The Department of Basic Education (DBE) and Department of Social Development (DSD) gave a joint briefing on Early Childhood Development (ECD), and although the Department of Health was not present, it was noted that input into the policies had also been given by that department. The nation-wide implementation of the Early Childhood Development programme would mandate inter-departmental collaborations. Apart from the lead three departments named, other departments were responsible for registration of births, housing, social grants and basic services. The programme envisaged the professionalisation of childcare from infancy to school-going age, with particular focus on children with disabilities. The goal was that by 2030, all children would have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they were ready for primary education.
The DBE moved from the starting point of the Children’s Act and South African Schools Act and had proposed that compulsory attendance and admission to schools be reviewed, particularly to drop the age of compulsory school attendance to four or five, to promote better cognitive development by trained professionals at an earlier age. It was noted that there had not to date been sufficient emphasis on children with disabilities, particularly in rural areas, and it was noted that about 2.1 million children (11.2% of the total child population) were identified as having a disability, with around 474 000 living with severe disabilities that could not be remedied by readily-available aids (such as eye-care or hearing aids) and around one in ten had multiple disabilities. They were more likely to be ill, injured, orphaned or experience violence than their non-disabled counterparts, but they faced severe barriers when attempting to access the justice system and basic services. Only around 110 300 learners were attending public schools, and 423 special needs schools took approximately 105 000 learners, with a minority of those getting rehabilitation or assistive devices.
The DSD said that its policy, adopted in December 2015, allocated about R17 billion as an additional Conditional Grant, which was to be implemented in three phases, and the timelines and split of that grant over the short, medium and long-term was described. Another R812 million in the form of a Conditional Grant for ECD, was available from 2017 to 2019 to increase the number of children eligible for subsidies and to improve 400 ECD sites. Local government by laws were being assessed, to see how they impacted on ECD and there were plans to try to rationalise and standardise issues around health, environmental health, child minders and ECD programmes. Much of the work could be picked up through Expanded Public Works Programmes, especially monitoring. The Minister of Higher Education and Training had gazetted a draft policy on minimum requirements for programmes and the SA Qualification Authority had registered the occupational certificate in ECD in February 2016.
Members asked what would be done to ensure that children younger than seven would be required to attend pre-school. .They asked how to ensure safety of learners, the minimum qualifications of teachers, but most were keen that those women who to date had taken it upon themselves to offer childcare should not find themselves out of employment because they lacked qualifications, and recommended that recognition of prior learning should be used. They also asked how many people undergoing formal ECD training in fact stayed in that profession, since it would be better to keep those with a real interest in the profession, and how retention and recruiting strategies would be used. They asked how monitoring would be done, what it was hoped to achieve through standardisation of bylaws and what accommodation requirements for pre-schools and childcare were envisaged. One Committee Member was concerned that the Portfolio Committee on Social Development had not been told of the policy much earlier despite it being presented to the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education. Members asked which departments would be implementing, and what aspects each would cover, and if there was a lead department, and how would monitoring be effective. Members noted the discrepancy between participants current in NQF 4 programmes and the total number of work opportunities, and asked where would the balance of participants be trained. Several Members expressed the need to show more timelines in the document and to explain the fluctuations in data and numbers in each province. They felt that the policy was good in theory but it must be taken through to full effect. The need for properly directed funding was stressed.
Early Childhood Development: Department of Basic Education (DBE) Briefing
Dr Mamiki Maboya, Deputy Director General: Curriculum, Policy, Monitoring and Reporting, Department of Basic Education, noted that the Early Childhood Development (ECD) policy was based on the Children’s Act No 38 of 2005, which was promulgated in April 2010. It regulated the establishment, management and monitoring of ECD services. Children’s Act defines Early Childhood Development as a process of emotional, cognitive, sensory, spiritual, moral, physical, social and communication development of children from birth to school-going age. The parts of the South African Schools Act that was under review were compulsory attendance and admission to schools. ECD implementation required an interdepartmental approach, with the Department of Basic Education (DBE), Department of Social Development (DSD) and the Department of Health (DoH) acting as leading departments, with certain roles specific to departments. For instance, improving quality through practitioner training and curriculum development was the responsibility of DBE, DSD and DoH collectively; but increasing access and improving quality to Grade R was the responsibility of DBE and DSD only. Improve the quality of grade 1-3 education was solely the responsibility of DBE. Currently there were 5.3 million children aged 0-4, of which 43.2% lived in rural and 56.8% resided in urban areas. 71.9% of children aged 0-4 was exposed to some form of early childhood development and 80.4% of children aged 2-4 are exposed to some form of early childhood development.
