The Committee began public hearings on the Children’s Amendment Bill. Eight organisations made oral submissions.
Stakeholders highlighted challenges relating to Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres registration, availability of sites, and challenges rural-based ECD centres encounter.
Real Reform for ECD said the Bill does not address the core reforms needed for strengthening the ECD sector and has the potential to create additional burdens and challenges for ECD providers. In addition, it said the Bill is silent on the effect of the proposed migration of responsibilities in respect of ECD from the Department of Social Development to the Department of Basic Education. A lack of alignment between amendments and the ECD migration can cause confusion and disruption to the ECD sector.
Smart Start called for Parliament to amend the Bill so that it deals with ECD programmes in an inclusive and enabling way. This means a one-step registration process and a single set of simplified norms and standards which properly recognise the different contexts and characteristics of different types of ECD programmes. It also means clarifying the use of conditional registration and ensuring that provinces make proper use of their power to assist ECD programmes.
The University of Cape Town said a comprehensive re-evaluation of existing legislation and regulations is required, which includes a clear delineation of the duties, planning and reporting processes of local, provincial and national government; clarifying that the duty to ensure a healthy and safe environment for children is a local government responsibility and that provincial and national government are responsible for monitoring and intervention (so as to avoid duplication with local government) and regular joint Portfolio Committee meetings to ensure: effective inter-governmental coordination and holistic approach to realisation of children’s rights to quality early childhood development services.
The Committee asked for clarity regarding the inclusion of early childhood development in the Schools Act. The challenges relating to the payment of staff was acknowledged. The Committee noted the need to provide concrete timeframes relating to legislative reform. It was asked that cost breakdowns be provided to the Committee relating to the registration process.
The Committee suggested that compulsory early childhood development might be appropriate. It concerned them that parents did not have the financial means to facilitate their children’s attendance. It was suggested that the South African Local Government Association should get involved in assisting with the rezoning, buildings plans, fire certification and health and safety requirements. Clarity was requested regarding the organisations that assisted with the registration process. It was asked how the City of Cape Town specifically, had assisted in removing the red tape relating to the registration process. It was asked whether uniformity was desired across early childhood development centres to facilitate smooth transfer of practitioners across the Country.
The Committee asked what opportunities existed in terms of the departmental migration process, in terms of dealing with the inefficiencies in the regulatory framework. The value of male early childhood development practitioners was praised in terms of providing role-models to children. Clarity was requested regarding Childlines absence from the meeting. The Committee appreciated understanding the various dynamics in the sector. The Committee noted that they should look into the barriers relating to registration. The need for skills development and assistance from the Department was suggested. Clarity was requested regarding the subsidy and its impact on the centres. It was suggested that the Committee engage with the National Council of Provinces to ensure that they had sufficient time to conduct robust oversight provincially.
The Chairperson highlighted the importance of the Children’s Amendment Bill. He stated that one of the greatest champions of justice in the country, Mr Oliver Tambo, once said ‘A nation that does not care of its young, is not entitled to its future.’ They needed to ensure the country of its future by ensuring that the foundations toward that future grew within a conducive environment, that they grew in a viable way. This Bill was at the centre of that. It was at the centre of ensuring that children grew up properly in a proper environment and in an environment that enhanced their growth. The Committee was in the process of listening to South Africans, what they thought of this initiative.
Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) Presentation
Ms Astrid Coombes, Legal Researcher, presented to the Committee.
-The Children’s Act fails to provide for different types of ECD programme provisioning and does not accommodate non-centre based programme
-The Bill seems to focus on centre-based provisioning.
-The Children’s Act contains express powers enabling DSD to support facilities to comply with any number of the requirements in various national norms and standards and by-laws
-The bill narrows the existing powers in the Children’s Act
-Different types of ECD programme modalities must expressly recognised and have different N plus S
-Terminology and definitions must be reconsidered to include different types of ECD provisioning.
-Regulations and N plus S for different modalities.
-The power to assist clauses must be retained
-National and provincial departments must be required to consider the need to assist providers in their strategies (including allocation of budget resources).
-National and provincial departments must report to the Minister on progress achieved.
Stellenbosch University Presentation
Professor Gubela Mji, Director: Centre for Rehabilitation Studies, presented to the Committee.
She briefly covered what was meant by ECD and expanded upon an integrated approach to ECD.
-South Africa was one of the most unequal countries in the world – many children did not have enough nutritious food.
-Current emphasis purely on learning was not sufficient to ensure good outcomes.
-Concerns around rural areas which appeared to be invisible and disregarded in ECD policy
ECDs in rural communities
-Based on engagements with a wide-range of rural stakeholders
-Started engagements 14 years prior.
-Issues relating to prioritisation of urban areas (in terms of funding).
-Many families cannot afford to send their children to ECD centres.
-Children have to walk long distances to the centres.
