The Department of Basic Education (DBE) is currently preparing for an accelerated mass registration drive for Early Childhood Development (ECD) programmes, which will be launched early in 2024.
The project will be rolled out in all education districts across South Africa. Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, accompanied by DBE ECD officials, as well as officials from the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE), visited ten ECD centres to share information on the full-scale institutionalisation of ECD in the country.
During the visits, Minister Motshekga addressed various stakeholders, including ECD managers; practitioners; NGOs; and Forums representing ECD centres operating in the Johannesburg Central, Johannesburg North, Johannesburg South, Tshwane East and Tshwane West Districts.
The registration of ECD centres is the first step to increasing quality programme delivery and enabling children to receive the stimulation and care required to thrive in school.
This move to formalise the ECDs comes after a 2021 ECD Census revealed that there were still many ECD programmes that were operating without being formally registered.
Furthermore, the 2022 General Household Survey indicated that there are currently 1.3 million children aged 3 – 5 who are not accessing ECD programmes.
Increasing access and ensuring that the newly established ECD programmes are registered, is therefore a key priority for the DBE.
The oversight visits to ECD programmes are conducted through the DBE’s Chief Directorate for Foundations for Early Learning, under the leadership of Ms Kulula Manona.
Manona informed ECD stakeholders that the strengthening of ECD is necessary to address the learning deficits encountered by learners as they move into the formal schooling system.
“Our main objective is to accelerate the registration of all the ECD centres so that they operate procedurally and constitutionally. Through a series of engagement meetings conducted in the province, we managed to exchange critical views around the effective implementation of the National Curriculum Framework for Children from Birth to Four (NCF).
“ECD stakeholders are willing to work with the government in elevating the standard of early learning in the country. The valuable inputs and insight shared during these visits will inform our decision-making process as far as ECD administration is concerned”.
During the engagements, ECD stakeholders indicated the need for uniformity in programme delivery across all nine provinces.
The ECD stakeholders alerted the Minister that programmes require qualified teachers, proper infrastructure, access to the ECD subsidy and proper funding to provide nutritious meals at the programmes.
Inclusive education was also highlighted as a critical aspect that needs to be enhanced and supported. They urged the Basic Education Sector to prioritise inclusive education since there are rising figures of learners with special needs enrolled in ECD centres.
Additional training and support for ECD practitioners in supporting children with disabilities has been highlighted as a critical need.
As quoted in the ECD Census 2021, Motshekga said: “We as the DBE have always been a firm believer in the fact that building the future starts with strengthening early learning and development”.
Motshekga indicated that the visit will pave the way for the mass ECD registration drive as it highlights success stories and shortcomings around ECD institutionalisation.
“We have decided to give ECD managers sufficient time to ensure that they comply with the Constitution. As a result, the unregistered ECD centres will be given three years to sort out all administrative issues as the government will not allow the operation of unregistered ECD centres in communities once the three years have lapsed.
“ECD migrated to the Basic Education Sector to lay a solid foundation for early learning so that our children can be school ready at the appropriate age”.
In her response to issues raised during the visit, Motshekga said the DBE will engage various education stakeholders, including the Departments of Home Affairs, Health and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to deal with existing obstacles hindering the operation of ECD programmes in various communities.