The Joint Portfolio Committees on Basic Education and Social Development met to hear the progress in implementing the migration of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme function from the Department of Social Development (DSD) to the Department of Basic Education (DBE). This decision had been announced in 2019 by President Ramaphosa, who had recently signed a proclamation which determined that the ECD responsibilities would become transferable to the DBE in April next year.
The DBE gave a presentation which provided comprehensive details of its progress in implementing the ECD migration process. The Committee was also briefed the 2021 ECD Census and the South African Early Years Index and Baseline Assessment.
Members asked a wide range of questions, most of which were answered by the Minister of Basic Education, supported by her departmental officials. They wanted to know what the criteria for registering an ECD centre were; whether all ECD centres qualified for government subsidies; how a shift of social workers would affect the DSD’s functionality, particularly in the district offices; and how transport would be provided for ECD children.
Several questions referred to the qualifications of ECD teachers. Many of the children's mothers had been working in the ECD programmes for many years, but did not have the necessary qualifications. How would this be addressed? On the other hand, with the move to the DBE, some ECD staff practitioners expected to receive educator’s salaries. How would the DBE meet this expectation?
The Department was also asked if it had determined how many extra or new centres and ECD practitioners would be needed to accelerate universal access and absorb marginalised children. Was the necessary funding strategy in place to absorb these children, and did the DBE have the capacity to absorb them, considering there were only approximately 70 000 ECD practitioners? Had the budget been developed to take all of this into account?
The Department acknowledged that there was concern among ECD practitioners about how the changes would affect them, and said it would be sending fieldworkers to all of the centres to keep them fully informed of developments.
Acting Chairperson Stock welcomed everybody to the Joint Portfolio Committee meeting involving the Chairpersons, Ministers and Directors-General from the Departments of Social Development (DSD) and Basic Education (DBE). The meeting aimed for both departments to brief the Committees on the progress of the Early Childhood Development Programme (ECD), and show how certain issues and endeavours were being addressed. President Ramaphosa had clearly indicated that the country needed to build an education system capable of bringing out the best in their learners. The two Departments, under the leadership of Minister Angie Motshekga and Minister Lindiwe Zulu, took responsibility for this. Both Ministers had implemented an initiative to suit President Ramaphosa's announcement.
The country needed to prioritise its educational programmes so that the President’s announcement could be effectively and adequately implemented. A firm foundation from the Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme was an integral part of the education system. Therefore it was compulsory that the migration process was done correctly, and that it addressed the problems that prompted it. Both Committees had to ensure that this foundation was sustainable, so that the Departments could equip children for success in education, work, life and society at large. The Departments needed to build citizens for a national, democratic society, and ECD had a beautiful role to play in providing support for all of the country’s children.
Ms Lindiwe Ntsabo, Committee Secretary, did the roll call for the Portfolio Committee on Social Development. It was confirmed that the Committee had a quorum, and could officially proceed. Ms M Sukers (ACDP) had sent her apologies.
Mr Llewellyn Brown, Committee Secretary, did the roll call for the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education. There were no official apologies sent, but some of this Committee's Members had other meeting commitments that overlapped on that day.
Minister Motshekga conveyed the apology of the Deputy Minister for Basic Education, Dr Reginah Mhaule, who was handling family matters after the loss of her brother.
Ms B Masango (DA) and Ms K Bilankulu (ANC) moved to accept the apologies.
Ms N Mvana (ANC) and Ms A Motaung (ANC) adopted the agenda.
Acting Chairperson Stock handed over to the Chairperson to manage the remainder of the meeting.
Minister Zulu said she and Minister Motshekga had been working well together since the migration process started. The Department would explain their progress further. This was the second time that the DBE and the DSD had met to discuss the progress of the ECD migration. The DSD was cognisant of the matters raised by both Portfolio Committees. In the previous meeting, she had indicated that every official, in both the DBE and the DSD, needed to pay attention to the issues raised by Portfolio Committee Members, since they were constituencies with great interest in the matters related to the migration transition. This transition would have a great impact on childrens’ futures. Both she and Minister Motshekga believed that the child should be placed at the centre of the process. At the end of the day, the ECD process would set the foundation for human capital formation and the country’s development. In this regard, the vision of universal access to quality ECD could not be underscored.
