Early Childhood Development programme: Department of Social Development, National Development Agency & SALGA briefing

NCOP Health and Social Services

28 October 2014
Chairperson: Ms L Dlamini (ANC, Mpumalanga)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Social Development (DSD) briefed the Committee on the South African Integrated Programme of Action for Early Childhood Development (ECD). ECD had been identified as a key part of the National Development Plan (NDP) in addressing unemployment and inequality, but there were policy gaps in terms of infrastructure and the sectors responsible. The integrated programme had been approved by Cabinet on 18 September 2013 but the costing process was still in progress with the National Treasury (NT). The programme had eight key levels, which were discussed in detail. These included legislation and policy, institutional arrangements, coordination and integration, human resources, training and capacity building, ECD structure, and training and awareness. ECD centres were in the process of being reviewed, in accordance with the Children’s Act.

The National Development Agency (NDA) explained its role and interventions in ECD, including its involvement in practitioner training and infrastructure. The aim of the ECD campaign was to increase levels of ECD resources and programme support, improve the quality of the programmes, and increase the number of beneficiaries. It was using ECD awards to generate partnerships and increase awareness about its importance, in addition to providing mobile ECD trucks to expand access to poor communities. ECD was necessary for the empowerment of women and youth, and gave children from underprivileged backgrounds the opportunity for development across several areas.

SALGA’s presentation outlined their mandate and their relationship with ECD. They made several recommendations, including amending the Children's Act with regard to the funding of ECD services, prioritising pregnant women and young children and aligning municipal by-laws with the norms and standards in the Children's Act. SALGA were engaging with the DSD and were part of two committees dealing with ECD, with discussion around the responsibilities of municipalities. It looked at the partnership between the NDA and SALGA in terms of ECD and their objectives, including increased awareness in municipalities about ECD and increased ECD projects across all provinces.

Members asked about the assessment of ECD centres. What was used as a benchmark for the certifications? Who were the quality assurers? Who was responsible for the training of practitioners? Did they have the proper qualifications? Were these qualifications mandatory? The issue of infrastructure was raised. Who funded the building of ECD centres? Grants were often wide-ranging, so could the Committee recommend that the NT made an allocation specifically for ECD centres? What was the difference between the number of centres and the number of children receiving ECD services? In terms of spending, was the DSD monitoring to ensure money was being used effectively?

Concern was expressed about the DSD’s lack of time frames and the NDA’s budget, which was small and explained why there were children missing out on ECD services. As for the ECD week, what activities were scheduled? Could stakeholders be engaged? Regarding the progress of ECD, what were the targets? When could a presentation be given on its progress?

The Committee adopted the minutes of 16 September and 14 October 2014.

Meeting report

The Chairperson outlined the agenda of the meeting. Ms T Mampuru (ANC, Limpopo) moved its adoption and Ms P Mququ (ANC, Eastern Cape) seconded.

Ms L Zwane (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) requested the Director-General of the Department for Social Development (DSD) to highlight the relationship between the DSD and the Department of Education (DoE) as far as Early Childhood Development (ECD) was concerned. This was so that Members would be aware of who was responsible for what when they came to engage with the DoE.

DSD on SA Integrated Programme of Action for Early Childhood Development (ECD)

Mr Coceko Pakade, Director General (DG) of the DSD, introduced the presentation on the South African Integrated Programme of Action for Early Childhood Development (ECD) - Moving Ahead (2013-2016). During the DSD's previous briefings to the Committee, it had picked up a lot interest in ECD. The DSD was pushing its position, so that ECD became an apex priority within government. The National Planning Commission (NCP) had found a number of flaws in the area, but there had been no disagreement about the priority of investment in children in terms of their development, protection and social security.

The DSD had been selected to be evaluated by the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, and they had identified ECD as key. They had produced a diagnostic review of ECD and looked at the National Integrated Plan (NIP) to establish South Africa's success in implementing the proposals. There were a number of policy gaps in the process regarding infrastructure and the responsible sectors, amongst others. Those with an interest in ECD could not be relied upon -- there had to be a clear demonstration that government had taken responsibility, as per the resolutions of the ruling party. The DSD had pushed for more funding -- from R15 per child per day, to R17or R18. Public-private partnerships were being promoted as a national issue, and there were both local and national donors assisting in implementing ECD projects that helped in the poorest areas.