-ECD needs to be part of community strengthening interventions
-Registration days should be held in the community, so that people do not have to make many costly trips to different government offices.
-Nutrition needs to be a part of communal priorities – to provide for adults (the wellbeing of young children depended upon the wellbeing of families).
-Provision of mental health and rehabilitation services are important to protect young children from toxic stress to build functional communities.
-Chemical dependency needs to be understood as a disease and not a crime – should be addressed through a broader community health strategy.
-Integrated management of childhood illness needs to be strengthened – a positive primary health strategy.
-Inter-sectoral collaboration is important.
Legal Resource Centre (LRC) Presentation
Ms Sipesihle Mguga, Attorney, LRC, presented to the Committee. She emphasised the role of proper early childhood development in terms of lifelong implications.
Provisions relating to ECD
-National Early Childhood Development Policy of 2015 emphasised that ECD was a critical part of child’s development and was beneficial for the child, its family and society.
-Given the pronouncements made by government in the policy – they would like to see them become a reality.
-The 2021 State of the Nation of Address, the President stressed the value of ECD – emphasising the value of early childhood development in terms of yielding economic benefits in the next two decades.
Challenges faced by ECD Centres
-Many ECDs run in very poor communities and the practitioners do not have access to resources.
-Submitting documentation for registration or compliance purposes was challenging.
-The Bill in its current form made no effort to streamline the registration process.
-Many delays in registering
-Government offices did not assist practitioners
-Department should offer workshops to educate practitioners on how to register as an NPO.
-Department should offer workshops to educate practitioners on how to register as a partial care facility.
-Department should offer workshops to educate practitioners on how to register an ECD programme.
-The above process could also be included in an integrated application process.
-The role of compulsory ECD attendance was briefly outlined.
-The right to basic education should be expanded to include a child’s right to a minimum of two years of State funded ECD prior to beginning Grade R, regardless of when the legislative reform took place.
-The Bill should include a provision relating to a child’s right to ECD – with reference to the Constitution.
-The Bill does not reflect the migration from one department to another.
Smart Start Presentation
Ms Rebecca Hickman and Mr Rodgers Hlatshwayo presented to the Committee.
We are calling for parliament to amend the Children’s Amendment Bill so that it deals with ECD programmes in an inclusive and enabling way. This means a one-step registration process and a single set of simplified norms and standards which properly recognise the different contexts and characteristics of different types of ECD programmes. It also means clarifying the use of conditional registration and ensuring that provinces make proper use of their power to assist ECD programmes.
A complex and inaccessible dual registration process
-The current interpretation of the Children’s Act (‘the Act’) is that ECD programmes with more than six children must be registered as partial care. They must deliver ECD programmes as defined in the Act, which must be registered as well. An ECD programme provided in a partial care facility is subject to two sets of legal processes, each with its own requirements, creating a complex and inaccessible system that many ECD programmes find it difficult to engage with.
-The Bill as drafted simply replaces one dual registration process with another. New Part II of Chapter 6 means that ECD centres still have to be registered and provide an ECD programme that is also registered. So registration remains a two-stage process, with two separate sets of norms and standards and two sets of regulatory standards.
-What is more, there is no amendment to Chapter 5 of the Act which would remove ECD centres from the scope of partial care. This means that ECD centres will now have to be registered three times – though it is unclear whether this is the government’s intention or an oversight.
The ‘one size fits all’ approach and lack of differentiation between different types of ECD Programmes
-The Act does not explicitly provide for differentiation between ECD programme modalities, resulting in a ‘one size fits all’ approach to regulatory oversight.
-ECD programmes in South Africa are characterised by their diverse settings.
-The current regulatory framework therefore causes particular difficulties for ECD programmes which are ‘non-centre based’, such as playgroups, toy libraries and childminders, which often serve high poverty rural, peri-urban and informal housing areas.
-These types of programmes are invisible in the Act and remain invisible in the draft Bill. It is unclear whether they would be captured by the new definition of ‘ECD centre’.
-Onerous and inappropriate registration requirements
-Inconsistent use of conditional registration and the power to assist
-De-prioritisation of funding ECD programmes in poor communities
-The Bill should create a one-step registration system, with one set of registration requirements and one set of norms and standards.
-Delete Clause 55 of the bIll (New Part II to Chapter 6).
-Amend Clause 34 and delete Clause 47(b) to remove ECD centres from the scope of partial care.
-Amend Clause 45© to create an inclusive definition of ‘ECD programme’ which captures all modalities and enables a unified registration and funding system under one part in Chapter 6.
-The Bill should include amendments that recognise the different types of ECD programmes and give the Minister the power to have different registration standards for different types of programmes.
-Amend Clause 45(c) of the Bill to identify different categories of ECD programmes
-Amend Clause 48 of the Bill to enable differentiation within the norms and standards.
