Early Childhood Development training & implementation: Departments of Basic Education & Social Development briefings

Social Development

10 June 2013
Chairperson: Ms Y Botha (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Social Development briefed the Committee on the Implementation of the Early Childhood Development Programme followed by a briefing by the Department of Basic Education on the Comprehensive Strategy to train Early Childhood Development Practitioners.

The Department of Social Development presented the integrated plan following a review of the national plan on Early Childhood Development. The presentation included an overview of the planned objectives and targets to be achieved over the short, medium and long terms. This integrated programme of action required the commitment of all government departments, stakeholders and the broader Early Childhood Development sector.

The Department of Basic Education provided an overview of the training procedures targets and budgets for 2013/14 and outlined some of the progress made as well as challenges faced. The challenges included lack of reliable data, alignment between national and provincial levels and lack of employment opportunities. The way forward was finalisation of plans and implementation protocols between the different departments and state entities, securing funding and capacity for implementation, and working together to provide quality services to children aged birth to four years and Grade R.

Members’ questions included:
Were monitoring and evaluation successful?
Why was an amendment necessary?
Why were there zeros in the progress chart of training?
What was the role of computers?
How were the different policies within municipalities dealt with?
What was the length of training of practitioners?
Were there early childhood development centres in rural areas that catered for the needs of children with disability?
What were the criteria for allocating budget?
Were Grade R teachers acknowledged by the staff establishment?
How were 'false colleges' dealt with? 

Meeting report

Introduction
The Chairperson opened the meeting with welcomes and apologies for delay. The agenda for the meeting included a briefing by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) on the Early Childhood Development (ECD) plan of action, which was one of the issues the Committee felt should be taken on board, as ECD was very critical.

Integrated Early Childhood Development Programme of Action for – Moving Ahead 2013-2018: Department of Social Development (DSD) briefing
Mr Coceko Pakade, DSD Director General, started the presentation with a very brief introduction and outline. The presentation was basically to share the information with the Members following the review of the national plan on ECD as well as a diagnostic report that was developed by the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME). There was a challenge in that there were two processes: an improvement plan by DPME and the Department’s own action plan. He told the Committee that Cabinet said that the two must be integrated which was the main purpose of the presentation and the documents. This was to indicate the new integrated plan. The Department had to still go to Cabinet with the final report.

Ms Margot Davies, DSD Chief Director: Children, went through the presentation with the Committee. Each objective and output was presented as outlined in the attached document. The time frames for the proposed objectives and outputs were not absolute dates due to uncertainty and the Department had therefore used time periods: short, medium and long term. Specifically, the second output went beyond ECD and looked at several other aspects such as health policy, infrastructure, etc. and worked to create an audit that looked at what the legislation was and how it was to work successfully. Output 3 on harmonisation and alignment was of great importance as each municipality had different bylaws set in place. The audit indicated in the 18th output had already begun and was underway. The document stated that output 22 was going to be achieved by May 2013; however, it was not achieved. The ECD Annual Awards referred to in the 31st output were to be sponsored by ABSA. This was an integrated programme of action that required the commitment of all government departments, stakeholders and the broader ECD sector in realising the objectives of building a better future for South Africa's young children.

Comprehensive strategy to train Early Childhood Development practitioners: DBE briefing
Ms Marie-Louise Samuels, DBE Acting Chief Director: Curriculum Implementation and Monitoring, provided a brief presentation about the ongoing training of ECD practitioners. The institutionalisation of Grade R began in 2000. The Department had worked closely with the DSD only since 2005. The two departments had worked together on the integrated plan for children below the grade R age. In the integrated programme, there were specific responsibilities for the DBE:

-Implementation of Education White Paper 5

-Grade R

-Birth to four years

-Development of curriculum

-Grade R

-Birth to four years

-Development of training and stimulation material

-Training of ECD practitioners and payment of stipends

Ms Samuels then presented the overview of the training process as outlined in the presentation document. The starting point of training was to train towards a qualification. All of the training done in ECD had to be found in the national qualifications framework. Not enough progress was made so far in terms of young people who wanted to train to become practitioners. That meant that, at the moment, the Department only worked with training people who were already a part of the training process. With regard to the progress to date, she pointed out that some of the people who were part of the two-year programme might have been counted twice. This indicated that the numbers provided in the chart were not accurate and the DBE was currently working on coming up with a more effective tracking system. A diagnostic review that was conducted revealed a main critique: not enough was done for children up to the age of two years. This was an important critique because it was viewed as very critical to stimulate children during those years.

The following challenges were discussed: lack of reliable data; strategic leadership at provincial level – struggle at provincial level to maintain plans that were agreed upon at national level; no approved plan for interdepartmental collaboration; human resource development (HRD) plan for practitioners needed employment opportunities to be created; raising the bar for minimum teaching qualifications to level four for ECD practitioners – the current minimum requirement was level one qualification which was said to be only equivalent to grade nine in the schooling system: raising the minimum to level four was equivalent to grade 12 and was said to provide practitioners with a better career path with more opportunities for teaching; and planning for the implementation of two years of pre-school education as indicated in the National Development Plan.

