With the April 2022 deadline looming to complete the migration of early childhood development centres (ECDs) from the Department of Social Development to the Department of Basic Education, ECD practitioners are alarmed that many technical and structural issues remain unclarified. The lack of clarity has added to the already high stress of running these centres.

The committee was conducting public hearings in Dundee in KwaZulu-Natal, as part of its countrywide process to garner public views on the Children’s Amendment Bill.

The participants in Dundee supported the Bill and viewed it as a necessary amendment to the Children’s Act, which aims to protect children’s rights. Despite this support, ECD teachers highlighted their frustration with the lack of clarity about the migration, especially because they are unsure about the impact it will have in the sector. They are particularly concerned about the absorption and training of ECD teachers, existing resources and plans, as well as ECD practitioners who are above the age of 60. 

As a remedy, the Portfolio Committee on Social Development called for both the departments to convene a symposium with the ECD sector to provide information about the migration and address all the concerns. 

Lack of provision of infrastructure and support for the ECD centres was also raised as a concern. The mushrooming of unregistered ECD centres that do not comply with norms and standards was attributed to this lack of support. This has compromised the safety of children in these centres.

The participants further called for the development of ECD centres that are equipped and accessible to children with disabilities. A call was made to the departments of Social Development and Basic Education to prioritise training of ECD practitioners on how to work with children with disabilities. 

Malatswa Molepo
24 November 2021