-If Part II of Chapter 6 is kept, in addition to point 5., amend Clause 55 (new Section 103B(1)) to enable differentiation within the new norms and standards for ECD centres.
The Equality Collective Presentation
Ms Tess Peacock, Executive Director and Founder, Equality Collective, presented to the Committee.
-The Act’s Scheme: The rule was that multiple (high) standards for registration and funding requirements.
-The Exception to the rule was conditional registration and power to assist clauses
-The Supreme Court in Government of the Western Cape Department of Social Development v Barley and Others  ZASCA 166 highlighted that the legislation takes a ‘corrective rather than a purely punitive approach,’ when there is non-compliance with registration requirements and noted that the legislative framework remained aspirational,’ and takes a progressive approach.
-Total of 6.5 million children aged 0-5 years
-2.5 million children in unregistered programmes
-800 654 children in registered centres
-626574 children receiving a subsidy
Calling for the following reforms
-A simpler, one-step registration process for ECD providers;
-Recognition of different types of ECD programme providers;
-Inaccessible compliance standards and overlapping roles and responsibilities;
-Assistance to ECD providers servicing poor communities;
-The conditional registration framework; and
-The provision of infrastructure support.
The Bill should aim to
-One holistic chapter for ECD under Chapter 6;
-A one-step registration process;
-Recognition for different types of ECD programme providers;
-Simpler compliance standards and the removal of duplication regarding roles and responsibilities;
-An enabling framework for the ECD Conditional Registration Framework;
-Provision of support and assistance to ECD providers servicing poor communities; and
-Provision for infrastructure support.
Amendments should include the following:
-Retain the proposed amended definition of “ECD programme”
-Remove the provisioning of ECD programmes from the scope of partial care entirely by deleting section 93(5)(a) of the Children’s Act
-Exclude the care of a child by an ECD programme from the scope of partial care under section
76 of the Children’s Act
-Remove “early childhood development services” as a type of partial care from regulation 12(1)(a) of the General Regulations regarding Children
Ms B Masango (DA) thanked the presenters for providing clarity, specifically in relation to the Committee’s rejections of sections in the Bill that had to do with ECD. She appreciated that the presentations focused on similar issues to that which was previously raised by the Chairperson.
Ms L Arries (EFF) referred to the presentation given by the Equal Education Centre and the mention of ECD’s in the Constitution. Did they think that ECD should be incorporated into education in terms of the Schools Act, specifically so that ECD learning could be synergised through the education programmes of the ECD – in terms of the school curriculum? The ECDs seemed to have more than just an educational function. She agreed with the last presenter, with respect to the roles and responsibilities of local government. Many of the ECDs had challenges in terms of paying their staff. It was not only the Department of Basic Education that needed to come on board. Other departments needed to play their part. In each and every ward in the Country, there needed to be an ECD centre. ECD Centres were the foundation to a child’s education.
Ms A Abrahams (DA) stated that there were two ‘frightening’ slides shown. The one was from the Equality Collective. She referred to the graph that showed that out of the 6.5 million children, 2.5 million were in unregistered facilities. Less than one million children received government subsidies. One of the reasons they were migrating ECDs to the Department of Basic Education (DBE) was to improve access relating to ECDs and the quality thereof. If they did not fix the education problems that were laid out during the presentation, the migration would not benefit children or increase access. The concern was that if the second amendment went ahead, it would take up to seven years to get the second Amendment Bill going. That was almost a whole decade of ‘lost children.’ When the workshop took place regarding the ECD migration – it would be important that they got that commitment from DBE as well as timeframes. She noted that the cost implication of registration and compliance certificates had not been outlined. She hoped this could be responded to via email; this could include real examples from ECD Principals in terms of the cost of setting up the ECD to reach compliance. She also asked how the proposed registration process might impact them.
Ms N Mvana (ANC) stated that the first presenter talked about there being ‘no power’ – she asked whether the presenter could elaborate on this. She referred to the presentation made by Professor Mji, in terms of the rural areas being marginalised – how were they marginalised? One of the presenters mentioned the haphazard approach of Social Development – what did that mean? She requested clarity on that. The other issue that was raised was that all South African children needed to undergo ECD, how would they deal with situations where mothers did not want to send their children to ECD centres? The presenters highlighted the issue around registration – specifically the number of documents required. She asked for suggestions on how to improve the registration process. She noted that many people struggled to complete the required forms.
Ms Coombes responded to the question regarding the development of a second Amendment Bill. The Equal Education Law Centre would support this proposal. However, they were wary as they could not wait any longer for regulatory reform – this had been echoed by the other presentations. They would be comfortable with the development of those clauses within a second Amendment Bill if the Committee that oversaw the process adhered to strict timelines within which to process the second Amendment Bill.
