Early childhood development (ECD) centres face many problems, the social development department said on Thursday.
“ECD centres are battling with issues of inadequate infrastructure, inadequate equipment and supplies, a lack of practitioners and poorly trained practitioners, as well as inadequate health and safety measures, among other issues,” spokeswoman Lumka Oliphant said in a statement.
This was according to the preliminary findings of the department's national audit of ECD centres.
“The department undertook the audit to obtain information on the nature and extent of ECD provisioning, services, resources, and infrastructure in order to inform and support on-going policy and planning initiatives,” she said.
The audit, which began in August last year and was 50 percent complete, comparatively analysed centres in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, North West, Northern Cape, and Western Cape.
“The audit targets 19 971 ECD centres nationwide, registered and unregistered,” said Oliphant.
The findings showed that about 30.8 percent were built for the purpose of providing ECD services.
“More than 17 percent are operated from a house or part of a house, including a garage, and 10 percent operate from a shack,” said Oliphant.
It also found that 42 percent required urgent maintenance.
Most of the centres were in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
The analysis found that all ECD practitioners did not have a tertiary qualification.
“Over 43 percent of practitioners have below Grade 12 education, while about 40 percent have completed matric,” said Oliphant.
Fourty-nine percent of the centres' expenditure in all the provinces went to practitioners' salaries.
Ninety-one percent of centres offered an unrecognised curriculum, and 40 percent did not have sufficient pupil support material.
These were mostly found in North West, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, and Eastern Cape, said Oliphant.
On issues of governance, the comparative analysis found that 90 percent of ECD centres had management committees, while only 50 percent were formally registered.
It was also found that the assessment of children with disabilities was relatively uncommon in ECD centres, she said.
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini said the preliminary findings would make a valuable contribution to improve provisioning of early childhood development services.
“ECD programmes must provide appropriate developmental opportunities and care for our children, ensuring that their emotional, cognitive, and physical development needs are met throughout their early lives.
“The information provided by this audit will help government meet this objective,” said Dlamini.
According to the Children's Act, an ECD centre must provide a safe environment for children, proper care for sick children, adequate space, safe drinking water, hygienic sanitation facilities, measures for the separation of children of different age groups, and action plans for emergencies, among others.
The audit was expected to be complete by the end of March. - Sapa