Specific focus was given to children with disabilities, because almost 2.1 million children (11.2% of the total child population) had a disability. About 474 000 of them were living with severe disabilities, which meant that the kind of aids that would enable them to function in a normal school would not hep them. The prevalence of disability appeared unusually high for young children: 28% of children in the age group 0-4 years and 10% in the age group 5-9 years were classified as having a disability. Disabilities related to sight and hearing were the most common, while approximately one in 10 children with disabilities were reported to have multiple disabilities.
Children with reported disabilities were more likely to be ill or injured, to be orphaned and/or to experience violence, compared to their non-disabled counter-parts, yet they faced several barriers when attempting to access the justice system. According to Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) Community Survey 2007, children with disabilities were less likely to have access to adequate housing, water and sanitation than their non-disabled peers. Currently, approximately 110 300 learners with disabilities were attending ordinary public schools. In addition, 423 special needs schools nationwide were catering for approximately 105 000 learners. One rural study showed that only 42%% of the children with disabilities identified were receiving rehabilitation and only 33% had the assistive devices they required. Some 59% reported that the care-giver did not know how to apply for an assistive device
The inclusion of access to grade R for all learners had improved from 734 654 in 2011 to 813 044 in 2014, across the provinces.
Ms Conny Nxumalo, Deputy Director General: Welfare Services, Department of Social Development, noted that Cabinet had approved of the ECD policy on 9 December 2015 and had allocated about R17 billion as an additional Conditional Grant. This was to be implemented in three phases, short, medium and long-term. The short-term phase was to be done by 2017 and was preparatory work. It would ensure establishment of the necessary legal frameworks, organisational structures and institutional arrangements, planning, financing mechanisms necessary to support and realise its commitments at an estimated cost of R265.6m for one financial year. The medium phase, up to 2024 included making available age and development-stage appropriate essential components of the comprehensive package of quality ECD services, accessible to all infants and young children and their caregivers ,at an estimated cost of R13.8illino over the next seven financial years .The long term plans, which would take up the remaining 47% of budget, of R12.5 billion, was about availability of a full comprehensive age and development stage appropriate package of quality ECD development services, accessible to all infants and young children and their caregivers for 6 financial years.
There were 15 key policy positions that addressed the first 1 000 days of the child
1) Age coverage
2) Recognising that provision of ECD services can be regarded as a public good
3) Universal access
4) Dual Government-regulated Model of Public and Private Delivery of ECD Programmes
5) Institutional Arrangements that pertained largely to NGO and the private sector.
8) Social Security
9) Children with disabilities, including the stimulation services that they require
10) Comprehensive ECD programme
11) Human Resources
13) Communication Strategy
14) Monitoring and Evaluation
An example of the progress to date was that new ECD policy positions had been identified for alignment to the South African Integrated Programme of Action with the ECD Policy. Additionally, National Treasury has allocated R812 million in the form of a Conditional Grant for ECD in 2017/18 (R319 828 000) and 2018/19 (R493 065 000) for increasing the number of children subsided by 100 040 and improve 400 ECD sites by 2018/19. The allocation was an addition to the equitable share to be used to expand the ECD subsidy to poor children as well as assisting to improve the conditionally registered ECD centres to meet basic requirements in order to be fully registered. This is to enable the national Department of Social Development to better control and ring-fence expansion of ECD in the country, in line with the ECD Policy.
The programme for Rapid Assessment of Local Government By-Laws related to a review of by-laws, to make it easier for registration and services of ECD and services to young children in different municipalities. It was hoped that this would influence issues of zoning and re-zoning and allocation of land, and the role of local government would be brought in line to support the provisions of the Children’s Act and National Integrated ECD Policy. The study on eight metros and municipalities conducted in 2015, with support from UNICEF, had found that by-laws varied and were not consistent in quality and areas covered. They had covered health, environmental health, child minders, ECD programmes and of 208 municipalities assessed, all but 9 demonstrated some capacity to implement ECD services. The ECD Policy can strengthen the role of municipalities.
