ECD migration from DSD to DBE; Tracking progress in ECD service delivery: NGO briefing

Basic Education

03 March 2020
Chairperson: Ms B Mbinqo-Gigaba (ANC); Mr M Gungubele (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The joint meeting of the Portfolio Committees on Basic Education and Social Development heard a progress report from the Departments of Basic Education (DBE) and Social Development (DSD) on the migration of Early Childhood Development (ECD) from DSD to DBE.

All parties acknowledged the importance of ECD as the starting block for a child’s future and an opportunity to bridge the inequality gap in South Africa. The joint presentation by DBE and DSD discussed the present state of ECD and how the migration should be started. DBE acknowledged the problem of collecting reliable data for planning and funding norms. The presidential and premier proclamations must still be signed to give a legal mandate to the transition. Innovation Edge and Ilifa Labantwana emphasised the importance of ECD and its benefits.

Members had concerns about infrastructure, funding, lack of accurate statistics, human resources, the qualifications of ECD practitioners and the need for quarterly reports to monitor DBE progress. The Chairperson suggested that a Committee recommendation needs to be made that a report must be submitted to Treasury stating that a R15 subsidy per child is too little. A workshop was proposed to further the matter with all relevant stakeholders.

Meeting report

Early Childhood Development (ECD) migration from DSD to DBE
Dr Janeli Kotze, Department of Basic Education Researcher, stated that ECD is defined as cognitive, emotional, physical, mental, communication, social and spiritual development of children. ECD plays a critical role in preparing a child to thrive in primary and secondary school. ECD can be grouped into three age-groups: Conception to 2 years (first 1000 days), children aged 3 to 5 years - Stronger Early Learning focus; and Grade R – Entrance to formal schooling.

Access to Early Learning Programmes (ELP) has increased over the past 10 years with 69% of 4 year olds attending an ELP in 2018. There are some major concerns around this data according to DBE and DSD. It is currently not known how many unregistered centres there really are. This makes planning the expansion of Early Learning Programmes problematic.

Grade R will be made compulsory by 2022 in terms of the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill currently being finalised and consulted on. Grade RR will be declared compulsory in 2030. In schools, following the Grade R roll-out, a conditional grant will be used. There needs to be access to the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP), Integrated School Health, and Transport. There needs to be curriculum implementation support.

Registered centres are currently funded through the DSD subsidy at R15 per child for 264 days (means tested). There is a need to get the same funding as Grade RR in schools. Currently there is no reliable data on the number of learners in Grade RR as the majority of RR learners are in ECD centres. It does not mean that ALL 0 – 5 year olds will be going to schools. The hybrid model of using both schools and ECD centres as sites for Grade R will continue and younger children will remain in ELPs.

The migration of ECD does not mean that the DBE will employ all ECD practitioners. ECD provision is largely through non-governmental and private sectors, who will remain the employers notwithstanding the shift from the DSD to DBE. It does not mean that suddenly the funding for ECD programmes (birth to 4 years) will increase overnight.

The current funding model will continue in line with the available budgets. However, work is being initiated in line with the NDP and National Integrated ECD Policy to review funding norms and standards. It does not mean that infrastructure will change or be expanded immediately. Infrastructure in ECD provision will be addressed as part of a longer term plan and in line with the accepted standards and the provisions of current policies. It does not mean that the current ECD service provision and, where applicable funding, will be abruptly stopped. The departments involved in developing a detailed plan for government will ensure that shift of functions happens smoothly with the minimum, if any, disruption in service delivery. It does not mean that ECD practitioners will become educators. In accordance with the provisions of current legislation, the requirements of the South African Council for Educators (SACE) and other policies, ECD educators need to have met at least the minimum professional and academic requirements to move from ECD practitioner to an ECD educator.

A legal mandate is required for DBE to receive and deliver the ECD function. DBE sought the opinion of the Office of the Chief State Law Advisor (OCSLA) which recommended two proclamations that pertain to Chapter 5 and 6 of the Children’s Act: Proclamation for Ministers (Presidential proclamation) and Proclamations for MECs (Premier proclamation). The proclamations have been translated into various South African languages. A Memorandum of Agreement for transitional arrangements between DBE and DSD has been drafted. The next step is for the President to sign the proclamations. The ECD sector needs strong leadership and coordination. Once the proclamations have been signed, the Minister of Basic Education will convene the Inter Ministerial Committee (IMC) on ECD and clarify the roles and responsibilities of the various departments. DBE will lead on developing an Integrated National Strategy. The Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) will assist in ensuring accountability in delivery of services as specified in Integrated National Strategy.

Tracking progress in ECD service delivery: Innovation Edge and Ilifa Labantwana
Ms Sonja Giese, Innovation Edge founding director representing the sister NGOs, stated that 50% of learners that start school do not reach Grade 12. She emphasised the need to place greater importance on the kinds of skills children are entering the schooling system with.

