Lockdown brings concern about impact on early childhood development
THE Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown have dealt a harsh blow to children under the age of four. Lockdown led to the forced closure of Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres - which only reopened after a successful court bid.
Meanwhile some centres short of money closed or laid off teachers and other staff, and children who need the care and stimulation they provide lost out.
This has put the spotlight on the need for well trained and better skilled staff, with experts emphasising that this would be beneficial in the future as the sector recovers.
In the report titled “The Plight of the ECD Workforce” compiled in April, it was projected that the numbers of children in the pre-school group who would be getting quality education, had dropped from 5 million to 1.5 million.
Compiled with information from various organisations, the report stated that Covid-19 would have a devastating effect on what they could provide in future.
Findings were based on a General Household Survey in 2018, which found that learners who did not have access to proper ECD, lacked the stimulation required for this important phase of their young lives.
“These children either stay at home with parents or guardians and often, because these people do not read to them or draw with them, they miss out and are left behind,” the report stated.
The organisations looked at questions such as: Was it simply enough for children to attend any pre-school establishment like day-care centres, crèches, playgroups and nursery schools where the educators did not have a particular standard of education?
They stressed the importance of having well-trained and certified ECD teachers, said Teacher Training and Development manager Rosemary Mokoena. She said programmes to support this had to be developed urgently.
“Nothing less than a Bachelor’s degree or even a Masters should be at the forefront of equipping these centres,” she said, adding that this would ensure quality education for children and educators.
Where children do not get a good ECD, it puts strain on foundation phase teachers who spent time bringing these children up to speed with the basic requirements.
Child psychologist Dr Mandy Creux agreed that ECD operators ran the risk of closure. She added: “Where then, do children go, what happens to their intellectual prospect, their emotional capabilities?”
It was therefore of utmost importance to facilitate ECDs with quality, skills and the right number of educators to ensure children did not fall through the cracks, Creux said.