Ms Margot Davids, Chief-Director: Children, DSD, proceeded to outline the ECD programme for 2013-2016. It was a national priority programme under Outcome 1 - Quality Education, and the NCP indicated action was needed to improve ECD services. The focus of the National Development Plan (NDP) was on the capabilities of the people and the country, and ECD was critical in ensuring better performance in formal schooling and consequently improved levels of employment. An awareness campaign had been launched in 2010 to promote ECD in local communities. A review of the NIP, the ECD Diagnostic Review and the ECD Conference Action Plan in 2011/2012, had led to the draft Integrated Programme of Action for Early Childhood Development - Moving Ahead 2013-2016. This had been approved by Cabinet on 18 September 2013, with various time frames for implementation. The costing process was still in progress with the National Treasury (NT), due to the original R28 billion requested being too substantial an amount.

Each of the eight key levers of the programme was discussed in detail.

1. Legislation and Policy
The legislation and policy framework had been completed, with the diagnostic report showing a centre-based approach was needed over a holistic approach, leading to the development of the ECD policy. There were 28 municipal by-laws and policies that impacted on ECD, making it necessary to look at new, integrated norms and standards. All of the legislation, regulations, policies and municipal by-laws relating to ECD were being reviewed and the departments involved had been asked to submit quarterly reports reviewing the ECD norms and standards. They would receive assistance from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), with technical support for harmonisation of identified norms and standards according to the new ECD policy. There was an aim to amend the Children's Act on ECD, and to produce an integrated strategy for the implementation of universal access for children from birth to school-going age by 31 March 2015.

2. Institutional arrangements/Coordination and integration
A feasibility study had been conducted on options for inter-sectoral management and coordination which was reflected in the draft ECD Policy. It recommended the establishment of alternative coordination mechanisms in different departments and a branch in DSD, as government should not lose control, and strengthen the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the Department of Health (DoH).

3. Human Resources, Training and Capacity Building
There was an on-going human resource (HR) development plan for the ECD sector requiring participating departments to produce a comprehensive HR plan. DSD had received HR plans from the provinces and was developing its own. The DBE had developed an ECD curriculum which would be implemented according to the DBE Minister's speech in January 2015. There was a draft policy on community colleges providing a framework for their establishment, management, employment of staff, funding framework and qualification offerings, among other governance issues.

4. Comprehensive ECD Programme/Services
A draft Comprehensive ECD Programme had been developed, with the aim of outlining the roles and responsibilities of government departments and other stakeholders in the development of children from birth to four years. Consultations were ongoing and the DSD was consolidating inputs to prepare for gazetting.

5. ECD Infrastructure
There had been an audit of existing ECD infrastructure provisioning across all provinces in 2013/2014. The audit report would be used to develop the integrated ECD improvement plans with all stakeholders.

6. Funding and Partnerships
The DSD was identifying and conducting research on all existing funding models, which would include movement to monthly payment from payment according to attendance. Some municipalities would provide grants, but others did not, so harmonisation of funding norms and standards was needed. The funding of ECD should be both government and private – it was not only the government's responsibility -- for example, companies could provide ECD facilities at workplaces. The DSD was strengthening the ECD donor forum, and a workshop with government and private donors had been held on 20 March 2014.

7. Research monitoring and Evaluation
The development of an integrated monitoring and evaluation framework for ECD was in progress with the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME).

8. Communication and Awareness
The development of an integrated inter-sectoral awareness-raising and communication strategy was still under way, to be completed after the ECD policy was finalised. The DSD had conducted interviews on radio promoting ECD and was rolling out the information communication technology (ICT) strategy for children. The National Steering Committee was meeting monthly for the planning for the ECD week in March 2015, and an action plan for ECD annual awards had been developed at meetings on 26 and 27 March 2014.

Under the Children's Act, five years after its promulgation every ECD centre needed to be reviewed and re-registered according to gold, silver and bronze National Early Development Standards (NEDS) categories.