Ms Nxumalo noted that ECD was one of the pioneer programmes of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), as about 28 000 work opportunities were being created through the programme across the nine provinces in the 2016/17 financial year. These were contributed through DSD and DBE. More than 1 800 participants were enrolled in training programmes such ECD NQF level 4 and ECD Diploma. There is collaboration between ECD and CWP in the Eastern Cape as part of the Integrated Wild Coast Development Programme. The EPWP Infrastructure sector will also be providing technical capacity as part of the implementation of the ECD Conditional Grant for infrastructure improvement in DSD. The first draft of the report on the audit of HR capacity in the DSD, DoH and DBE at national and provincial level had been presented. This revealed some human resources difficulties and the Minister of Higher Education and Training had gazetted the Draft Policy on minimum requirements for programmes leading to qualifications in Higher Education for practitioners and educators in Early Childhood Care and Education. Additionally, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) registered the Occupational Certificate: Early Childhood Development Practitioner at Level 4 on 17 February 2016.
DSD summarised that the way forward was now to finalise the Sector Implementation Plan for the National Integrated ECD Policy; finalise a Sector Financing Strategy for ECD in preparation for implementation of the Conditional Grant, and to finalise the Conditional Grant framework with clear steps and timelines. So far the National Curriculum Framework was approved by CEM in 2015 and implemented in 100 ECD registered centers who each received 2 boxes of LEGO materials and were trained on the utilisation of the materials. Seven provinces enrolled 4 533 ECD practitioners towards a Level 4 ECD qualification. Grade R resource packs aligned to CAPS were distributed to Grade R classes in public schools. 3 700 980 Grade R workbooks were delivered to 16 063 schools and 3 860 Grade R teachers had been enrolled to improve their qualifications (1 845 for the Diploma in Grade R and 2 015 for the Bachelor in Education (BEd) courses). More importantly, Cabinet approved the National Integrated ECD Policy on 09 December 2015.
The Chairperson noted that all presentations should mention specific timeframes.
Ms C Majeke (UDM) questioned what would be done to ensure that children younger than the school-going age of seven, would attend compulsory pre-school, as their cognitive development had begun before age seven. She asked what level of safety was assured to children in the programmes and what were the minimum qualifications of the teachers, who were expected to implement the ECD programmes.
Mr H Khosa (ANC) questioned what was being done to ensure proper and formal education for the most vulnerable children in the sector, such as the disabled children, since the majority were taught within informal centres or schools, or were on waiting lists for formal education, yet no period for the waiting was mentioned. Their education and transportation were supported by their disability social grants, whilst the basic livelihood of the home may also be supported by some social grant from the other household members. They could well not attend disability centres that required payment of fees and sustaining those centres in rural areas had proven particularly difficult. He asked what plans were in place to assist learners in the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP). He also asked who exactly was appointed to ensure oversight, efficiency and provide support to the teachers within the programme. He noted that whilst 208 municipalities and eight metros were consulted for research, the most challenges were found in the rural areas, and he thought that any implementation of ECD must start there first.
Ms J Basson (ANC) agreed that focus should be on rural areas and said it was particularly of concern how children aged 0-4 in rural areas could be assisted when such limited resources were available for their welfare. She asked how soon and in what ways the monitoring and evaluation of NGO, fly-by-night organizations and informal childcare would be conducted, since there were many instances of child deaths at the hands of untrained practitioners. The tenth key policy of Comprehensive ECD programme was quite broad with interdepartmental collaboration, and she was concerned at how the departments would avoid overlap and who would be responsible for which essential component – for instance, would the DoH be responsible for the nutrition of pregnant mothers, and if so, how would it be supported by the other departments? She noted the comments and statistics on work opportunities but pointed out that since only 1 800 of those participants were enrolled in training programmes such as the NCD NQF level 4 and ECD Diploma she needed to know how the balance were being trained. She asked if untrained practitioners were more likely to have incidents of child-deaths? Concern was also expressed on the disparity of numbers of the trained practitioners across the provinces, especially for the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Free State.
