sector and move it to the Department of Basic Education.
“We have established a firm foundation for a comprehensive ECD programme that is an integral part of the education system. This year, we will migrate responsibility for ECD centres from Social Development to Basic Education, and this we are able to do not as a pipe dream but preparations have already been put in place and we are ready to take off,” the President said in 2019.
COVID-19 compliance at ECD centres
ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said the government must fast-track the provision of personal protective equipment in the sector.
“We’ve also noted some of the concerns raised by a number of the centres especially as it relates to the distribution of PPEs. We urge our government through the Department of Social Development to fast track this, it is important that the ECD centres, which are a very important repository of protecting the future of our children, are given the necessary PPEs for adherence to protocols.”
EFF Spokesperson Delisile Ngwenya said they are concerned about a number of unregistered ECD centres and their compliance with COVID-19 regulations.
“We have plus, minus 40 000 ECDs that are unregistered in this country now it would mean that those ECDs assessment of readiness were not conducted on those ECDs, therefore, we do not know if those ECDs are compliant.”
Support for ECDs
The DA’s Shadow Deputy Minister of Social Development, Alexander Abraham, said ECD centres must be supported as they are the biggest employer of women.
“ECDs are so much more than babysitting services; they play a very critical role in the child’s developmental years and in getting that child ready for grade R as well as in the nutritional benefits of the children and safeguarding them from the danger that waits for them in the streets of South Africa. In order to reduce poverty we need to support small businesses, such as ECDs that are closing daily and that predominantly employs women .”