Capacity building had been a necessary part of the programme, and all provinces were capacitated from June-August 2014. Registered ECD centres stood at 20 442 in the first quarter of 2014/15, with the most in KwaZulu-Natal. Around R1.8 billion was spent on ECD services per year.

National Development Agency (NDA) presentation on ECD

Dr Vuyelwa Nhlapo, CEO of the NDA, briefed the Committee on the work of the NDA with regard to the ECD, alongside the DSD. The NDA's role and mandate was outlined according to the National Development Agency Act, contributing to the eradication of poverty by implementing development projects in poor communities and strengthening the institutional capacity of other Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) that provide services to poor communities. ECD is one of their current strategic focus areas.

ECD was an integral part of addressing the legacy of apartheid education policies and breaking the poverty cycle. However, only 43% of children were exposed to an ECD programme and there were large disparities across provinces. The majority of the children without access to ECD programmes came from rural areas and poor communities and it was important that they could be reached.

Current NDA interventions included ECD practitioner training, the support of food security, the provision of educational material to strengthen institutional capacity and management skills at ECD sites, and investment of financial resources in capital infrastructure. The ECD campaign aimed to increase levels of ECD resources and programme support, improve the quality of the programmes and increase the number of beneficiaries. ECD awards were used to generate partnerships and increase awareness about its importance. Categories included best ECD centre, best ECD practitioner, best trainer, best training and intervention programme, and best support for those with disabilities. They had already started at a provincial level, and there were plans to have them at national level. The NDA was providing mobile ECD trucks to expand access to communities where there was not an appropriate infrastructure and families might struggle to reach established sites. It allowed the empowerment of women and youth, and gave children from underprivileged backgrounds the emotional, physical, mental and social opportunity for development.

The NDA's specific ECD achievements were outlined in a table in the presentation, according to province.

Presentation on ECD by the South African Local Government Association (SALGA)

Ms Mandu Mallane, Executive Director, SALGA, briefed the Committee on SALGA's relationship with the ECD and their recommendations.

SALGA represented all 278 of South Africa's municipalities, which had a mandate to implement ECD programmes. There was a clear need for strengthening the enabling legal environment obligations regarding support and resources for municipalities, to allow for the effective implementation of ECD services. The proposed recommendations should happen systematically, taking into account the different capacities and limitations of all municipalities. Special attention should be given to those with the greatest need and those who would benefit the most from investment in ECDs.

The first recommendation was a review of amending the Children's Act to create an enforceable legislation obligating provincial MECs to fund ECD services and assist in the fulfilment of local government's functions. Poor municipalities would require provincial support. The Act must make provision for provinces and other stakeholders to provide support and capacity building to municipalities, such as those in poor communities, where access to ECD was compromised. Policies and laws governing basic services were essential for optimising ECD. Water, sanitation, electricity, transport and other services should be reviewed and laws amended to oblige local government to prioritise these for pregnant women and young children. Municipal by-laws, including structural, health and environmental safety requirements should be reviewed and aligned with the norms and standards in the Children's Act. Local governance should be obliged to support non-compliant sites to become compliant.

SALGA had engaged with the Chief Directorates at the DSD regarding the structures for the coordination of ECD services in South Africa. The national interdepartmental committee for ECD, comprising of government departments and agencies, had indicated that they would have at least six meetings per annum. The South African inter-sectoral committee for ECD was comprised of government departments, agencies, international partners, corporate institutions, community-based organisations, NGOs, faith-based organisations, and training and research institutions. It was convened twice a year. As mandated by the social cluster, the DSD was responsible for chairing this committee and ensuring its optimal operation in implementing the NIP for ECD.

SALGA participated within both structures, and there had been a coordinated dialogue to look at the responsibilities of municipalities. Issues include the availability of land for the building of ECD centres, the amount charged for training in emergency plans and in some cases, the cooperation of environmental health practitioners and infrastructure. SALGA and the NDA had agreed to partner in a campaign that they hoped would lead to increased awareness in local government about childcare facilities and children in general, the ability for municipalities to implement effective by-laws, assisting in municipalities intervening in specific centres and increased ECD projects across the provinces.