Given the complexities of registering children in both the ECD functions and other DSD sectors, the Ministers really wanted to invest time in the cooperative work of the DSD and DBE so that there could be a mutual understanding of the current ECD service delivery model. This was important, because the DBE would need to learn from the DSD before they could be prepared to take over the ECD functions. Whilst doing this, the DSD had continued with a number of initiatives which they had begun previously. The DSD had made a concerted effort to work with the DBE on these initiatives as well, in the interest of continuity and improvement in service delivery. Service delivery was very important. Minister Zulu had said to the Department that service delivery was what mattered. Service delivery was at the centre of what the Department did. Service delivery gave people confidence in the government and confidence in the Departments, as it showed that the Departments were improving their systems for the children and the parents.
Minister Zulu and Minister Motshekga had assured each other that the DSD would still help the DBE with their work after the ECD function handover on 1 April 2022. Minister Zulu was comfortable with the progress of the ECD shift, and believed that it would go as planned if she and Minister Motshekga could continue giving oversight and guidance throughout the process. It was important that the departmental officials did not think about themselves during the process, because the future of South African children was the most important thing to be considered. In 27 years of democracy, South Africans had learnt a lot. As a final note, Minister Zulu said that it was important that the Departments maintain their timetables.
Minister Motshekga said that this plan had been in the pipeline for a long time. There was now some traction and progression. She and Minister Zulu had been working together well. It was a mammoth task and a daunting responsibility, especially if one considered the number of children who needed to be returned to ECD care, and the constraints of resources. It was daunting, but it was not overwhelming, because of the joint involvement from both Departments. Mutual engagement would help the Departments to build an integrated programme. The major part of the ECD migration programme was the integration of government services for the benefit of all children. It was also about aligning both local and national government, as well as improving access and quality of life for children. This was where a child’s life would begin, and problems would arise if the early part of a child’s life was not cared for properly. The bulk of the meeting’s report had been agreed upon by both Ministers.
She was humbled by the meeting invitation, and thanked the Members for an opportunity to report back on the ECD migration progression.
Mr Linton Mchunu, Acting Director-General (DG), DSD, reiterated the Ministers’ remarks regarding the importance of universal access. The ECD migration process was really about placing the child at the centre of the government’s programme. All spheres of government, including local government, had a critical role within the entire process. Quality early childhood education was not possible without the involvement of all spheres of government. The second aspect was the critical role of the family and the community. It pained everybody when they saw what children endured across the country. If the Departments were able to harness the nurturing roles of communities and families, then perhaps they could drastically reduce the nasty crimes which they saw.
To summarise the migration process into three phases, it could be said that the first phase was the technical phase. A bulk of the presentation would speak to this phase, which ensured that staff were relocated and that the budget and proclamation aspects were handled. This was a critical component, and the DBE was probably between 80-90% finished with these parts of the technical phase. The second phase - which both Ministers had emphasised - was the learning and improving phase. The DBE had been learning from the DSD and improving their capacity. A lot of work had been done in this phase. This work would be ongoing, and even after 1 April 2022, there would be more work done in this regard. The third phase was the handover, or transition phase. This was the most important phase. Even after 1 April, the DSD would still work closely with the DBE on aspects relating to ECD.
Mr Mchunu reminded the Chairpersons that there were also (MECs and provincial Heads of Departments (HODs) present in the meeting.
Mr Mathanzima Mweli, DG, DBE, indicated that he had told Minister Zulu that he had visited construction sites during the ECD migration, and would be following the meeting throughout. There were officials from the DSD and DBE present, who had been dealing with all aspects of the function shift.
The presentation would be shared by two officials, Ms Janeli Kotzé, Deputy Director: Research Coordination, Monitoring and Evaluation, DBE, and Ms Isabella Sekwana, Acting DDG, DSD. He suggested that they move directly to the presentation, beginning with Ms Kotzé.
