ECD Migration from DSD to DBE: progress report with Ministers

Basic Education

16 March 2021
Chairperson: Ms B Mbinqo-Gigaba (ANC); Mr M Gungubele (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

With both Ministers present, a joint virtual technical progress report was given of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) Programme migration from the Department of Social Development (DSD) to the Department of Basic Education (DBE) that requires all nine provinces to be on board and compliant with the function shifts as well as the transfer of staff and funds. The creation of governance structures and project management teams were assisting with these shifts. The initial 1 April 2020 timeline had been revised to 1 April 2021 and the reasons for this were explained. The report included updates on legislation, contracts, proclamations, new DBE functions, human resources and labour relations, ECD financing and budgets, and moveable and immoveable asset. They detailed the importance of data, information, monitoring and evaluation,and  DBE scheduled actions for ECD implementation strategies.

Members from both Portfolio Committees generally accepted the progress report but emphasised the importance of finalising the ECD migration. The DSD legacy had to be utilised and the ECD under DBE had to reflect that the transition was beneficial. There were requests for more explanation on the specific technicalities of implementation. Members wanted more details about policy elements, provincial collaboration and gazetting of proclamations. They asked about the specific challenges of social workers and how they will be protected against the impact of these labour shifts and if there are plans to employ the many unemployed social workers. The large number of non-registered ECD centres was raised as well as infrastructure funding and employment of those working at non-registered ECD centres. Concerns were raised about the DBE budget; timelines for provinces to all be on a par with compliance, and the substantive matter of DBE ECD programming. Members wanted to know how realistic the new deadline is. Members recommended using political integration to speed up the prolonged process. Both Ministers spoke about the close collaboration and commitment on both departments. They promised to share the Government Technical Advisory Centre (GTAC) Readiness Report and hold a joint workshop.

Meeting report

Chairperson Mbinqo-Gigaba (ANC) welcomed the Ministers and Deputy Minister and Portfolio Committee on Social Development and its Chairperson. The Chairperson asked the Minister Motshekga to give a political overview.

Ms N Mashabela (EFF) interrupted the Minister introducing herself to correct the Chairperson's phrasing saying that no political overview should be made since this was not an ANC meeting; it was introductory remarks. She proceeded to ask the Minister how she was.

The Chairperson asked Ms Mashabela to wait until the end of the meeting but Ms Mashabela continued to talk over the Chairperson.

Mr P Moroatshehla (ANC) said that Ms Mashabela was out of order, which she disagreed with.

The Chairperson asked the Committee secretary to mute Ms Mashabela. She said the debate was unnecessary because a political overview and an introductory remarks are similar. She called on Minister Motshekga to finish her remarks.

Minister of Basic Education’s remarks
Minister Angie Motshekga thanked the Chairperson and acknowledged the parliamentary leadership. She excused Minister Zulu, who was struggling with connectivity and would join the meeting later. She and Minister Zulu have been meeting at a political level in an attempt to bring the departments together and finalise the migration process. Their departments can also report that they have worked together on many different levels. It has been a slow start, but DBE and DSD are now ready to go. The departments had to establish a technical and legal process before beginning the work. The technical process was delayed as it depended not only on their departments but also on other stakeholders and key players. The technical and legal processes were necessary for them to formally talk about the transfer. 

Minister Zulu and she have been meeting and their reports are informed by the collaboration between DBE and DSD. The departments have done work at a quality and substantive level. The two Ministers have visited sites to familiarise themselves with the contexts they are dealing with. They have ensured that they have a formal and common understanding about the integration, because ECD needs DSD at its side throughout the migration.

However, many other factors are also involved. Provinces, municipalities, Health Services, Home Affairs and Correctional Services also have a role in the work. This is why it took some time to work out the migration plan. She hopes at some stage they will be invited to give a report on the substantive issues they are dealing with. For the presentation, both departments have worked together on a joint status report. The report focuses on updating the Portfolio Committee on the migration and function shift progress.

Early Childhood Development (ECD) migration from DSD to DBE
Mr Linton Mchunu, DSD Acting Director-General, and Ms Janeli Kotze, DBE Deputy Director of Research Coordination, Monitoring and Evaluation, presented. The presentation dealt largely with the technical elements of the migration. It does not focus on policy, curriculum or the impact on practitioners and educators. It also does not go into detail about the synergies of the human resource process.

