Real Reform for ECD

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The Children’s Amendment Bill is being considered by Parliament right now, but it is a missed opportunity.

It doesn't address the core reforms needed to strengthen the Early Childhood Development (ECD) sector — and it may even create more burdens for ECD providers, who are largely poor and working class black women. To see all children in South Africa thriving and accessing inclusive, holistic and quality ECD services, we need real reform.

Despite meaningful progress in recent years, we remain saddled with unattainable registration requirements, a complicated dual registration process, pro-poor mechanisms in the Children’s Act that are not used and major gaps in the legislation that prevent the ECD Policy from being properly implemented. The legal system is not serving our children and communities in poor areas. Over six million children are of ECD-going age (excluding Grade R) and the majority of these children live in poverty. However, 3.2 million children are not accessing any ECD programmes. Of those who do access some form of ECD programme, 2.9 million children are in unregistered programmes and only 800 654 children in registered centres. Only 626 574 (25%) of the children who need it are obtaining subsidised learning.

We are calling on Parliament to implement the following five reforms.

Reform 1: We need a one-step registration process for ECD providers. Different types of ECD programme providers including playgroups, toy libraries and home-based care must be regulated differently. A one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate.

Reform 2: All children attending any type of ECD programme should be able to access the early learning subsidy if they need it.

Reform 3: Simpler, adequate health, and safety and programme standards must be in place and must be assessed through one process.

Reform 4: It must be made clear that you can get conditional registration if when you can’t meet all the registration requirements. MECs must support providers servicing poor communities to meet registration requirements and they must be required to report to the Minister on progress achieved.

Reform 5: The infrastructure needs of the sector must be supported. Current providers (including on private land) should be able to receive support and municipalities must be required to provide for and maintain sufficient and appropriate ECD infrastructure in their regions.