She addressed the question regarding whether ECDs should be incorporated in the Schools Act. They were aware that the Department of Basic Education was in the process of considering this, specifically whether those provisions should be incorporated in the Schools Act or whether it should be included in ECD specific legislation. They were happy that those discussions were taking place. It was important that all aspects of regulatory reform were addressed. She emphasised that ECD could not only be thought of as early childhood education, that was but one aspect of early childhood development services. If the aspect relating to education was dealt with in the Schools Act, the other aspects of ECD services would need to be addressed within legislation. It was perhaps better to recognise the right to ECD within the broader right for development, as was articulated in international frameworks. Coordination between departments was key. With respect to a ‘right to ECD,’ there was no express right to ECD contained in the current legislation.
Professor Mji responded to the question regarding the marginalisation of rural areas. She would attest to that statement with regards to the current ECD system. This was exacerbated during the COVID-19 period, where they needed to ensure ECD centres gained access to the stimulus package. Rural areas were marginalised because most functioning government branches were located in bigger towns. If a person needed to check their registration status or ensure that they were registered, they needed to travel from a rural village into the town. They did not have the money to travel and gain access to the Department of Social Development Office. Many of them ended up ‘throwing in the towel’ and giving up on the situation. Even in towns, branches of the Department were struggling with internet. People needed to travel to main centres to connect to internet. If one looked at the structure of rural areas, towns and ECDs, it was quite a challenging situation. One could not just focus on the ECD centre and expect it to be functional, one needed to relate it to the broader community and town servicing it. Most of the ECD centres within rural areas were unregistered and could not get support from government.
Ms Mguga stated that with respect to the rejection of the ECD provisions, she concurred with Ms Coombes in terms of what they would like to see. They wanted to see the strict and urgent timelines for the finalisation of the second Amendment Bill. In terms of the haphazard manner– she was referring specifically to the payment of subsidies. The practitioners they were working with had made reference to how the Department of Social Development had not been paying their subsidies on time. ‘Haphazard,’ in that it did not seem as if it was planned or organised.
Ms Hickman stated that they would only support the removal of ECD from the Children’s Amendment Bill, once there were clear timeframes relating to the second Amendment Bill. Specifically, timeframes that showed that the processes would occur in parallel. They could not wait another year. They did not need to spend a lot of time in consultation – there had been a lot of consultation already, what they needed now was to start seeing the change. If they made positive incremental changes in the law over the next year, while they waited for the Department of Basic Education to do a complete overhaul, it would have the potential to make a huge difference to tens to hundreds of children around the country. ‘Let us not make the ideal the enemy of the good.’ They needed to work out how to make progress toward the good over the next year. This might require keeping the ECD within the Children’s Amendment Bill in order to make some progress. In terms of the Schools Act, they did not want to see ECD in the Schools Act, they did not think it was the right place for it. ECD was a very different developmental phase for children and it should not be muddled up with schooling. They did not want to see the ‘schoolification’ of the early years – it needed a very different lens.
In terms of the costs that ECDs incurred, just to get the stamped building plans cost approximately R5 000, money that such programmes did not have. In terms of the building plans and title deeds etc, those who had been historically disadvantaged in terms of land tenure were having that disadvantage entrenched by the system. There was no recognition that their difficulty in accessing things like title deeds and buildings plans resulted from historical discrimination. Those sorts of requirements therefore needed to be revisited.
Ms Peacock stated that when one looked at local government competency and the Constitution - for example in relation to Water – the Water Act outlined very clear roles and responsibilities for local government. It outlined what their duties and powers were and what planning and reporting obligations they had. When one read the Constitutional Court judgements in relation to local government competencies, they expressly stated that the National Legislature had the power to provide guidelines to local government when implementing their local government functions. That was a gap in the Children’s Act – in terms of health and safety. If they had clearer guidelines in relation to local government as far as health and safety was concerned, that they would most likely remove a lot of the barriers for accessing registration and the subsidy for ECD providers.
Ilifa Labantwana Presentation
Ms Yana van Leeve of Ilifa Labantwana presented to the Committee.
-One holistic chapter for ECD under Chapter 6
-A one-stop registration process
-Recognition for different types of ECD programme provisions
-Simpler compliance standards
-The removal of duplication regarding roles and responsibilities
-An enabling framework for the ECD Conditional Registration Framework
-Provision of support and assistance to ECD providers
-Provision for infrastructure support
The purpose of the registration framework
-Enable providers of ECD programmes to enter the regulatory fold
-As it stands compliance standards for ECD providers are set out in the Children’s Act, the Health Act, Local Government By-Laws and National Environmental Health Norms and Standards. This creates an untenable administrative burden on the State and on the applicant who has to comply with multiple sets of requirements.
Focusing on Conditional Registration
-The use of conditional registration for the purposes of progressive realisation of norms and standards or relevant requirements should be made clear.
-We propose amendments to section 83 and 98 of the Act and 103F of the Bill.
-That specifically provides for conditions relating to registration. For example, specifying the types of partial care, providing a validity period, any other reasonable condition applicable to registration.