She summarised the ECD essential package of services for children aged 0-6 and discussed the use of Early Learning Outcomes Measure (ELOM). Research found that children with higher height-for-age scores (healthier and less likely to be malnourished) performed significantly better on all ELOM domains and total score. Greater socio-emotional wellbeing in children is associated with better learning outcomes. Children who feel safe and are protected from toxic levels of stress do better. Children with access to two or more years of a high quality early learning programme perform better on the ELOM. Higher programme exposure is associated with significantly better performance. Importantly, the benefits are most pronounced for poorer children. This is consistent with international research. Children with greater learning resources at home performed significantly better on two developmental domains – cognitive and executive functioning and visual motor integration and fine motor coordination. Children who have access to this essential package of services and support are more likely to start school ON TRACK, with all the associated benefits

Ms Giese discussed whether South Africa was meeting the standards of the Early Learning Outcome Measure on a “good, fair or poor scale.” In terms of maternal and child health services, South Africa was rated good. Social services was rated fair. Nutritional support, support for primary caregivers and stimulation for early learning was rated poor.

She noted the breakdown of the R75 billion spent on ECD in 2018. Given what we know about early brain development, this is not enough to power better educational outcomes and build much needed human capital. Inadequate funding makes access to early learning opportunities prohibitively expensive for the poorest households.

Ms Giese stated that 31% of children under two years of age in SA are stunted due to chronic malnutrition. Less than half of all children aged 4-6 years in SA are on track in key areas of cognitive development and poorest children are most at risk. The ECD effort needs to be strengthened, and the DSD to DBE migration poses a good opportunity to do so. She suggested that there needs to be a well capacitated ‘hub’ to lead and coordinate, with the necessary authority. There needs to be more and smarter financing. Underpinning the ECD programme, there needs to be better routine and surveillance data systems and tools to ensure access for all children to quality services.

Mr P Moroatshehla (ANC) stated that this transition from the Department of Social Development (DSD) to the Department of Basic Education (DBE) will be a major challenge. He questioned the state of the infrastructure at the centres since the learners will remain at the centres. He asked what plans the departments had to make the necessary improvements to improve the infrastructure of the centres if needed.

He questioned ECD monitoring, supervision and control and wanted to know how DBE will carry this out. He said that the normal DBE monitors may not have transport to access these ECD centres.

He stated that transport, already a challenge to Basic Education, will be a challenge for ECD learners. He asked how this will be addressed.

Lastly, he suggested that the ECD practitioners be upgraded to National Qualifications Framework (NQF) standards, that is, must have a matric qualification. Systems must be put in place to handle ECD practitioners that fail to reach that standard.

Mr T Malatji (ANC) stated the importance of this task as ECD affects all levels of a child’s schooling career, both primary and secondary school. The performance in this sector is directly linked to manmade inequalities and needs to be addressed. This will be a recurring issue unless this gap is closed.

He questioned the quality of labour in these ECD centres and if these ECD practitioners are able to identify learners with disabilities. These young learners at this stage are very vulnerable and need to be handled with care. He suggested there is a need for private partnerships as DBE is not able to manage this initiative.

Mr Malatji said that unregistered centres should be supported by DBE in order to manage the probable influx of learners. He voiced a concern that DBE will not be able to properly manage and facilitate ECD, due to the fact that DBE is already at over capacity.

Ms D Ngwenya (EFF) said ECD is a chance to create an equal opportunity and to right the wrongs of the past for the children of South Africa. She made reference to slides 37 and 38 of Innovation Edge’s presentation. She raised a concern that this migration is to happen in 2022, yet there are items that have not been addressed such as infrastructure and the quality of the practitioner. Infrastructure has already been addressed by other Members. She discussed the quality of the practitioners and the fact that they are not educators. Their qualifications need to be looked into. She had hoped that the curriculum would have been discussed. This curriculum should be used to bridge the inequality gap as the curriculum offered to those in the townships is very different to the curriculum in the elite areas.

Ms N Shabalala (ANC) appreciated both presentations and commented on the difficulties of the transition. She questioned whether DBE is ready for this type of infrastructure considering that ECD classrooms would be a special type of classroom. She asked if this would be available in rural areas. She asked if the relevant unions have been consulted on human resources.

Ms A Abrahams (DA) stated that there was no mention of the Foundation Phase (Grade R - 3) programme and wanted to know if this had been incorporated into the Foundation Phase. There was no slide on the budget and she asked if there would be ECD infrastructure subsidies, as this will affect compliance issues.

Ms Abrahams asked if those that work for the ECD Unit in Social Development will be transferred to Basic Education. She raised a concern that some parents are not able to afford Grade RR and R. Considering this programme will be made compulsory, she asked if children will be barred from entering Grade 1 if they have not completed Grade R or Grade RR, even if the parent cannot afford it. She asked if the decision to hold back a child will be made by the ECD trainer and not the parent.