Ms H Malgas (ANC) noted concern for the professionalisation of ECD and the proposed qualifications of the NQF level 4, saying that in many areas, particularly rural ones, child carers may only hold NQF level 2 qualifications at most, and she asked how they would be trained, particularly the older “gogo”s. An unintended consequence could be that some of those women could prove trainable and others not, in which case they would no longer be employed, after serving the community for so long. She asked how far the Public Health and Social Development Sectoral Bargaining Council had gone, regarding the conditions of services within the relevant schools, and to what extent regular norms and standards would be applicable, Some day care centres were held in garages. She agreed that timelines were needed.
Prof T Msimang (IFP) was concerned how the various stakeholders would share responsibility, and whether one department would coordinate, or whether all would bear joint responsibility. The unprecedented focus on children with disabilities would reveal a backlog in meeting their needs, and children with disabilities were substantially less likely to attend school than their non-disabled peers, and even where they did attend, their drop out rates would probably be higher. Statistically, the percentage of 5-year old children with disabilities attending education institutions in Kwazulu-Natal, for example, was a concern. He cited the figures that in 2009, 80.5% of children with disabilities had attended schools, in 2011 it had decreased to 73.0% and in 2013 approximately only 75.7% attended, but in 2014 an increase to 84.7% was evident. He asked if these fluctuations made it particularly difficult to plan and budget, and how this was managed.
Ms N Mashabela (EFF) queried whether there were sufficient practitioners trained for children with special educational needs, whether adequate infrastructure was in place to accommodate children with special educational needs, and whether teacher and learner support was already evident for children with disabilities, and if not, why not?
Mr D Mnguni (ANC) questioned how the quality of the curriculum would be assured, especially for external and informal centres, and what conditions of employment were prescribed, for those currently employed and for recruitment. He asked if the Department of Basic Education did have a plan to incorporate grade R learners fully into the school system of the relevant schools where programmes were located. Once Grade R learners were acknowledged in the accounting of the schools their presence could bear weight and they could fully benefit from school facilities, for instance, school transportation services. He asked that for the future numbers and percentages should be named.
Ms C Dudley (ACDP) requested clarity on childcare centres and municipal efforts, asking what was new, what was expected, what was left undone and what were the forthcoming challenges. How would training of the mindsets of the informal child carers be addressed? The ECD should improve and not shut down current child care facilities, even if these were in garages or backyards, and the training would need to address the need to improve what was already in existence. In addition, she would not like to see anyone rendered unemployed and pointed out that those child carers who had started their own facilities had mostly shown aptitude for it and were probably more effective than imposing graduates without a passion for the job on the sector. She asked how effectively the ECD opportunities and development course and bursaries were marketed, and commented that if Members knew more about the avenues, they could offer assistance. I
Ms E Wilson (DA) queried why the SA Programme of Action for Early Childhood Development was presented to the Portfolio Committee on Social Development on 20 August 2014, after a presentation of the Economic Performance and Development training by the Department of Education on 11 June 2013, and why the Portfolio Committee on Social Development had not been informed about it in advance, although this was the Committee responsible for oversight over DSD. DSD had said that the ECD was developed after an extensive consultation process with stakeholders in the ECD sector, but she noted that nothing had been mentioned about its phases and implementation before it had been approved by Cabinet, which raised questions on how proper oversight on this was to take place.
Ms R Mashigo (ANC) noted that time consuming aspects are yet to be finalised, as cited in the ‘way forward’ part of the presentation – for example, the Sector Implementation Plan for ECD was to be finalised for implementation of the Conditional Grant by June 2016. She wondered if sector financing had been arranged or was still to be finalised. She was not happy with compulsory registration for childcare facilities, because rural areas may be neglected if there were no deliberate strategy to include them.
Mr P Mabilo (ANC) noted that ECD should be deemed as an investment, because internationally it was proven that successful early childhood development resulted in optimal achievement later in higher education. He felt, however, that access was not highlighted sufficiently, and it should not be assumed that all started from the same point, since in many informal childcare centres children would merely eat and sleep, but not engage with cognitive development. He questioned how equality, attraction and retention of trained practitioners would be assured throughout the ECD centres, and said that retention strategies and monitoring of those who entered training but did not pursue a career in this sector had to be addressed, to ensure that there was a balance. It was possible to attract more people to certain places with material incentives. He also made the point that since the ECD sector did not benefit from school feeding or transportation schemes, it would be necessary to make plans to fully incorporate it.