The way forward was finalisation of plans and implementation protocols between the different departments and state entities, securing funding and capacity for implementation, and working together to provide quality services to children aged birth to four years and Grade R.


Discussion

The Chairperson asked the Department of Social Development for clarification regarding the time period, as the medium term and long term were both the same length of two financial years.

Mr Pakade replied that there was an overlap between the three terms. It was done more so to declare what was urgent work and what could be done in the future.

Ms P Xaba (ANC) said that it was a good programme but there appeared to be no implementation. Did the Department follow monitoring and evaluation procedures and ensure implementation or did it just adopt the programme and leave the communities with nothing actually taking place? She hoped that the programme did take effect because what she saw on paper was very good.

Ms Connie Nxumalo, DSD Deputy Director-General: Welfare Services, replied that in terms of monitoring and evaluation, provinces currently had people who monitored programmes. However, this was the weakest link for the Department so it was constantly reinforcing its importance and the audit was said to be a good starting point to indicate progress.

Ms Samuels replied that monitoring and evaluation within the DBE was done regularly with roughly 90% of schools visited on a regular basis. However, it did not translate into improved learner’s performance so the Department had to be conscious of what was actually being done during the visits; they were needed to provide support.

Ms F Khumalo (ANC) asked why there had to be an amendment? Which Section in particular [of the Children's Act (No. 38 of 2005)] had to be amended? She asked the DBE why there were so many zeros in the progress-to-date chart regarding training in all the provinces. Why were there such drastic increases and decreases in the numbers?

Ms Davies, in regard to the amendment, replied that currently ECD was referred to as a ‘may’ service; this meant that provincial government ‘may’ provide the money for ECD services so inherently there was a problem. As such, a policy was needed and hence the amendment. If the Act was not amended, then none of the objectives and outputs presented was going to have an impact.

Ms M Mafolo (ANC) asked about the role of computers. How did the DSD deal with the differing policies between municipalities and how did it ensure that the goal was achieved at the end of the day? She asked the DBE about the length of training. How were the training targets set? Did the budget match the targets?

Ms Davies replied that the role of computers was rolled up with the Department of Communications. The importance of the programme was to teach young children to respect the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and to teach the children how to properly use computers. She said that 40 ECD centres were already allocated computers but she could not give an exact number of computers that were given out because the programme was currently in implementation. She also replied that it was very difficult to deal with the issue of municipalities as it involved bylaws. The Department was presently working on a possible idea to provide a standardised policy that municipalities had to adopt and turn into bylaws by obliging to the policy. There was a meeting with the municipalities last year and the Department was looking into a model to make this possible.

Ms Samuels replied that the length of training was directly linked to whether one was training for full qualification. Training could range from one to three years and also depended on whether the course was offered on a part-time or full-time basis. For example, some skills programmes were only offered for three months but that was not a full qualification.

Ms H Makhuba (IFP) wanted to find out if anything had been done for children with disabilities in rural areas. Were there any centres in the rural areas that were equipped to deal with children with disability? Were ECD centres in rural areas getting the necessary support?

Ms Nxumalo replied that ECD facilities in rural areas did not always have the funding or the capacity. She emphasised the non-centre-based programme because some centres did not have enough funds. A non-centre-based programme was needed to ensure that the children had access to facilities for care. Making ECD services a public good was also needed.

Ms E More (DA) asked the DBE why the budgets for the Free State and Northern Cape were so small compared to the other provinces. What were the criteria for allocating budget to the provinces? Was there a plan to integrate the teachers as part of the staff establishment? Were the Grade R teachers recognised by the South African Council for Educators? Was there a plan in place to deal with 'false colleges' that claimed to provide the necessary qualifications? Was there a plan for oversight so that there were not any unqualified teachers?

Ms Samuels replied that the allocation of budgets had to be an equitable share but once the department received it, certain programmes appeared to be prioritised. A norm was seen as needed to determine how the money was spent in the department of education so that it could be spent on what it was allocated for. She further stated that the DBE was currently considering including Grade R in the staff establishment and was busy looking at securing the funding for it because Grade R practitioners did not enjoy medical aid, pension or any other benefits.

Ms Samuels said that all the Grade R practitioners could be registered with the South African Council for Educators but it was conditional registration. Conditional registration meant that, according to present legislation, the minimum requirement to be a teacher was level six; therefore, it was agreed upon that Grade R practitioners only required level four qualifications as long as they only taught Grade R. There were two categories of teachers as a result: firstly, unqualified teachers which included the practitioners with level four qualification (who received R5 000 salary with no benefit) and secondly, qualified teachers with level six qualification. Ms Samuels said that it had to be changed so that unqualified teachers received benefits as well.

Ms Samuels shared the frustrations of Members regarding 'false colleges' that had emerged offering false qualifications. It was an ongoing challenge across the country and the DBE was working with the Department of Higher Education and Training to blacklist those types of colleges. These colleges disadvantaged many people who had paid for false qualifications.

Ms Xaba said that it would be good to receive a list for oversight purposes and to understand the progress.

The Chairperson thanked the presenters and stated that the information was insightful.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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