At the heart of the migration is the development of children, which is achieved through access to quality education within early childhood. The ECD function shift to DBE is an ongoing process and much work is being done.

Mr Mchunu highlighted the context of the ECD migration strategy such as the Sustainable Development Goals, AU 2063 Agenda, National Development Plan and Basic Education Sector Plan. The ECD migration programme comes from the ruling party’s policies and election manifesto.

In the President’s State of the Nation address in 2919, a commitment was made to migrate ECD by March 2021. However, this deadline unfortunately cannot be met for a number of reasons. Social work cuts across a number of areas, such as ECD, GBV, family matters, substance abuse and more. It is difficult to pinpoint the social workers who are solely responsible for ECD.

There are also complexities around diversions through the spheres of government which the ECD programme operates from, such as the municipalities and provincial governments. This is resolved with seven inter-departmental and inter-provincial project management teams who meet weekly.  DSD commissioned a diagnostic report on the ECD sector which indicates high-level areas to be considered. Another critical area causing the delay was the timeframe for the proclamation.

The proclamation was based on Chapter 5 and 6 of the Children’s Act and its amendments. From there, new DBE functions were adopted at provincial and national level. These function shifts required legislation and contracts which are scheduled for completion in 2021. Although progress was made nationally, not all provinces managed to complete National Treasury’s tasked set for September 2020. ECD Migration timelines had to be reviewed. Implementation is now set for April 2022.

Another critical area is human resource management and labour relations. As affected staff members move posts between faculties, consultation must be held within departmental bargaining chambers. These requests for staff movements and consultation processes to begin have not yet been submitted to provincial chambers, because they are awaiting National Council mandates.

Another matter is that DSD missed the budget deadline in 2020. The budget deadline must be concluded by September 2021 otherwise DSD will not be able to transfer the funds for the ECD programme. But once the proclamations are finalised and signed, these processes will begin to unfold. The proclamation lays the foundation for the bulk of the work to proceed.

Mr Mchunu said that DSD received  the proclamation back from the State Chief Legal Advisor the night before. DSD will be processing it in the coming week. The President will then sign off on this. He hoped that this will be done by month-end. He reiterated the commitment to the April 2022 implementation deadline. Both Ministers have requested that the Directors General report to them on a monthly basis. In turn, the DGs have their task teams report to them monthly. The DGs have also met with DSD and DBE provincial heads of department and nationally to deal with migration and staff movements.

Ms Isabella Sekawana, DSD Chief Director: ECD & Partial Care (ECDPC), re-emphasised the importance of early childhood, and the crucial role this stage plays in an individual. Government has prioritised this programme. Crucial institutional arrangements which drive the migration include the inter-departmental management team. At provincial and national level, the DGs also meet with the heads of the technical teams biweekly. She described the four types of Early ECD care and the partial care facilities which require registration with ECD centres [network connection lost].   

Ms Simone Geyer, DBE Deputy Director General: Planning and Monitoring, took over and spoke about the work teams established to ensure that timeframes are met. The legal work team was most important to ensure that the proclamations are ready. She described the progress in the work on human resources and labour relations which are on track according to the reviewed timelines. She drew attention to the upcoming steps of the migration: Finance and budgets; Moveable and immoveable assets; Data information; Monitoring and evaluation; Implementation; Communication and stakeholders.

The function shift is based around the budget cycle, which the new timeline follows. The main challenge is to validate these processes in all nine provinces. It is crucial that all provinces align their function shift to the budget cycle. This was missed previously and the migration was postponed. DBE will have everything ready by June 2021, to start implementing in July and transferring by September. They are confident in their deadlines and have made good progress.

Ms A Abrahams (DA) asked for the policy documents so that the Portfolio Committee can consider the state of the actual technical migration. How critical will the technical challenges be and how can DBE realistically overcome these? When will another meeting be scheduled so that these details can be considered?

Much of the presentation was on development principles. What are the principles going forward? In the presentation last year, a Government Technical Advisory Centre (GTAC) report was supposed to be done by March 2021. Is this report ready for the Portfolio Committee to receive?

Has the transfer process of Social Development employees begun? In this large migration, is there room to employ unemployed social workers?