The Chairperson commented that the lack of an accompanying document to SALGA's presentation was a problem. The Committee wanted documentation seven days prior to the meeting so they could go through it beforehand. In future, SALGA should take note of that.


Ms Zwane asked the DSD about their referral to ECD institutes in two provinces, while in others there were none similar. What was happening there that could motivate other provinces to follow suit? This was a critical issue, because it laid the foundation for further education. What did the Department use as a benchmark? For instance, how did a centre get a bronze, silver or gold assessment? Who were the quality assurers? Who was being trained to ensure children receive quality education? The NDA did not give an indication about ECD structures -- were they being built by the DSD, the NDA or the municipalities? The DSD had maintained that they were not building structures and instead providing other services, but with the policy that had been developed, was the DSD involved in the building of the ECD structures? Was funding for them available? With regard to SALGA, councillors used to have a partnership with the DSD in terms of paying the practitioners inside the structures. The grant was supposed to be used for a variety of things, including the building of ECD centres, grounds, and sports facilities, among other things. If the problem was that the money was lumped together, could the Committee recommend that the NT makes an allocation specifically for ECD centres? This would prevent the grant being used for other things, and ECD centres not being prioritised.

Mr D Stock (ANC, Northern Cape) said ECD was an important issue. There were certain responsibilities for the DSD, but their focus was more on the child that had already been developed past the age of four. This limited their scope, as now the DSD focused on every child. Clarity was needed, as there was a possibility that children up to a certain age were being missed. What was the role of municipalities in social development? In the ECD centres where the DSD were developing or implementing these programmes, they needed to ensure they had the right people, such as ECD practitioners with proper qualifications. If that did not happen, they would continue to see children who were not properly developed at an early age. In relation to their nutrition programme, many children within the centres did not have access to proper nutritional facilities. To what extent was the DSD monitoring to ensure money was being used effectively? There were grants that went out to ensure nutritional facilities were maintained. During oversight the previous week, the Committee had found that money was not always used for its intended purpose. Could the DG respond to these issues?


Mr M Khawula (IFP, Gauteng) commented on the National Integrated Plan. Was it being attended to? How was it being rolled out? As for the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level, is it mandatory or is it optional? It should be compulsory for practitioners to be of a certain level. What is the difference between registered ECD centres and the number of children receiving the subsidy? The figures show KwaZulu-Natal with the highest funding, but when it comes to the number of children receiving the services there is more in Gauteng. Why is this? Do the figures match the number of ECDs?


The Chairperson said asked the DSD to be clearer about what they meant by saying 'as soon as possible'. It suggested they were not sure themselves. The DSD should have specific time frames, so that when the Committee did its oversight they knew what to expect at a given time. The National Development Agency's budget was R90 million, but this seemed enough for only one province, which was why 57% children were not recipients. It was why there was a problem with numeracy and literacy and a widening of the gap between the haves and the have nots. It would take time for poor communities to be accommodated. Where did the DSD have influence? Whatever the budget for ECD, it would not be enough. What were the events and activities involved in the week dedicated to ECD? Perhaps the Committee could engage with stakeholders for inputs that would strengthen the policy. A lot of good work was being done, but the Committee did not see a lot of it because the Cabinet was involved. Regarding SALGA, everyone was saying there was an infrastructure grant. ECD was competing with water and electricity, so the facilities of the surrounding community must be considered when looking at the building of new ECD centres. How much money from the infrastructure grant went to municipalities? It was not necessarily that they did not have the capacity, but their ability to provide basic services needed to be assessed and built upon. SALGA were limited in their representation, but it would be useful to get the thoughts of municipalities directly. What were the targets? Had there been an evaluation on the number of people lifted out of poverty? How long would it take before a presentation could be made to the House regarding the progress of ECD?

Mr Pakade said he would respond first to the Chairperson's summary because it captured the core issues. There had been ongoing debate on these matters and research work had been done. There had been a three-day conference in East London in March 2012 which included a lot of stakeholders, such as commissioners looking at specific issues such as the curriculum and practitioner training. SALGA had been there, along with ministers presenting on local government and their constitutional mandate in terms of basic services like childcare. The Department of Sport had proposed a 15% cap on the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) for sporting activities, so there was an ongoing discussion with the National Treasury (NT), and the DSD had requested that a conditional grant be made available. The question was whether it went to provinces or local government. Previously it would go to the national department or the province, and eventually be given as an equitable share allocation to the relevant sphere. It was important for stakeholders to come together now the policy was drafted, to discuss such issues.

