De Vrije Zee Prepatory Primary school Grade R class teachers had their hands full with upset children on their first day at school. Fie picture Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)
Cape Town - The campaign to bring early childhood development (ECD) and Grade R teachers into the formal education fold is gaining momentum, with calls for 
their official recognition with working

Teachers’ unions said they had observed a delay in the implementation of the National Development Plan directives on the universalisation and formalisation of ECD and Grade R.

SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said the pay of Grade R practitioners was a cause for concern when they were doing the most important work in building the nation.

Maluleke said they were subjected to “intolerable and abhorrent” conditions at their workplaces.

“They work without knowing whether they will receive a salary at the end of the month and without benefits such as UIF and pension.”

He said unions believed that the sector must be formalised with immediate effect in order to address the conditions of service affecting employees, and said collective bargaining was a key measure to reduce inequalities of income and wealth.

Sadtu had since submitted demands calling for the prioritising of Grade R working conditions, which would regulate salaries.

“Study funding, norms and standards in terms of practitioner learner ratios that puts emphasis on preparation for learning through playing activities rather than writing and testing, while appropriate facilities and psychosocial services linked to the district or circuit and availed to each school while developing a clear plan for the broader ECD.”

National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA executive director Basil Manuel said the universalisation and formalisation of ECD and Grade R had been a long battle fought by the unions.

Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said practitioners were employed by the school governing bodies.

“Schools are given a stipend for the practitioners. They are covered by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.”

Hammond said the formalisation of ECD and Grade R lay with the national Education Department.

“The WCED is however strongly driving towards universal access to Grade R and a dedicated budget to fund infrastructure and resources for Grade R.”

Elijah Mhlanga, spokesperson for the national department, said there were norms and standards for ECD centres, as determined and managed by the Social Development Department.

“The curriculum framework has been developed for utilisation in ECD centres.

"Grade R is part of the foundation phase and therefore adheres to all relevant aspects of the curriculum, norms and standards.

“As and when the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill is promulgated, Grade R will become a compulsory initial grade in the foundation phase.”

Mhlanga added that there were many challenges facing the implementation of the national integrated policy for ECD which the Social Development and Basic Education departments were addressing through the interdepartmental structures.

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Cape Argus