He thanked the Chairpersons for the opportunity to speak, and noted that he understood the directions given by the Ministers and endorsed by the MECs, which entailed that all public servants from both Departments participate.
Update on Early Childhood Development (ECD) function shift
Ms Kotzé and Ms Sekwana greeted the Members, and began the presentation, which elaborated on the following topics:
- Problem statement;
- Background and contextual factors;
- Background and contextual analysis;
- Rationale for the function shift;
- Mandate for the function shift ;
- What the envisaged value-addition to the function shift was;
- Alignment: Integrated ECD delivery;
- Two processes running concurrently;
- Revised timelines;
- Areas of function shift progress;
- Preparing for the function;
- Context of Improvements; and
- Areas of function Improvement.
The officials reported that the shift of ECD to DBE would follow the process outlined by National Treasury and the Department of Public Service and Administration. Preparation began this year and will be rolled out systematically over the next five to ten years. Changes will be communicated clearly and well in advance. The end date for the function shift was reported as April 2022.
Ms L Arries (EFF) asked what measures the DBE had put in place to ensure that more males became ECD practitioners. Many of the ECD centres were situated in private houses -- how would they form part of the maintenance and renovation plans? There were inclusions made for children with disabilities in ECD centres. With the migration plans, how many facilities for disabled ECD children were there, and what was the plan to establish more facilities for disabled children? The DBE struggled with transport -- how would transport be provided for these children? How would the Department address the issue of ECD practitioners? Many of the mothers who had been working in the ECD programmes for many years within ECD centres, did not have the necessary qualifications. How would this be addressed? Which curricular programmes did the Department have for children between 0 and 4 years old? Many ECD centres struggle financially. How would the DBE ensure that each ECD centre had a health and safety officer? And which of the staffing components of the ECD would form part of the DBE?
Mr P Moroatshehla (ANC) appreciated the presentation and its aims to address the challenges of the migration process. The presentation was a necessary move in the right direction, for purposes of function shifts and function improvements. The presentation was well-oiled and clear. It gave good direction. It was always challenging for any person to supersede one level and move towards another. The ECD migration process, as outlined, was also a challenge. On the ECD practitioner qualifications, he asked how far the two Departments had moved in addressing the qualification issues. The second question related to infrastructure. At the early stages of a schoolchild’s life, they would also need age-appropriate classrooms and sanitation facilities. Once the ECD had migrated into the mainstream, this infrastructure would also be of great importance in order to suit a child’s needs. Could the DBE indicate how much of this infrastructure was available? The last problem was the challenge of scholar transport. What plan was in place to address this?
Ms A Abrahams (DA) said that the presentation was informative and had answered a lot of her initial questions. Would the DBE consider standardising and increasing subsidies in ECDs? Would it consider fee-free ECDs? Many parents could not afford ECD fees, and this caused them to remove their children. Slide 55 referred to standardised registration, but the ECD sector had been saying for a long time that the one-size registration model did not fit them. The ECD would look to consider different registration methods for different programmes. It was reiterated that the DBE should not group all ECDs together when the Department did the registration, but rather that the Department should consider different ECD programmes separately. It was unclear in the presentation whether all of the ECD centres needed to re-register, or if those that were already registered at the moment would simply be transferred to the DBE. Would there be a need for any re-registration?
The ECD staff who also worked in the DSD’s district offices had other responsibilities outside of ECD. How would their shift affect the DSD’s functionality, particularly in the district offices? Would the DSD district offices then need to employ more social workers? And would the social workers moving to the DBE be carrying out other functions, such as in schools? During the public participation on the Children's Amendment’s Bill, it became clear that there were many expectations placed on ECD employees. How were these expectations being managed in terms of salary and training? Many of the ECD staff, with the move, believe that they would receive an educator’s salary, since they were seen as educators among their communities. The Committee on Social Development had learnt that some of these ECD teachers and practitioners were earning around R1500 per month. How would the DBE meet these expectations of an educator’s salary? Some of them fear that the DBE is going to come in and take over ECD, rendering them jobless. Could the DBE address these issues? When the DBE goes out to do their ECD census and the South African Early Years Index & Baseline Assessment, they needed to be considerate of the fact that ECD centres were run mainly by young and old women who service children. Sometimes they would not be so readily prepared or comfortable with opening the door to strangers looking to interview them. Ms Abrahams requested that the DBE make the surveyors properly identifiable, and that the ECD centres get forewarning. They should send the photos and details of the surveyors to the ECD practitioners beforehand, so that when the surveyors arrive, the ECD staff would feel comfortable.