The Chairperson requested that follow-up on the usage of the additional Conditional Grant be conducted. When the provinces had not used funds from the equitable share, it had been indicated that competence was undermined. She asked for clarity on the infrastructure plans. She also wanted more clarity on the reasons behind the varying access of children to grade R from 2011 to 2014, across the provinces, whether this was due to birth rate fluctuations or other factors. She also questioned the age range of learners in the Grade R to Grade 3 group.
Dr Maboya answered that the National Development Plan had proposed expansion of compulsory school going age to include 4 and 5 year olds. The report cites NQF level 4, but training was not limited to that only, as some training was hands on and so was play-based. The aim was to accommodate all child carers, mothers or grandmothers, irrespective of their literacy level, for training so that no parallel system would co-exist. All those who had been trained would be deemed teachers. All training modules were considered and even the Department of Higher Education and Training was consulted on minimum qualifications that could be given to the practitioners. Centres for children with disabilities in rural areas were meant to accommodate those with serious disabilities, and the numbers were considerably lower compared to children with mild to moderate disabilities who could use aids for normal learning. The exact level of training of the practitioners for the disabled centres could not be cited, because DBE had previously focused on the content of the curriculum. The learning conditions of the disabled learners were known and efforts to better enable them were now being made. The necessary support would be prioritised for children with disabilities in rural areas. The need for time frames had been noted. Co-ordination was emphasized to prevent overlapping. The next inter-departmental meeting would develop business module processes to delegate the delivery amongst the departments to avoid duplication or neglect and promote accountability.
It was further said that a clear framework would be developed to standardise the conditions of services. This was a long-overdue issue. The next presentation will go into indicate progress to date and progress to be made, with clear timeframes. It was uncertain if ECD had already been discussed amongst the Bargaining Council. The NDP had taken cognisance that funding might be a problem, and indicated that innovative funding models that would not depend solely on government grants but also involved business, world donors and others may be needed. The issue of funding was definitely a problem for ECD, because state funding only accommodated children aged 7 and up, because of the wording of the South African Schools Act. Consequently even though ECD centres were known, they were not eligible for funding. Currently grade R learners were allocated 50% of the funding that was allocated for grade 1 learners. Within affluent schools the School Governing Bodies would cover any gaps, but within poorer communities there were no transport and other facilities available for ECD. Therefore the issue of inequality and redress would address the gaps.
Ms Nxumalo answered that when the ECD centres would be registered in future, they would be in three categories - bronze, silver and gold. To acquire any categorisation at all, the ECD had to be health and safety compliant and that would ensure norms and standards. She illustrated what would be needed, such as two exits to the building to meet fire safety regulations, and cooking not allowed close to the children’s sleeping area. Registration was peripheral to safety compliance. ECD was regarded as a measure of protection for the children. The monitoring of each and every centre after the registration was needed, and so EPWP may serve the purpose of having “foot soldiers” to monitor centres individually. 208 out of 278 municipalities were considered when evaluating the differences between urban and rural, but each and every municipality would be consulted in future. NGOs were registered with and funded by DSD, but that Department's overall monitoring had required attention, as well as the monitoring of ECD for compliance.
In regard to the comprehensive package and who and what was responsible for what, it should be noted that the emphasis was on the child’s first 1 000 days or even from pregnancy. It included aspects of immunisation, nutrition, antenatal and post-natal and community health care, all of which were responsibilities of DoH. The implementation of the ECD policy crucially required the assistance of the Department of Health, and they have been co-operative and have attended all key stakeholder meetings. Other elements of the comprehensive package included playgroups, mobile ECDs, toy libraries and centre based ECDs that gave structure. The professionalisation of the sector would ensure that practitioners overseeing children aged 0-4 would be registered with the Social Service Professions Society and be regulated by the Social Service Professions Council, because currently the DBE merely catered for grade R teachers located at schools. The quality and conditions of their services were not at discussion level yet, because the DSD aimed to first get those practitioners acknowledged first. That would follow later. Currently there were 1.5 million children aged 0-4 years that had access to ECD and almost 1 million of them were subsidised, even though this was not specifically mentioned in the presentation, It was about R15 given per child per week day and attendance. However, a balance was required to ensure that all of the provinces did adhere to 264 days of attendance from the learners. The DSD had realised that some municipal by-laws, such as the zoning, were sometimes user-friendly and other times not and so in the final review of the ECD policy implementation would take all municipal by-laws into consideration. Considerations around infrastructure would be population and place-based and would look at, for instance, whether a building or mobile centre or even a converted container could be used for an ECD centre.