If someone is responsible for the registration and deregistration programme, then where would the liabilities of ECD fall? Would it be with DSD or would liabilities and risks move to DBE as well?

Ms M Sukers (ACDP) asked what the overall criteria are for the success of the ECD migration? Can the DG lay these out for the Committee because the ECD migration will disrupt the sector.

On the stakeholder engagement strategy and the critical labour relations - particularly amongst parents, owners and communities - can the DG indicate the way forward with the strategy that was completed on 5 February 2021? Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operate the ECD programmes, which are subsidised by DSD. The majority of the buildings are not shown in the presentation. Will it be possible for NGOs to access funds for upgrades?

There was discussion that the Socio-Economic Impact Assessment of this major migration project. will be provided to both Committees. When can they expect to receive this evaluation?

What are the timelines for the drafting of the revised ECD programme and its amendments?

How many social workers will be incorporated into the ECD programme? In the Minister's Reply to Questions last week there were said to be 9000 unemployed social workers with 3000 of them employed on contract. Can DBE indicate how many social workers will be incorporated?

Ms L Arries (EFF) asked about the unregistered ECD centres and how they will be accommodated in this process. What plans will they enforce to ensure that ECD centres and workers are registered? The ECD programme play an important role in child development. What is the plan to ensure that each South African municipal ward has an ECD centre?

How can DBE ensure that every ECD worker is aware of this migration? Can it state the number of ECD workers who will move over to DBE? Will ECD centres and workers currently registered as non-profit organisations (NPOs) form part of the South African Schools Act?

Dr S Thembekwayo (EFF) referred to the staff registration process. There are challenges for the consultation process in the labour relations bargaining chambers. The consultation process applications are not yet submitted to the provinces. How will this challenge affect the ECD line function and the set dates? If there are provinces that do not submit the required information, then it will impact the timeline.

Certain advanced provinces, such as Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KZN and North West, have not yet submitted requests for consultation processes to their provincial chambers. They are still awaiting a national council mandate. This is a challenge which will ultimately delay the process. How will DBE ensure that all provinces submit these requests during the correct time periods? There are some advanced provinces and some lagging behind. It will be better if the provinces are on par. This way, when DBE takes over, it will have a complete package, without holes. How can DBE allow parity to exist within the provinces?

Mr D Stock (ANC) appreciated the informative and detailed presentation and the level of commitment from both Ministers who are driving the process. However, some items are lacking information. The presentation does not give detail about the migration technical outlook. Soon Parliament will be in recess, so he proposed a joint Portfolio Committee workshop. This will help Members understand the process model, the policies, and the number of people affected. It will also clarify how many social workers will move to DBE. A workshop will be an opportunity to focus on the logistics and details of the migration.

Mr P Moroatshehla (ANC) said the presentation was well-articulated. The indicators signal all systems are go. This is a move in the right direction for the transformation of education. The ECD migration to the mainstream education system is long overdue. Everyone must have the same mentorship in education. The departments must bring their heads together to work out these challenges, so the Committees can make a more meaningful contribution. DBE and DSD have shown their plans, but it is another thing to put these plans into action.

Implementation was meant to happen in April 2021. The presentation shows that this could not be done and the date has shifted to April 2022. This directly indicates there are more challenges than anticipated. Some of the challenges emanate from budgetary constraints. DSD had indicated the level of readiness for DBE to receive this function. He asked the two departments to dig deeper than that and identify all the challenges. It should not be DBE’s baby alone, but the responsibility of both. The Portfolio Committees should work on the same path. They should be answerable to any questions when they go to oversight activities.

He noted that Dr Thembekwayo had touched on keeping the nine provinces on par so implementation can be achieved with everyone on board.  This is a serious challenge. South Africa is a unitary state. There is no way that DBE can implement this in a solitary fashion. The process must be implemented centrally, and all nine provinces are needed. There must be standard performance.

Mr Moroatshehla wanted an agreement about a future workshop to alleviate any further impediments.  He asked for a department response about a workshop so the Portfolio Committees can be sure of the process going forward, and know if implementation is actually possible. He does not want 2022 to come around and for DBE to say it is not ready.

Ms N Adoons (ANC) agreed about the need for a workshop to keep everyone on par with the function shift of the migration. Members have raised many points which were not covered in detail in the presentation. For Members of Parliament to fully understand the migration, there must be a deeper understanding and update. The workshop should not occur later than Quarter 2 after the parliamentary recess.