Mr B Nodada (DA) said that Slide 36 mentioned that the DBE should be ready to fund and register ECDs. The DBE was already stressed financially, and this had been exacerbated by the recent protests. Had the DBE forecast the costs of these ECD centres? What costs would need to be cut in order to gain the money needed for registrations? Where did the Department intend on getting the funding for these registrations? There were quite a few countries that had developed curricula for ECD programmes. Was there a formal programme or curriculum in place for public school learners in the ECD programmes? If not, was there an intention to develop one? This shift was about the learner, and it was important for the learner to have a chance to develop in different phases and acquire the skills which would allow him or her to participate in the economy. The Committees needed to pay attention to their educational strategies.
Mr Nodada asked the DSD what the reasons were for so many unregistered ECD centres? It seemed that there were more unregistered and un-funded ECDs than there were registered and funded ECDs, as indicated in slide 49. Could the DSD help the DBE by giving them some suggestions and recommendations which would allow them to catch up on registrations? When the DBE has taken over, they should know how to go about registering these ECDs. This would also help to outline the main challenges which it might face regarding the registration of ECD centres. In slide 57, there were major gaps between users created and users logged in. What were the reasons for this? Should the DBE offer registration assistance?
Lastly, there was a massive challenge in providing appropriate classrooms and sanitation facilities, particularly in rural areas. Was the DBE prepared and resourced enough to provide proper classrooms and sanitation for the ECD centres? The DBE had to consider the specific needs of each age group, especially if one thought about the massive danger of pit toilets in schools which had caused the death of Grade Ones. There were also issues around the facilities for learners with special needs and disabilities. Could someone provide an update on this?
Dr S Thembekwayo (EFF) based her question on the contextual background and analysis, where statistics were given on Grade Sevens in 2001 and grade Rs in 2012 respectively. Had there been a negative or positive impact on the expansion of this programme? Could someone offer an explanation for this? It had also been mentioned that seven posts would migrate to DBE. Which posts were migrating to the DBE, and which level were they at? Based on the presentation of the DSD’s data, it could be seen that 600 000 children were funded, with a gap of 120 000 children who were not funded. How would the DBE specifically use a mixed-model delivery approach to fund these 120 000 children? How would those children be accommodated in the Vangasali Project? Regarding the training on the ECD registration management tool, there was an uneven number of users logged in. Mpumalanga had 29 users logged in, and Limpopo had 23 users logged in, but in the rest of the provinces, there were far fewer users logged in even though the training took place in the same month. This would have a great impact on the delay of the ECD registration. What would be done to prevent this discrepancy from occurring?
Ms G Opperman (DA) said there were 3.2 million children who were not in ECD centres, and 2.5 million children in unregistered ECD facilities. Had the DBE determined how many extra or new ECD centres and ECD practitioners would be needed to accelerate universal access to ECD in South Africa and absorb the 5.7 million marginalised children? Was the necessary funding strategy in place to absorb these children? Did the Department have the capacity to absorb these children, considering there were only approximately 70 000 ECD practitioners currently?