The Centre for Early Childhood Development (CECD) Presentation
Ms Yusrah Ehrenreich, Head: Advocacy, Lobbying and Social Justice Unit, and Prof Eric Atmore, Director, presented to the Committee.
Rejection of all ECD clauses in the Children’s Amendment Bill
-Our understanding is that all ECD-related clause in the Children’s Amendment Bill have been rejected and will be considered in a Second Amendment Bill
-We welcome the decision that (i) all ECD clauses will be considered together as it enables holistic, comprehensive reform, and (ii) written and oral submissions on the ECD clauses in the Children’s Amendment Bill will still be considered in the Second Amendment Bill process.
-We are concerned that no clear timelines have been set for the Second Amendment Bill process. We therefore urge the Portfolio Committee to commit to strict, urgent timelines according to which the Second Amendment Bill must be finalised and that these timelines be published.
-Given the upcoming migration of ECD from DSD to DBE, the ECD sector also needs clear communication on who will be responsible for leading the finalisation of the Second Amendment Bill. We urge the Committee to remain involved in the Second Amendment Bill process.
Required Regulatory Reform
We support the following regulatory reforms:
-A simple, one-step registration process for ECD providers and different types of ECD providers must be regulated differently.
-Simpler, adequate health, safety programme standards.
-Coherent and enabling conditional registration framework
-Assistance to ECD providers servicing poor communities and to meet registration requirements
-Infrastructure needs of the ECD sector must be supported.
-The provision of ECD services is not government’s responsibility alone and over the last few decades ECD has been disproportionately provided, supported and funded by parents and the private sector but ECD services are in dire need of public assistance, support and funding.
-If Parliament supports these proposed changes, it will help to create a fair and inclusive regulatory system for ECD programmes.
-This will mean that many more ECD programmes can get the ECD subsidy and then use this funding to improve the quality of their programme and to protect and promote the best interests of the children their programmes service.
Real Reform for Early Child Development
Ms Lindiwe Sibande and Ms Brenda Siko presented to the Committee.
The Real Reform for ECD Campaign is calling on Parliament to implement the following five reforms that if achieved will enable quality and accessible ECD services and programmes to all corners of South Africa. These five key reforms are the following:
-We need a one-step registration process for ECD providers.
-Different types of ECD programme providers including playgroups, tow libraries and home-based care must be regulated differently.
-A one-size fits all approach is not appropriate.
-All children attending any type of ECD programme should be able to access the subsidy.
-Simpler, adequate health, safety and programme standards must be in place and must be assessed through one process.
-It must be made clear that you can get conditional registration if you cannot meet all the registration requirements.
-MECs must support providers servicing poor communities to meet registration requirements and they must be required to report to the Minister on progress achieved.
-The infrastructure needs of the sector must be supported
-Current providers (including on private land) should be able to receive support and municipalities must be required to provide for and maintain sufficient and appropriate ECD infrastructure in their regions.
-The Bill does not address the core reforms needed for strengthening the ECD sector and has the potential to create additional burdens and challenges for ECD providers.
-In addition, the Bill is silent on the effect of the proposed migration of responsibilities in respect of ECD from the Department of Social Development to the Department of Basic Education.
-A lack of alignment between amendments and the ECD migration can cause confusion and disruption to the ECD sector.
-For over a decade, the ECD sector has been calling for national legislation to deal with ECD in a streamlined registration process.
-Whilst the Children’s Amendment Bill introduced in Parliament now includes a distinct ECD chapter, the proposed amendments result in duplication and create more confusion.
-The Bill still does not tackle the major challenges the sector faces.
South African Congress for Early Childhood Development Presentation
Mr Leonard Saul, CEO, presented to the Committee.
- Financial challenges - require more assistance and support for ECD centres and children (in terms of subsidies).
- The current subsidies are too low.
- COVID-19 impacted the subsidies as well as forced many ECD centres to close
- COVID-19 also posed challenges in accessing personal protective equipment and proper safety measures
- Shift of functions from one department to another is causing a lot of anxiety due to lack of engagement/communication with ECD sector.
- The current regulatory context is unnecessarily onerous and complex - poses challenges to registration and access to funding.
- Lack of political will to assist centres is concerning.
- Lack of streamlined application process.
- Registration of ECD centres in rural and previously disadvantaged centres should be given attention
- Address major challenges relating to the rezoning of premises
- The issue around building plans submissions is an issue that needs to be resolved.
- Improve connection between departments in terms of processes relating to health and safety checks and other admin.
- The attitude of social workers needs to be attended to - particularly when addresses issues around compliance. They often threaten the closure of ECD centres.
Ms Mildred Bopoto, ECD Programme Manager, presented to the Committee.
