CECD urges government to show real political will by aiding early childhood development sector
The Centre for Early Childhood Development (CECD) has urged government to provide a once-off allocation of a coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic-related grant of R20,000 to each registered early childhood development centre (ECD).
An estimated 375,000 children across South Africa may be left to fend for themselves if real political will is not shown in rescuing the country’s ECDs from collapse, Centre for Early Childhood Development founding director Professor Eric Atmore said in a statement on Sunday.
About 2.5 million children in South Africa received education and care from the ECD sector, and the CEDC had made several calls on government for clarity on when ECD centres could reopen after they were closed earlier this year because of the pandemic, he said.
"We have also asked for information on financial aid packages being considered for this sector, but our pleas have thus far fallen on deaf ears.”
The CECD was launched in 1994 following the dawn of democracy in South Africa. A need was identified at the time for an organisation to counsel the new government on the best way to assist in children’s early childhood development needs, which had become the CECD’s main role since then.
“Non-profit organisations play a backbone role in community service delivery across the country. They are particularly strong in the early childhood development sector, where there is no government-initiated services and just a little bit of government subsidy,” Atmore said.
“Most of the work is done by community-initiated organisations and bodies. South Africa has an estimated 32,000 early childhood development centres, each with around 50 children they care for each day.”
Atmore said his organisation had been fortunate to draw financial and strategic benefit from being a shareholder of the black-owned investment holding company Ditikeni Investments. The annual dividend pay-outs they received had been a welcome cash boost for the support they gave to ECD centres, as well as Ditikeni’s guidance on strategies for the sustainability of the CECD. Ditikeni announced its annual results for 2020 this past week. It had paid out R44.5m to its shareholders over its 20-year history.
“I am deeply concerned at the prospects for our ECD sector and the projected number of centres that will have no choice but to close. They have already battled to keep the lights on after parents stopped paying monthly fees. The knock-on effects for the sector can be devastating and I expect that as many as 15 percent of the centres might close down. Not all of them have the kind of financial resources and yearly dividend pay-outs we get and this makes government assistance an urgent matter,” Atmore said.
There was also real fear that vulnerable young children could become victims of crime and abuse if they were no longer able to spend each day in the safety of an ECD facility while their parents were at work.
“My proposal to government is the once-off allocation of a pandemic-related Covid-19 grant of R20,000 to each registered ECD. This money can be used to procure all the necessary protective equipment that is needed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus when ECD centres can eventually reopen,” Atmore said.
- African News Agency (ANA)