The NDA’s partnership with the DSD was to fix and improve ECD services. A study looking at the state of services, according to provinces, had shown huge disparities. The DSD was in the process of calculating the subsidies given to various centres. A review of the NDA with the NT had led to recommendations as to whether they should take responsibility for training ECD practitioners, and about nutrition. Currently there was a school nutrition programme, but the DSD had identified gaps in access to nutritious food due to a child's economic background. At primary school level, children currently received only one meal a day, but they were looking at increasing it to two.

The issue of the NDA was important. In the current discourse, there was a view that said they should not be supported. ECD was a priority of government, and once it was given to an agency there was always a risk that government might not be close to monitoring and measuring the outcomes. When the policy was rolled out, there were norms and standards which would determine where ECD centres should be built to make sure all children were covered. The DSD was looking now at making sure there was a social worker attached to each centre. There was a view that every school should have social work services.

Ms Davids commented that the ECD institutes in Gauteng and Mpumalanga were attached to the DoE. In Gauteng, it had been a decision taken by the legislator, which looked at the consolidation of norms and standards, finances, programming and training. There was an Act for the ECD institutes in Gauteng, although she could not comment on Mpumalanga. In the feasibility study, they were looking at two models to find the best one. They were benchmarking against the National Early Learning Development Standards (NELDS) which had been developed by the DoE specifically for the developmental stages of children.

The DSD was training up social workers and social auxiliary workers who monitored ECD centres on the programme and curriculum. Their focus had been on the children attending centres but not on those who were at home with little stimulation, which was why the policy was so important. Regarding infrastructure and the role of municipalities, the DSD was working very closely with everyone concerned, but it was a difficult situation.

Every programme with an ECD component would offer nutrition, including the mobile ECD centres and parenting programmes. They were working closely with the Department of Health (DoH) in developing the nutritional aspect. As it currently stood, 50% of the subsidy for ECDs should go towards nutrition. There were complaints from ECD centres that it wa too high. 30% of the money went to organisational development, and 20% was for learning material. This was an educational policy as well as one dealing with social welfare. There were certain matters which were non-negotiables, which had been made clear in the standards, while others were open to development. Basic education was responsible for human resource development and for the training of ECD practitioners. Two-thirds of these practitioners were under qualified, so they were looking at taking them through level 1. The expectation in the Act was that they must be at least a level 4. There were 65 resource training organisations in South Africa, but further education and training (FET) colleges should be the centre of the training in future.

Mr Pakade added that when the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) was extended, it had included ECD through the training and appointment of practitioners so that they could be deployed in various centres, as well as home community-based care, which was the roll out of the social interventions on HIV and AIDs. The social development services were not originally looked upon as a potential area of job creation, but they had turned out to be more sustainable jobs than in other sectors. As the Minister said, as money in the area increased, it would attract more men. However, there were women who had been working in ECD for a long time, and they needed to be retrained and empowered so that they were able to continue their work.

Dr Nhlapo referred to the question about the number of structures that the NDA had supported in terms of infrastructure. There were 39, which ranged from the building of ECDs from scratch, to making improvements in existing centres. The NDA had a monitoring and evaluation system embedded within the organisation that meant all transfers were checked to have been used for the purposes they were intended to. Each project had a development manager that continuously monitored its implementation, ensuring the money was used appropriately.

Ms Mallane said the NT should be very specific when giving out conditional grants, to ensure they were spent correctly. SALGA had nine chairpersons in the provinces who could deal specifically with local communities. They agreed to all of the recommendations made by Members of the Committee.

Adoption of Minutes

Ms Mququ moved the adoption of the minutes of 16 September 2014. Ms Mampuru seconded.

Ms Mququ moved the adoption of the minutes of 14 October 2014. Mr Stock seconded.

The meeting was adjourned.

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