WC Education to assist unregistered ECD centres

The WCED has adopted a developmental approach and will work towards getting all sites registered. FILE

The WCED has adopted a developmental approach and will work towards getting all sites registered. FILE

Published Jul 6, 2022


Cape Town - The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) hopes to assist the growing number of unregistered Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres through its Vangasali campaign to improve children’s safety.

The sector migrated three months ago from the Department of Social Development to the Department of Basic Education.

Spokesperson for the WCED Bronagh Hammond previously told the Weekend Argus that the functions of the sector would not change for the first two years.

“The WCED will be taking responsibility for registration, funding and programme implementation. The functions of offering Grade R and ECD (0–5 years) will reside in one directorate,” she said.

A census conducted last year revealed that more than 3 200 of the 4 896 centres found in the province are unregistered and not eligible for the subsidies.

Vangasali is a campaign which started in 2020 with the intention to get all the centres registered.

There are three phases to the project. The first was to find and count all registered and unregistered sites. The second was to categorise them into gold, silver or bronze status and the third was to intervene or assist with registration.

The WCED is in the last stage of assisting sites to register.

“To date, 105 sites were registered in the Vangasali project. The WCED adopts a developmental approach and will work towards getting all sites registered.

“The sites are conditionally registered for a maximum of two years, and the specific terms and conditions for the site will be stipulated on the registration certificate. For example, it may need to meet national norms and standards,” said WCED spokesperson Kerry Mauchline.

Project manager at Early Learning Resource Unit, Faadiela Ryklief, said the owners of centres cannot afford to pay the high registration fees and as a result, many centres remain unregistered.

“Obtaining municipal clearances such as land use or zoning, approved building plans, fire and health clearances are the biggest challenge our ECD centres face,” she said.

Ryklief said the growing number of illegal sites puts children’s health and safety at risk as they are often overcrowded with no proper hygiene and toilet facilities.

“Children are exposed to an unsafe environment. Where the ECD centre is not enclosed it may pose a danger to children’s safety as it will be accessible for intruders to enter freely. Children might not be protected from open fires, open wires, electrical faults and many other factors,” she said.

Professor Giulietta Harrison, president of the SA Research Association for Early Childhood Education, said their main concern over the growing number of illegal centres was that they were “not receiving a subsidy, which means economically they struggle to survive”.

She said there was a need for dedicated people to be deployed into the underprivileged areas to support centres with applications and appointment of people who will supervise the registered centres.

Principal of the registered and subsidised Fairways Educare, Sylvia Prezens, said the subsidy was not enough to cater for all the needs of children for sufficient learning.

“I did receive the subsidy for three months – April, May and June – from the Department of Basic Education. They give me R5 000 per month and that is nothing. Forty percent is for food, 40% for staff and 20% for the administration, such as toys and other necessary materials,” she said.

She needs to raise funds to be able to pay the staff and sustain the centre as it has 20 children.

Linda Bosman, a lecturer from the Department of Curriculum Studies at Stellenbosch University, said the migration of ECD services into the Department of Basic Education (DBE) was an important move, to treat the sector like any normal school.

The director of the Centre for Early Childhood Development, Eric Artmore, said it was concerning that the majority of the centres were not eligible for the subsidies as the “source of income for ECD centres is the fees paid by parents”.

“These fees range from R200 per month at quintile 1, 2 and 3 type ECD centres and up to R4 000 a month at quintile 4 and 5 type ECD centres. Also, the majority of teachers working with young children earn less than the minimum wage of R3 500 per month,” he said.

Artmore further said the money for subsidy needs to be increased for proper education as the absence of adequate nutrition affects a child’s development.

“For young children, malnutrition and food insecurity are significant challenges. The physical effects of inadequate nutrition are severe. Malnourishment can cause direct and irreversible structural damage to the brain,” he said.

The Index report of Thrive by Five released in April found that only 35% of children enrolled in the Early Learning Programmes are properly growing.

Another ECD activist, Colleen Horswell, said it was comforting that the migration of the centres was done, but it was worrisome that there were still children who are not accessing the centres at all.

“In terms of the migration to the Department of Education, we are hoping that things will be better because we have been fighting (for this migration). But now what about the children who are not accessing the ECD at all?” she asked.

Weekend Argus