It is a human right that all South African children have access to quality ECD. For all South Africans to live with dignity and realize their human potential, and for South Africa to reach its human capital requirements for a thriving economy, it is essential that learning and nurturing in the critical window period of development - birth to seven - are optimised.
In South Africa there is inequality in the opportunities afforded to preschool children which results a vicious circle of poverty in the disadvantaged communities. The majority of children in South Africa do not have access to quality early childhood development services. Currently, 46.3% of preschool children receive no ECD at all. Only 11.6% of children attend registered ECDs, a massive 42% of children attend unregistered ECDs and only 9% of the children are obtaining subsidized learning. The preschool children receiving the least ECD support come from the poorest families and are most vulnerable to health, social and economic risks and shocks.
Norms and Standards for obtaining registration are extremely onerous and unattainable for most township preschools and even more so for preschools in informal settlements, particularly the zoning, lease agreements, building plans and safety requirements.
They were developed based on first world norms and standards, with a “one size fits all” approach. The Norms and Standards are currently unobtainable for ECD centres in townships and it is even worse for ECD centres in the informal settlements.
Ms Arries said it sounded as if half the children did not attend any programmes – it was really worrisome. They needed to get to a point where they could say that ECD needed to be compulsory and free for children. Many parents were struggling especially in the tough economic climate. Did the presenters think that ECD should be compulsory and free? At the moment they excluded children from the programme, solely because their parents did not have the financial means. Many of the staff members were receiving very little income – she wanted to know what the Committee could do to ensure that staff members were at least full-time employees. Many of them did not receive full-time benefits. In terms of nutrition, what curriculum and programmes did they have in that regard? Did they have book reading and story-telling? What were the activities to enhance the children’s understanding of their surrounding environment? It concerned her to hear of the challenges they were facing with the municipalities. There was an urgent need for the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) to be engaged on the issues of rezoning, building plans, fire certification and health and safety requirements.
Ms Abrahams stated that the one Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) had mentioned that they assisted ECDs with registration and there were a multitude of ECD forums that, she assumed, assisted ECDs with registrations. The ECDs had said that the registration process was complicated and thus they turned to consultants. Did they turn to the consultants because there were not enough NGOs and forums to assist them with the registration or was it because the current NGOs and forums were overwhelmed with the numbers of registrations that they did not have the capacity to assist. She was trying to find out whether consultants exploited the process with the ECDs.
She referred to the ward councillor who had accepted the donation of a computer and a laptop – that was bizarre – all public representatives were issued with equipment in order to perform their functions. They all had sub-council officers, with secretaries, with equipment. Given that this ward councillor was also non-responsive – had it been reported to the Chief Whip? How had the City of Cape Town assisted the three ECDs in terms of becoming compliant and getting lease agreements? There seemed to be a lot of red tape involved which they needed to decrease.
Ms Mvana asked whether they did not want uniformity in the ECDs so that if one requested a transfer from one province to another, it was uniform. She asked what was meant about there being ‘different types’ of ECDs.
Ms van Leeve addressed two points. There were many ways in which ECD was being provided. Some through toys, libraries and play groups and there were others that were more formal centres. There were different ways in which ECD was being provided that was contextual to the community. Most ECD in South Africa was being provided by private stakeholders, such as women who resided in communities and provided ECD. The State’s role at present was to provide subsidies and issue stringent norms and standards. There was space for the State to be involved in a very substantive way that could capacitate ECD providers in the quality of service they provided and the quality of infrastructure.
In terms of making ECD compulsory, ECD was not simply about learning stimulation nor was it only about education. It was a complex mix of things such as nutrition, support to parents, support to caregivers, social protection and eliminating toxic stress in the home. Early learning stimulation was one element. A child was a function of a community and a family and a home. She encouraged them to think more broadly about that. She was not sure that one could force parents to send young children to ECD centres for early learning stimulation. It was contextually specific to the child and family. It was important that there was adequate ECD programmes available that were affordable and up to standard.
Ms Ehrenreich agreed that it was very strange that the ward councillor required a computer and printer – they had no idea why this was the case. The Centre was looking to get legal advice and help on the matter. In terms of the City of Cape Town and their involvement and help/support with the ECD centres, there had not been any assistance. The centres were in fact experiencing barriers from the City of Cape Town. They were currently creating obstacles to being registered. For example, the one centre could not be connected to water and electricity until they got a lease from the City of Cape Town.
Professor Atmore stated that the issue around compulsory ECD had been a debate for many years. There was a strong feeling that it was not in the best interest of the child to be in an institutional environment from birth. The practice and thinking told them that it was best for children to be at home, certainly in the first two to three years. The reality was that parents had to work, particularly in single parent households. They would not advocate for compulsory ECD. ECD needed to be universally and widely available. If one looked at the practicality of having compulsory ECD, they would need something like 50 000 new ECD centres if one catered for 80 percent of children, as well as the associated number of additional teachers. It was not practicable. He was not aware of anywhere in the world, where ECD was compulsory. There were countries where at age three turning four, schooling was compulsory. Those years were similar to Pre-Grade R and Grade R in South Africa. He would strongly argue that compulsory ECD was not appropriate.