Ms N Mashabela (EFF) thanked the Chairperson for unmuting her, and welcomed Minister Motshekga after ‘disappearing’.

Mr P Moroatshehla complained that this was rude.

Ms Mashabela stated that in the ECD transition from DSD to DBE, the administrative capacity developed over the past years should not be lost. The ECD work done by DSD has enabled the creation of thousands of ECD centres. DSD ensured they are funded properly and available to assist children under five who need special care. How will DBE ensure that these functions are still provided to all? Children with special education needs were not included in this presentation. Does DBE have sufficient trained practitioners and infrastructure for these children?

Minister of Basic Education response
Minister Angie Motshekga appreciated Members' important questions about the complicated nature of the move, NGO registration, employment and other technicalities.  She gave an example of the difficulties. For instance, as part of the road shows taken with Minister Zulu before lockdown, the Ministers went to Diepsloot. There were a lot of independent ECD members there. DSD could only register 15 employees on the basis of the criteria sent by DBE. More than 100 came there expecting to be registered, which was not possible. Ms Sukers had also questioned this. Can they give money to the NGOs who hope to be registered? Is DBE able to register all of them?

There is a community expectation which must be addressed. In different parts of Katlehong, more than 300 ECD centres communicated that they expect to receive money for their infrastructure and to register their employees for medical aid.  All of those things require attention. Minister Motshekga and Minister Zulu and other officials are attending to this.

It is an occupied space which needs integration and synergy. And not lose all the investment. There is a lot of investment that councils and individuals have made in this area. There is a lot of information from these road shows on the real experiences of those running the ECD centres which is necessary to consider. Members are correct in saying that the centres provide many job opportunities.

The Committee is correct  about the important past work DSD has done. It must rely greatly on DSD, and both departments must work together to create the new programme which will change children’s lives. Members are correct to say what is the shape and character of the new ECD programme? The Portfolio Committees should not just be exchanging checks about DSD’s planned migration. The 300 NGOs at Katlehong are not going to be paid. New registration criteria are going to come in the shape and character of the new ECD programme. This must be done without throwing away the good work which has already happened. The DSD's investments in NGOs need to be preserved and looked after.

The Ministers are sensitive towards the most vulnerable people in the community. There must be patience, because this is a fragile constituency. Any movement must be taken carefully so as not to disadvantage anybody. In the meantime, both departments must be able to provide service to children in townships. What can be done differently?

Minister Motshkega agreed that a workshop will allow idea-sharing. She liked that the Members represented different parties and constituencies who can share their experiences and ideas for a comprehensive, integrated ECD programme. The big question is what is the shape and size of the new ECD programme? She recognises that there is a plan to enhance the work being done by DSD, but there is no point if the work is not different or better. It must not take away from what people have, but add to it. She is looking forward to deeper engagement and building a new programme. However, these vulnerable spaces must not be disrupted.

Social Development Minister response
Minister Lindiwe Zulu thanked Members and Minister Motshkega for the contributions. She promised that there is a deal to move the process forward. In response to the concerns raised, there will have to be closer coordination with the Members of Executive Councils (MECs). There should be a workshop which discusses the provinces that are lagging behind.

On Ms Abrahams’ request for a detailed plan, Minister Zulu replied that in her meetings with Minister Motshekga, they have discussed the importance of monthly progress reports which they can monitor. They have made presentations to the Portfolio Committees. It can be said that DBE is moving faster. The technical issues are the most difficult. However, their actions are to improve circulation and create a conducive government for the ECD programme. There should not be a distinction between children growing up in affluent places and those growing up in poverty. There are ECD centres and the programmes are being properly managed but their position in affluent locations should not be taken for granted. There is much being done for their functioning. DBE is moving from a snail pace to a faster pace, while taking into consideration all challenges.

DBE response
Ms Sekawana thanked Members for their questions and recommendations. DBE will send the comprehensive diagnostic report to Members. It is conclusive and informative about the process moving forward. The establishment of the technical teams they have put in place were informed by this report which was instrumental for the migration.