The Chairperson queried if the accuracy of the statistics and timelines could be guaranteed by 2017.
Dr Maboya answered that this would be finalised by the end of the financial year.
Ms Wilson asked again why this policy was being presented for implementation before it was even discussed with the Portfolio Committee on Social Development, as this ignored the oversight role of the Committee.
The Chairperson replied that the DBE had communicated the ECD policy to the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, and it was discussed there since it was primarily a policy with an academic nature. However, DSD and DoH were expected to be involved and present and this was the first joint meeting (even though the DoH was unable to be represented) where this was being discussed. Other portfolio committees would have to address it in their own meetings.
Mr Khosa questioned why the social grants for children with disabilities were still being used for transportation, and were unlikely to be used for sanitation and food or to improve learning conditions. Yet normal children received free education. He suggested that disabled children required special attention, yet it seemed that their situation was not taken seriously enough? So many of them could not even have the facilities domestically either and so would arrive at the learning centres without having bathed. It should be our mandate to ensure equality so that proper facilities could bathe the disabled children at the ECD centres.
Dr Maboya clarified that the norms and standards related to allocation of funding differed, whereby the special schools had been allocated more funds than normal public schools. Some children with disabilities were in special schools and others had attended regular ECD centres. It was noted that the area of children with disabilities had previously been neglected and would be granted better focus to address the issue of increasing access. The DBE had noted the comment on presenting numbers instead of percentages only. A retention strategy would be considered, because previous endeavours had shown that once practitioners were qualified they often would leave the profession. She noted that in respect of fluctuating Grade R leaner numbers, a quality analysis would be cited in future, with percentages to interpret the data. Training was to present a blended approach, because online training may not be applicable to those situated in rural areas, but another platform of training would be used. This hoped to address the issue of access, and inclusion of many people as possible was required. In the provinces, it had proven difficult to train practitioners using the skills levy that was allocated to DBE. Hence the training drafted by SETA was used up until now.
The Chairperson queried what exactly would constitute the curriculum for children aged 0-4.
Ms Basson queried what the reason was for the provinces not complying and how it would be addressed. She asked about the criteria to be registered as an ECD practitioner and noted that some graduates had no affiliation with schools at present.
Ms Wilson questioned what was being done to train the elderly ladies who had assumed the responsibility of early childhood development of the children in the communities in rural areas.
Mr Mabilo recommended that the conditions of services were to be finalised and that recognition of prior learning should be used.
Dr Maboya answered that the NCF had been subjected to quality assurance and had passed the tests, and it was itself a framework that set out to establish uniform norms and standards in the ECD implementation. The need to strengthen the monitoring and evaluation systems was acknowledged by both DBE and DSD. The fact that provinces may not be complying with training requirements was linked to the availability of resources. The DBE would oversee the provinces implementing proper training once it became compulsory nationally. There were some provinces that did not even have targets for trainees. The children who were under the care of community “gogos”, as opposed to formal ECD centres, would be dealt with as part of the monitoring because the policy would include a section on home education, although this would apply to those who were of school-going age.
Ms Nxumalo added that the financing strategy for children with disabilities included accommodating their needs and not just their attendance, which was where the current financing modules of DSD were falling short. Capacity had taken into consideration across the various types of ECD. Not every informal ECD was a home school, but could have up to seven children in it. Even for the parental care givers, it would be important to add capacity, to ensure quality stimulation for the children, even outside of day-care hours.
The Chairperson concluded that the policy was good, but it was essential that funding was given to meet the needs and that the pursuit of ECD must continue, unlike some other endeavours that had started well but never really achieved change.
Ms Malgas commended the interdepartmental approach, as opposed to a silo approach and requested further joint meetings to fully implement ECD, with the DoH and Department of Human Settlements.
The meeting was adjourned.