Ms B Masango (DA) asked how many children and ECD centres the whole budget outline had taken into account when it was presented during the budget process in October? There were no fewer than 4.3 million children in need of ECD, but she had heard talk of very low numbers discussed in the budget --only hundreds of thousands. Another part of the presentation stated that the DSD Portfolio Committee had rejected the chapters which concerned the ECD process, and she saw this as an additional challenge to the timeous conclusion of the migration process. Was this rejection by the DSD going to delay the process, or would the receipt of a legal opinion still allow the process to happen as planned, with a conclusion in April 2022? She asked this because during the presentation, there was a sense that the ongoing public hearings by the DSD were being incorporated behind the scenes to ensure the ongoing prioritisation of the ECD sector. The comments produced by the public for this sector were being incorporated so that they could be considered before the finalisation of the migration. Ms Masango asked both Departments not to leave any information behind. Whenever they went the Treasury to ask for funding, they would need to include as many children as possible because there were millions of children in need of services, but only hundreds of thousands outlined in the presentation.
Mr E Siwela (ANC) asked about the ECDs which were registered but not funded. As they migrated to the DBE, would they be considered for subsidies in the near future?
Chairperson Mbinqo-Gigaba recalled the Joint Committee’s previous meeting in 2020, where it had not agreed on the R17 allocation per child, stating that it was too little. Was this issue raised with the Treasury, and had there been any success in obtaining more funds to allocate to each child? Secondly, there were organizations that were working with children - such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) -- were they also a part of the process? Were they also engaged with this issue of migration?
Minister Motshekga's Response
Minister Motshekga responded to the first question raised by Ms Arries, noting it was exactly the type of question over which she had also pondered. Even before COVID-19 and after the decision that the DBE would take over, there had been a number of national road shows in order to gauge the on-ground reality and the expectations of the ECD. There had been many questions: what would happen to the people’s investments in ECD centres; what would happen to their infrastructure; what would happen to their posts; would some be employed as teachers? In terms of infrastructure, it was government policy that the government did not put money into private property. When funding other schools, this had been a problem. She had explained to ECD centre managers that there was no way that the government would come to build appropriate toilets or facilities on private property, or something else like that. It did not work like that.
Regarding Ms Abrahams’ questions about the qualifications of ECD practitioners, the people employed in these centres could not be considered as teachers. To be a teacher, and to be recognised as a teacher, one would need a matric plus another four years of education. Some of the people running ECD centres had not even attained their matric certification, and so they could not be considered as teachers. This would be a problem for unqualified teachers when the DBE took over, because one of the biggest issues which the DBE had to manage was the skill levels of ECD practitioners.
The DBE had made an effort to discern the best models for ECD provision internationally. She had been pleasantly surprised when she had visited countries such as Finland, the United States and the Seychelles, to find out what happened in ECD internationally. ECD teachers in these countries were more qualified than regular teachers. In Finland, they trained ECD teachers for six years, while ordinary teachers were trained for four years. ECD was a highly-skilled arena, and if the DBE wanted the best then they would have to aspire to this level. It would give young people the opportunity to participate in exciting areas, and it would open a space for young people to join the teaching profession at a high level.
In these spaces, one would need someone who was well-versed in child-development practices, counselling and all other sorts of things required at that level of education. The point was that the transition would not be automatic. If one worked at a creche today, one could not be qualified as a teacher tomorrow. Some ECD practitioners had been very upset when this was explained to them, but the reality was that one could not be a teacher without the qualifications. There was a qualification for ECD, and the Department was working with universities to increase the scale of ECD students. This was going to be a long journey. The Departments were mapping what should be, and benchmarking themselves against the best. Moving from their current position, they were going to run into a lot of problems. As she had said to her colleagues, it was like building a settlement where people were already settled. In this scenario, they would have to disorganise the settlement and disrupt others during the process. However, the Departments were guided by their vision, which was to improve access.
There were more children outside of the ECD system than inside it. The system was not integrated, and it was not aligned, so the Departments had to decipher what they could do together to align and improve the ECD system. Internationally, South Africa was one of the few countries where ECD formed a part of the Department of Social Development. All over the world, ECD services were in the Education Departments, whether it was at a provincial or municipal level. The question of busses, or even toilets, was a concept that could not exist in those environments. Internationally, those places did not talk about changing nappies at school and bottle-feeding babies. Basic education was about schooling, but in South Africa, these children were not coming to schools. The DBE therefore had to work with a certain model that considered the two year olds who could not run around in schools, who did not have paediatricians, and risked being stampeded by bigger children. The DBE had to think about bottle-feeding and changing nappies. The DBE could not talk about migration into schools, but rather about migration into the DBE in partnership with the DSD.