Mr Saul stated that in terms of compulsory ECD, when they looked at progressive countries, such as Japan, and the Nordic countries, children learnt values up to the age of seven. What they had lost in South Africa were values and citizenry. The current education system was not ‘child ready.’ They needed to check what needed to be ready, the school or the child. When it came to standardisation, as a result of the lack of creativity, they were not developing entrepreneurs from birth. They were developing people who experienced peer pressure, children who could not complete school etc. That was why they were pleading for creativity throughout their education system. The challenge with regard to rezoning, health and safety requirements was that if it was not dealt with, they would not have ECD services in the Country. He hoped that the Portfolio Committee really took this up – engaged with civil society and the sector to find out what the challenges were. Without that type of engagement, they would not come to the crux of the matter.
Ms Bopoto responded to the question regarding assisting ECD centres in terms of registration. Currently in the Western Cape there were approximately 21 organisations that were assigned to different areas to assist with the registration process. There was a shortage of such organisations in some larger areas. In terms of what government could do to assist practitioners to become full-time employees, she suggested something similar to the stimulus package. If that continued to assist principals to pay salaries for practitioners that would be a great help. That would enable the principals to retain staff at the ECD centres. The high turnover resulted from salaries being lost – people looked for ‘greener pastures’ elsewhere or left the ECD sector altogether. In terms of a standardised syllabus, there was a lot of work that had been done by different organisations to write up planning programmes. There was some standardisation in that those learning programmes were informed by the National Curriculum Framework, which was incorporated in the learning programmes. They were approved and registered by the Department of Social Development.
Diepsloot Early Childhood Development Forum
Mr Abram Kgari, Chairperson, presented to the Committee. He outlined the challenges relating to the ECDs in Diepsloot.
-Registration process beyond the means of practitioners – particularly in poverty stricken areas
-Stop making decisions about children without the involvement of children (or in the form of representatives thereof).
-Only 10 percent of centres are registered in Diepsloot
-The impact of COVID-19 – closure of ECDs
-Government needs to consider how to include the unregistered centres
-Include members of the public in making decisions about/for them.
University of Cape Town Presentation
Ms Nurina Ally, Lecturer, Faculty of Law, presented to the Committee.
ECD services ‘do not fall neatly into any one government department, sphere of government or sector’. It requires vertical coordination (national, provincial and local spheres) and horizontal coordination (between government departments within each sphere).
-Disjuncture between national and provincial departments
-Unclear and/or competing roles and responsibilities between government departments.
-Failure to coordinate legislative and policy reform.
-Fragmentation, overlap and duplication in the ECD regulatory landscape.
A comprehensive re-evaluation of existing legislation and regulations is required, which includes the following:
-A clear delineation of the duties, planning and reporting processes of local, provincial and national government
- Clarifying that the duty to ensure a healthy and safe environment for children is a local government responsibility and that provincial and national government are responsible for monitoring and intervention (so as to avoid duplication with local government).
- Regular joint Portfolio Committee meetings to ensure: effective inter-governmental coordination and holistic approach to realisation of children’s rights to quality early childhood development services
Ms Patti Kokkinn presented to the Committee on behalf of First Steps.
We need a one-step registration process for ECD providers
-First Steps agrees that different ECD service providers should be regulated differently
-Fundamentally agreed with a one-step registration process for CED centres to ensure the safety and healthy development of children
-First Steps addressed this with the compliance solution toolkit.
-DSD could assist a one-step registration process and try facilitate with the private sector.
Simpler, adequate health and safety programmes standards
-Provide a tool to simplify and support process.
-A step for step process that is goal orientated that guides ECD centres toward measured standards and requirements.
-This was imperative
-The First Steps assessment chart enables self-assessment and enabled a big percentage of documentation and administration necessary for compliance and ultimately registration.
-Provided self-training and enabled MEC’s to recognise milestones for a conditional registration process.
-This could be applied and recognised at different stages on the First Steps self assessment chart.
Infrastructure needs of the sector
-Infrastructure needs to be identified on the First Steps self-assessment chart.
-If it is easy to identify what was needed no matter how big or small, it is easier to find a solution.
Ms M Sukers (ACDP) stated that it was a call to all of them to become champions for children. She hoped that the Committee would take up that call. She addressed her question to Ms Nurina Ally. She had noted that the presentation stated that there was legislative and policy reform fragmentation, overlap and duplication in the ECD regulatory landscape. It was demonstrated in the processes that they were currently busy with, i.e. the Children’s Amendment Bill. There was an opportunity to address the gaps that the presentation highlighted. What were the opportunities in the migration of ECD in terms of the two Bills? In terms of regulatory reform was there an opportunity in DBE and the Department of Social Development to deal with the inefficiencies in the regulatory framework.