Ms J Manganye (ANC) appreciated both presentations, especially Innovation Edge’s as it painted the reality on the ground. To see progress, government must support the ECD centres in the rural areas. This will close the gap.

Dr S Thembekayo (EFF) stated that NGOs, particularly those already involved in this initiative, can be used to get reliable data. She questioned why unregistered centres are still in operation. She stated her concern for the lack of special schools for children with autism in certain areas.

Ms B Masango (DA) voiced her concern about the lack of data especially since ECD affects a large number of South Africans. This transition planning is being done in the dark since there is no data.

She questioned the success of these centres, in that the centres may be available but there is no actual teaching taking place.

Ms Masango asked what the point of this planning process is if there is no legal mandate or Presidential Proclamation yet.

Ms D Van Der Walt (DA) said that although she appreciated the presentations and the need for the transition, she believes the initiative is set up to fail. Surveys and audits still need to be done. Several civil society stakeholders have said the EDC initiative will need at least 10 000 classrooms. She questioned how this will be achieved considering the current problems DBE is facing such as budget cuts, problems in the rural areas and the overall implementation of the project.

Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi (DA) voiced her concern that this is not an ECD transition but rather DBE being included in the chaos DSD is in. She asked what the transition seeks to achieve and what the roles and responsibilities are in the transition. ECD should be moved in its entirety to DBE. She requested the budget.

Ms N Jonas (ANC) made a suggestion that the Committee receive a quarterly report so it is aware of the progress made by DBE. She support the statements by Mr Malatji about addressing inequality. This migration is an advantage as supporting children from an early age will be highly beneficial for the youth and government.

Ms N Mashabela (EFF) asked what the cost of the ECD migration from DSD to DBE will be. She requested a breakdown of this cost to know where taxpayers' money will go.

Ms B Mbinqo-Gigaba (ANC), Basic Education Portfolio Committee Chairperson, remarked that there are not any accurate statistics available. She questioned how DBE will account for every child without this information. She gave the example the contradiction between the DBE and the Innovation/Ilifa Labantwana presentations. DBE said 69% of children aged 4 are attending an early learning programme (ELP). The other presentation said 69% of children aged 2 to 5 are not attending an ELP. R15 per child is too little. A Committee recommendation needs to be made that a report must be submitted to Treasury as R15 per child is too little.

The Chair raised concern that the Innovation/Ilifa Labantwana presentation used a white, boy child picture. This plan must be inclusive and it must come across that this initiative is for all children.

The Chair stated that 740 000 children, aged 0 to 2, are unaccounted for and are not in the system. The departments need to take into account that many of these children are being cared for by unqualified carers such as grandmothers. She also noted that disabled children are not accounted for. There are no crèches available that cater for children with disabilities. This needs to be factored in to this migration.

Mr M Gungubele (ANC), Social Development Portfolio Committee Chairperson, mentioned the Health Department’s NHI clinic and the crèche programmes developed. It will be useful to look into the ECD programme infrastructure to aid this migration and EDC as a whole. He stated the importance of qualified teachers to implement EDC.

He voiced a concern about the 2022 launch year of the ECD in DBE. He questioned if DBE is ready to take on ECD. This foundational level of a child’s life is incredibly important in that it sets up their outlook for the rest of their life – thus the importance of this initiative. He requested that in the next session the Committees be provided with timelines and the state of readiness

DSD Acting Director-General, Mr Mzolisi Toni, replied that both departments will take these recommendations seriously. They need to move together with the Committee. He suggested that there needs to be a session to break down these items before the quarterly reports.

Dr Mamiki Maboya, DBE Deputy Director General: Curriculum Policy, Support and Monitoring, stated that there is a need for a workshop to understand the issues raised.

Mr Gungubele once again stated the need for defining the state of migration readiness and a timeline.

Ms Van Der Walt raised a point of order on the need for a workshop. She said they need to consult National Treasury to establish from where the money will come and how much it will be.

Mr Gungubele disagreed with Ms Van Der Walt as he believed that a concrete plan needs to be in place before the need for the actual costing of the programme.

Dr Thembekayo raised a concern that her practical questions on unregistered centres had not been responded to. She said that people were relying on an answer. It cannot wait until the workshop.

Mr Gungubele replied that the DSD and DBE representatives should respond to her queries privately.

The joint meeting was closed and the Social Development Portfolio Committee left.

The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education then considered several Committee Reports.

Committee Reports
The Committee went through the following Committee Reports and adopted them.
- Committee Reports on SAHRC Report on Hearing on Status of Mental Health Care in South Africa
- Committee Report on attending 20th National Teaching Awards
- Committee Report on SAHRC Report on Schools for Children with Disabilities in South Africa

Meeting adjourned.

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