There would be a hybrid model, which already existed in the DBE. There were private providers and arrangements in place. There were places which cost only R1, and did not need a government subsidy, but were still recognised by the Government and registered. Registration would not only be about the subsidy -- it was going to be about norms and standards. It was about the child being a state responsibility. So if someone was going to run a private creche, like those in Montessori, they would have to register with the government in the same way that private schools like Crawford registered - even if they did not get money from the government. Registration would not be about subsidy. The DBE was going to register governmental service provider centres in areas where the majority were mostly unable to provide services. There were private independent schools and subsidised schools, but neither's registration was determined by their desire to gain governmental funding or not. Registration was instead informed by norms and standards.
If one wanted to run an ECD centre, one had to apply according to the norms and standards, and if one did not meet the criteria, it could not be registered as a government centre because that would mean that the government would take the responsibility. If someone were to run their crèche in one room with 25 children and unsafe conditions, the government could not take responsibility and could not fund them. The registration and the funding were two separate issues. The registration was about norms and standards, as well as assisting and supporting service provider centres. The subsidies were informed by the relationship which the organisations sought. The Montessori-type schools did not want money from the government, but they would still need to register. Private providers would register. Municipalities who ran crèches would register.
Regarding transferring social workers to the DBE, Minister Motshekga reiterated that the migration was not concerned with moving to the schools. It would be a departmental migration. The Health Department would continue to do its work of immunising children. Social Development would continue its work in child care. Home Affairs would continue to register children. Everyone would play their role. The main thing was that the DBE had to work with the DSD to coordinate these services for children, wherever they were, without taking all of the responsibility. The DBE would not migrate people, such as social workers coming in to work in education.
There was also a question about the curriculum. The work in the DSD was not new. The DSD and the DBE had been coming together for years, which was why it was easy to work together. There was an existing curriculum being used in the country for ECD and information in training. This programme was being considered in partnership with the DSD, and was benchmarked against international standards. It was not a new thing. The DBE and the DSD had been continuously revising the curriculum. For the Minister, it was a starting point in the migration, because even if they had not finalised all of the ECD infrastructure, there would still be a single curriculum which would inform practitioner training and other aspects.
The ECD function shift was about integration, quality, and the improvement of services. There would be difficulties as the DBE moved around. Minister Motshekga compared the experience to the Department’s time in developing Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET). There were people and NGOs providing ABET, but as government, the DBE worked with them to set a standard for the country. The DBE had determined that the NGOs could not be a part of what the Department would do. There would be things falling by the wayside, things to be improved on, and things to be built on. The DBE would build on existing partnerships with NGOs and civil society, but if one had to regulate quality, then certain organisations would not be involved in the dispensation.
This would be a journey. There were no answers to determine whether the migration plan would receive the R10 billion they might need tomorrow from the Treasury. The DBE would have to show the Treasury their Year One plan, which would be informed by the existing resources of the DBE and the DSD. The journey would not take more than five years, but what was important was the beginning of the journey. The process needed to be mapped, and the systems would need to be put in place so that the DBE could move in the right direction. The DBE would not use the same service delivery model as before. People kept asking about the registration and funding of crèches, but the model would not be the same. 60% of children were outside of the system, so the big problem was access. Would the DBE be able to improve access using a model which subsidises independent crèches? Minister Motshekga did not think so.
This was why there were new models in place to deal with better access. The subsidy model was one option, but it was not the only tool to be used. Other crèches were asking whether they would receive more money and whether the DBE would register the unregistered centers. There were reasons why the DSD did not subsidise certain crèches -- because if it recognised certain centres, then they would need to take responsibility. This would mean subsidising an unsafe scenario with unfit schooling conditions simply because that crèche manager has applied for funding. It could not happen in this way. The norms and standards created by the DSD to guide the subsidisation process was one option, but the DBE had to ask whether the current structure was the best option to adequately improve access for children outside of the system.
