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ECD sector disappointed by Stimulus Fund delays

Sylvia Prezens, former principal of Parkwood Educare & Aftercare was forced to close the centre as a result of Covid-19 lockdown. Picture - Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Sylvia Prezens, former principal of Parkwood Educare & Aftercare was forced to close the centre as a result of Covid-19 lockdown. Picture - Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Feb 20, 2022

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More than half of the struggling educare centres in the Western Cape which applied for the Employment Stimulus Relief Fund are still waiting for much-needed funding.

The National Department of Social Development opened applications for the relief fund a year ago to minimise the financial effects of Covid-19 on the sector.

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Of the R496 million allocation from the national department, the provincial department received a R53m grant for the once-off payment to the staff at a maximum of R4 470 per person.

MEC of Social Development Sharna Fernandez said the delays were due to the national department’s inability to develop a system that would be quick in verifying details .

Of the 3 159 applications from the Western Cape, the provincial department received 1 415 approved applications from the national department. “The approved applicants were the ones that passed the initial eligibility criteria set by the national department,” said Fernandez.

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Sylvia Prezens, former principal of Parkwood Educare and Aftercare, said she had to close down the centre due to Covid-19 protocols. The four staff took care of 100 children.

She said her educare was registered and operated in a church hall at Simon of Cyrene Anglican Church in Parkwood since 1992.

Since the churches were closed during hard lockdown she could not open and her staff were forced to look for alternative work.

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When churches could reopen she did not have the money to run the centre.

She had to renovate her garage in Fairways and turn it into an educare, which has 19 children now and she increased the fees to be able to maintain it.

Parent Mpumezi Koli from Philippi whose child used to attend the closed educare in Parkwood said the closure made his life difficult as he had to pay extra money at the new centre.

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Principal of a Peek-a-boo Daycare and Preschool Sharifa Sapud said she received the funds about six months ago for the Parkland preschool, she paid her four staff and bought extra chairs and hand sanitisers with the funds. She said she charges R400 per child, which includes transport and that she accommodates 57 children.

Siphokazi Dlamini of Injabulo Educare Centre in Makhaza said she followed all the application requirements but was disappointed when she did not receive the funds. She said they bought food for the children with the fees they received.“Our teachers could not get their wages and there are three of them. If we get the money from the Stimulus Fund, we would have teachers that are motivated to work,” said Dlamini.

Advocacy and social justice manager at the Centre for Early Childhood Development Yusrah Ehrenreich said: “Principals are reporting that staff think they received the money and are not paying it out to the staff. This is causing distrust and problems amongst principals and their staff. “With these extreme delays; ECD centres are having to pay monthly fees to keep bank accounts open, and are going into debt, without receiving their expected relief funds,” she said.

The centre’s director Professor Eric Artmore said as much as some of the children were left in dangerous circumstances, neglect and abuse during lockdown, the main impact was the lack of food for poor children. “Thousands of young children have missed out on the daily meal that they would usually receive at the ECD centre. This has a negative impact on children’s healthy development and growth,” he said. Riedewhaan Allie, director of the Foundation for Community Work, has committed to working with the department to process the Stimulus Fund applications. His organisation assisted about 50 ECD centres with their online applications.

He said in his observations the reason for the delay is NPOs did not attach their contact details in the applications and that led to confusion.

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