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GAUTENG Social Development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza is worried at the number of mushrooming unregistered crèches that put the lives of children at risk.
More disturbing, she said, was that the trend persists despite the shortage of well-managed crèches with well-qualified teachers and caregivers.
“I am very concerned about the increasing number of Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres, especially in the townships and informal settlements,” Mayathula-Khoza said during a press briefing yesterday.
The department estimates the number of unregistered crèches, otherwise known as ECDs, in the province at 2 430.
This means there is an increasing number of children whose safety is being put at risk.
Part of the proliferation of illegal crèches, she said, was because of people who put profit before children’s safety.
The parents, she added, were equally liable because of their care-free attitude.
“We are also worried about the parents risking the safety and lives of their children by placing them in unsuitable and unregistered facilities,” she said.
There are 987 registered crèches in Gauteng, catering for more than 65 000 children.
Mayathula-Khoza appealed to the owners of illegal crèches to register them with the department to enable the caregivers and teachers to access professional training.
Further urging owners of illegal crèches to register their establishments, Mayathula-Khoza said it was not a complicated and protracted process as many believed.
Registering the crèches would also enable them to access funding and donations to upgrade their facilities.
“Where challenges arise is where you bring in environmental issues such as the size of the rooms, issues of health and sanitation, including the supply of healthy water, and safety and the general adherence to (municipal) by-laws,” she said. Even with these challenges, Mayathula-Khoza said, it should not be a problem because there were always municipal officials to offer guidance on how to access training and development programmes.
The department also has an intervention strategy to foster early development in children in order to prepare them for their formal primary education.
Through the programme, called ECD Massification Strategy, the department plans to increase the number of funded crèches to 1 139.
It is hoped that this would benefit 78 044 children under the age of five throughout the province.
To achieve this, the department has budgeted R267 million towards ECD for this financial year.
Mayathula-Khoza also announced plans to expand the ECD project to rural areas by rolling out mobile toy libraries.