Ms Abrahams appreciated having male representatives from the sector, as ECD was predominantly made up of females. It was important that children saw male role-models and father-figures from a young age. She requested clarity regarding Childline’s absence from the meeting as well as the other scheduled presenter.
Mr D Stock (ANC) stated that some of the presenters raised issues relating to inter-governmental relations, as far as the Bill was concerned. They were in the process of ECD migration, what would be the implication of that and the issues raised by the stakeholders?
Ms Masango appreciated that the presentations had highlighted issues that she had not previously been aware of in the sector. It assisted them in understanding the dynamics in the sector so that they were aware of the issues.
Ms K Bilankulu (ANC) stated that as members of the Committee, they should look into the barriers relating to the registration of ECDs. She also noted the issues faced by ECDs in rural areas. She highlighted the need for skills development and assistance from the Department. The Committee needed to look into this. In terms of the migration, maybe the Department of Basic Education needed to know what was happening. In terms of the overlap and duplication of the rules of the provincial government and the national government – that needed to be addressed in terms of defining roles.
Ms Mvana asked a question relating to the subsidy, her understanding was that there was a subsidy per child. Was this the same subsidy that they were already aware of? In terms of the inconsistency – what did the presenter mean in terms of inconsistency?
Mr G Bosman (DA Member of WCPP) asked whether the Committee was planning to engage children themselves, in relation to their feedback on the amendment to the Bill. He asked whether they were getting any of the parent bodies, specifically governing body associations involved? He asked that the Committee engage with their colleagues in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) to ensure that provinces had sufficient time to conduct robust oversight provincially. Ideally, they would like to take this outside of the metro and make sure they reached the rural communities that did not always get consulted nor have the technology to enable them to participate in a meaningful way.
Ms Ally addressed the questions relating to the implications of different processes in the Department of Basic Education as opposed to the Department of Social Development. In terms of the Bills being processed, they needed to ensure that the legislation complemented rather than conflicted each other. The migration complicated things. These questions had been posed to the departments in terms of how the migration implicated current legislative processes. There had not been a clear answer. She urged the Committee to ask those questions of the Departments and ensure that there were joint departmental meetings to facilitate a more coherent and coordinated approach. The migration presented opportunities for things to be imagined differently – to be able to reform the system in meaningful ways. It should not be used to indefinitely delay the legislative reform process. Legislative reform needed to take place urgently and coherently. She urged that there should be clarity around which department would lead which legislative reform process and that the departments should provide them with clarity on how it would relate to the migration.
In terms of what she meant by ‘inconsistency,’ the different standards that existed under the Children’s Act and the National Health Act norms and standards were not aligned. The National Health Act’s standards were sometimes higher than the norms and standards under the Children’s Act. What made matters worse was that the By-Laws were not consistent with one another. There was a lot of work that needed to be done to facilitate more consistency and coherence. There were easy opportunities. There were ‘low-hanging fruit.’ They could begin to engage with the regulations and how they could be changed so that there would be more coherence and consolidation.
Ms Kokkinn addressed the question about the subsidy. She had not suggested that a subsidy be given to each school. If schools were registered and government grants could go to the children, it ultimately helped the school. That was what she had meant when she referred to the subsidy.
The Chairperson stated that the presentations had shaken them emotionally and intellectually. The presentations woke them up to serious issues. He expressed concerns around the inequality, highlighting the potential for conflict that it would create – as noted by a well-known philanthropist. One of the major interventions to addressing inequality was education. In small countries, like South Africa, human resource development through education was one of their main priorities. Primary was the foundation of education. Other countries were also worried about early education, primary school education. Once those two levels were well grounded, everything else took care of itself. The presenters had spoken about the holistic approach, one step registration, recognition of different types of modalities, simplification of dealing with the system and institutional integration, with respect to the application of resources. He noted presenters’ emphasis on the importance of considering the environment in which the child was located, in terms of dealing with contextual issues such as alcoholism, poverty etc. He encouraged the Committee to consider the matter holistically. He noted the presenters’ agreement on the second Amendment Bill’s urgency. It needed a champion and a strict timeline, it needed to be holistic and urgent. It could not wait. The issue around migration needed to be attended to by the Committee. They needed to ensure stability. It all depended on a quality education and properly developed human beings. It started with the ECD.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Centre for Early Childhood Development's Presentation
- Ikamva Labantu Presentation
- Ikamva Labantu Submission
- LRC submission
- UCT submission
- UCT presentation
- Media Statement: Public Hearings on Children’s Amendment Bill Gets Underway with Much Focus on ECD Centres
- Real Reform for ECD presentation
- Real Reform for ECD submission
- Equality Collective submission
- Equal Education Law Centre (“EELC”) submission
- Ilifa presentation
- SmartStart submission
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