Finally, Minister Motshekga commented that the DBE was not migrating ECD into schools. The DBE would not be transporting children to different places, bottle-feeding babies or changing nappies. It would be migrating ECD into the education sector, so some of the questions would not apply.
Mr Mweli thanked the Minister for her comprehensive responses. He said that the minimum requirements for ECD practitioners in the integrated framework for teacher development was National Qualifications
Framework (NQF) level 6. As the DBE took over the care of 0-4 year olds, it was not to say that those who did not meet the requirements would not be able to participate in the system. There were ways to make sure that those without the minimum requirements would be upgraded. The curriculum was from the national curriculum framework. The DBE had compared the curriculum favourably with other international frameworks. This was what had been used by the DSD, and what had been implemented for many years. This framework would remain in use, since it provided learning programmes which created sound foundations for children 0-4 years old, so that they would be ready to move up and through the school system from Grade R and Grade 1.
Adding to Minister Motshekga’s comments, Mr Mweli said that a function shift was to ensure that the entire ECD was part of the education and training system, as was the case in most countries. The DBE was making sure that standards were met in terms of curriculum, teachers and textbooks, because these variables were what determined the quality of education. Infrastructure was an enabler, not a quality determinant or driver of education.
Ms Kotzé said that Minister Motshekga’s answers had been comprehensive. Responding to the technical questions asking for progress updates on the ECD’s access and reach, she said that the ECD census and the South African Early Years Index and Baseline Assessment was meant to answer this. At this point, there was no data in the country on infrastructure or the ECD programme conditions, practitioner qualifications or other service delivery aspects. Hopefully, these two projects would provide a current overview of the sector’s conditions and infrastructural requirements. All of this information would allow the DBE and the DSD to plan for the future. This data would be available in December 2021, and would give the DBE a sense of their national position. This would allow them to plan systematically going forward. When considering planning for funding, it was clear that one would first need an understanding of their position as a sector so that they could use an evidence-based method to respond to the situation. Once this data was available, this would allow for better planning.
Regarding Ms Abrahams's concern with the comfort of ECD practitioners during the census, Ms Kotzé said that the team was trying to do conscientious advocacy which shared information as widely as possible. The team was also making sure to contact ECD practitioners a week in advance in order to inform them of the fieldworker’s upcoming visits. The team provided the ECD practitioners with the fieldworker’s details and photographs, and they had to wear name badges with these photos so that they could be identifiable. The ECD practitioners should also receive letters in advance, which state exactly what would be expected of them. The team was trying its best to ensure that these practitioners would be comfortable. A project of this nature required everyone to help out as much as they could, given the benefit it could have for children in the future.
There had also been a question about COVID’s impact on the expansion of the ECD programme. Through the National Income Dynamics Study Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM), the team was able to track ECD participation throughout the pandemic. There had been a massive dip at the end of 2020, but by April 2021, attendance and participation in ECD programmes had stabilised back to pre-COVID levels. This was testament to the resilience of the sector throughout the pandemic, which had needed to help desperate families during this period.
Regarding the posts to be transferred, two of them were permanent and five were contract posts. There were slides which addressed the exact details of these transfers.
Responding to the question regarding the DBE’s ability to meet the 2022 deadline, and the effect that the Amendment Bill might have on that, Ms Kotzé said that the Amendment Bill process and the function shift process were two separate processes running concurrently. Through the proclamation signed by the President, the DBE had agreed upon the conclusion and implementation of the function shift by April 2022. On Friday, the DBE would be going to the Technical Committee on Finance to present their case that, as a national and provincial Department, they were ready to start the function shift. Ring-fencing had been concluded and they were ready to move on. If the Technical Committee approved of this process, they would take it to the budget council. This was the process for the function shift, but it had nothing to do with the Amendment Bill. The proclamation was the legal bill which shifted responsibility from one Minister to the next.