The employment of social workers is not only the responsibility of DSD but of the whole sector. However, DBE still needs to engage with National Treasury. When looking at the budget, the compensation of employees is being cut. This deserves special attention. There is agreement that the institutions must be agile. There must be political integration. This is an issue that will be elevated to the two Ministers to better understand the best way to protect social workers in the process when moving social workers from DSD to DBE,

With regards to stakeholder engagement,  it is not only about DBE’s needs. This special sector requires clear communication so that everyone is on par when migrating.  Chairperson Gungubele should cover the Social Development matters.

DSD response
Mr Mchunu responded that the GTAC readiness report was concluded at the end of 2020 and will be made available to inform them of the work done. The liability and risk concerns has fallen onto DSD until the official migration happens. When the migration is underway, access to funding and upgrades will be transferred to DBE with the initial grants.

We aim to register ECD registration centres across the country. There is a good uptake on this programme. Approximately 4000 ECD centres went through the first phase. Now the grand process of registration is unfolding. He thanked the Nelson Mandela Foundation, UNICEF and other partners for their support in this project.

Answering Ms Sukers, he said that there are many ways to gauge the success criteria. One of the ways to recognise significant progress is when the budget is reinvested from DSD to DBE. Another indicator is when the necessary staff with expertise move over. DBE wants to avoid disruption whilst the handover is in place. DBE is holding hands with DSD for this reason. Stakeholder engagement happens regularly, as seen in the inter-sectoral forums with government and NGOs. These forums encourage strong project management, monitoring and evaluation of plans.

The critical point of this is to finalise the service delivery model which DBE will implement through ECD programmes to ensure good child development. This is aligned to the bigger vision of improving quality ECD services. This is futuristic and very important, and there are four elements to consider. The first is improvement of infrastructure, particularly in rural and peri-urban areas. The second is enhancing curriculum quality from a base-level all the way to primary education. The third is enhancing funding and support, which is being done through channels and other international organisations to ensure ECD infrastructure is up to standard. Partnerships lead to financing. These are the high-level areas which the DG believes to be important. The fourth element is partnerships with inter-sectoral forums which are important for the work.

DBE Director General response
Mr Mathanzima Mweli, DBE Director General, highlighted the need to move with speed. A workshop is a brilliant idea. The progress on the function shifts was brought to this  meeting, but more detail is needed. Every detail of the function shifts such as model shape and size and technical migration, are important. There must be synergy between ECD and other schooling. This must be fleshed out. Both Ministers have spent time finalising the content of the model. Every detail must be ready to be considered at the workshop and responses given to Ms Abrahams and Ms Sukers on the relative challenges and details of the function shifts.

The major issue was to sort out the proclamation at national and provincial level. Now that Mr Mchunu has received this proclamation from the state law advisors, there is even more pressure to move faster. The President issuing  the proclamation for national departments will now require us to fall in place and inform the provisional ECD model for this proclamation.

Mr Mweli replied that DSD has been involved in the consultation with stakeholders. At the proposed workshop, more detail could be given about this consultation process. NGOs have been involved, and there is a civil society forum.

On registration, a greater number of ECD centres are not registered. So the machinery to be put in place cannot be updated. To resolve such problems, DSD and DBE have had joint technical meetings. On the concern about provincial progress, the provinces are on par. However, despite the best of plans, not all of them will likely be achieved. He proposed involving both Select Committees. He also suggested involving provincial oversight structures in the workshop.

Ms Geyer replied that they received a good diagnostic report and assistance from the GTAC Readiness Report. They have used this to resolve the unevenness of provincial compliance. DBE has extended a contract to provincial governments, asking them for assistance in working together. This helps them to get on track and this interaction assists in the process. DBE will partake in the proposed workshop. They will tease out some of the unanswered technical questions there.

Chairperson Mbinqo-Gigaba noted that the Committee agrees with the reviewed timelines. They will finish in May 2021. This process will continue to be monitored. The clear suggestion for a workshop for both Portfolio and Select Committees will be discussed with their secretaries. She will also speak with Chairperson Gungubele because when the MPs return the programme calls for budget engagement and Quarter 2 only has five weeks so both Committees need to agree to the workshop, even if it is on a weekend. The secretaries will assist them logistics and a date. She thanked both Ministers and acknowledged their good work throughout the process. She wished them the best in managing the challenges. She believed that they will be done by next year and the shift will ultimately happen.

Chairperson Gungubele agreed with her closing statement.

The meeting was adjourned.

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