Johannesburg - The Early Childhood Development (ECD) sector say they were not surprised that they were once again excluded as the Basic Education sector commenced its vaccination roll-out on Wednesday.
An open letter to Department of Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, penned by organisation Help SA ECDs, has called on the department and the government as a whole to help ECD staff get vaccinated too.
In the letter, the organisation said when the announcement of the vaccination of teachers was made, it was met with much jubilation from the ECD sector.
“Our excitement was, however, short lived. This excludes teachers and support staff under the Department of Social Development (DSD). Sadly, we are not surprised, as we have been here before. The Department of Basic Education (DBE) minister rallies for her members. Who rallies for us? Silence from the DSD, once again,” the organisation said.
Jennifer McQuillan, from Help SA ECDs, told The Star on Tuesday that there were ECDs that fell under the DSD as partial care centres, but there were other ECD centres that were on the property of a primary schools that fall under the DBE.
McQuillan said the sector believed that teachers and staff who fall under the DSD at ECDs should also be included in the education sector vaccine roll-out, which started today.
“In our ECD centres, we have teachers, cleaners, chefs and security guards, among others. We should be treated the same way as an ECD centre that is on the property of a primary school. There should be no discrimination whatsoever,” she said.
Mmatsetshweu Ruby Motaung, the executive director of the National ECD Alliance (Necda) said that there were about 32 681 ECD centre employees, who are catered for in vaccinations at primary schools, out of about 180 000 ECD workforce members nationwide.
“We are asking: what have we done and what is it that we need to do to be heard? What have we done to deserve this treatment because this is not about us as the ECD workforce, it’s about the children,” Motaung said.
On Saturday, DBE Minister Angie Motshekga announced that teachers would be vaccinated during the two weeks of school holidays. This comes as primary schools will be going back to 100% daily attendance at the start of the third term.
Motshekga said the department was aiming to vaccinate 582 000 teachers and support staff in the education sector.
McQuillan said that when the minister made the announcement about the vaccination programme, she immediately checked to see if ECD were excluded.
“I checked if they excluded us as usual. Last year, when the government reopened schools after the hard lockdown, it excluded us and we had to take the DSD to court so we could reopen. Parents went back to work and schools were reopening, so we had children who are two, three, four, five, and six years old – who were left at home alone, at risk and unsafe. We were desperate to reopen,” she said.
She added that the sector did not believe that Minister Zulu fought for her sector in the same way that Motshekga fought for the basic education sector.
Motaung said that as much as the sector was calling to be included in the vaccine roll-out for the entire ECD workforce, they are also asking the government to prioritise the young child.
McQuillan added that ECD centres also handled children and that they were the most vulnerable because the children were young.
“And our children don’t wear masks, they don’t need to wear masks and there’s close contact. You can’t not cuddle a two-year-old,” she said.