The Committee was told that the current Children’s Amendment Bill would not have an impact on the transfer of the ECD to the DBE. The process of the second Amendment Bill had already started, and the comments still to be received from the public hearings would be incorporated into the second Amendment Bill, if they qualified. There would be no challenge to the ECD migration in that sense. However, one issue was the time frame, as the technical team was busy dealing with the second amendment bill. At the same time, the proclamation was signed by the President. Thus, the transfer would take place on 1 April 2022. The technical task team would be dealing with that between 25 August and 31 March 2022. The technical task team would be working on the comments received, but that would not delay the transfer process itself.
Ms Sekwana clarified the issue of standardised registration. When she spoke about standardisation, she was referring to the registration process. This standardisation meant determining what a regular registration process would look like inside ECD centres, and from non-ECD centres. Registration from ECD centres would differ from registration outside of ECDs and through other modalities. In that regard, guidelines had been developed to discern how each modality would need to be registered, since it would not be the same process.
Regarding the gap between the users created and the users logged in, she said that the DBE was learning. There was much work to do in order to change people’s mindsets around technology. It was not easy to train people. Some struggled with technology, while others could grasp it easily. Those who had logged in were already at an advanced stage and were able to utilise the registration management tool. For those that had not logged in, the DBE was planning a number of sessions which would help them to log in.
Responding to the issue of social workers, and what impact it made on the DSD, Ms Sekwana said that the social workers were also doing other duties in the DSD, but they had to be transferred to the DBE. The DSD was continuously engaging with the National Treasury, but there was a strategy to deal with the shortage of social workers. This had brought the DSD to shift its manner of doing things. Having said that, the DSD still needed more social workers because of the increasing number of social illnesses which manifested on a daily basis and required social workers to be present and alert. The Minister supported the DSD’s attempts to achieve these levels. Minister Motshekga had had a meeting with the Treasury to discuss the costs to come, and how many new social workers would need to be brought into the system. The impact of COVID-19 to the sector could not be over-emphasised. There were fewer children coming to ECD centres for various reasons, such as their parents being affected by COVID-19, the loss of jobs, the inability to afford the programme, or the fear of the pandemic. Many people kept their children at home, and it had a massive impact on the ECD sector.
Mr Fanie Appelcryn, Deputy Director, DSD, responded to the issue of the R17 subsidy. Two or three years ago, the DSD had introduced the conditional grant. Some provinces were at R13, others were at R16, and others at R17. The DSD made a case to the National Treasury, and they supported that the conditional grant should be R17 for everyone. Then in 2020, COVID-19 had kicked in, and the whole country had gone into a fiscal constraint, so the DSD had been unable to request additional funding for an increase to the R17. As a result, all the provinces were currently paying R17 for 264 days a year. The DSD had not yet made another case to the National Treasury for an increase to the subsidy, but he felt sure that they could do this going forward.
Mr Mchunu responded to the Chairperson's question regarding the role of NGOs in the migration. He agreed that there were already a number of forums where these NGOs could participate with the DBE and the DSD. There was an intersectoral forum, and NGOs had been providing the DSD with technical assistance in a range of matters, including quality assurance frameworks, financing tools and up-scaling ECD services. They were also a part of parliamentary processes regarding the second Amendment Bill. The NGOs would continue to assure that the DSD not only shared information, but also received guidance from the sector for up-scaling.
A bulk of the questions had focused on the second phase of the migration process - the learning and improvement phase - which the DSD was currently working through. The DSD was also engaging with the DBE to share the lessons that they had learnt, because the ECD process had historically been a community-driven initiative. The DBE and the DSD were really focusing on improving the regulatory framework and the policy environment to ensure that access was advanced, provisioning gaps were closed, and children were placed at the centre of the ECD programme. This was being implemented by ensuring that aspects of universal access were in place and that the programme could be up-scaled.
The Acting Chairperson thanked everybody for their questions and responses.
Minister Zulu's closing remarks
Minister Zulu thanked her colleague, Minister Motshekga, and all the officials of the Department who had taken it upon themselves to implement the decisions made without delay. The timetable needed to be good, and the process needed to stick to the timetable’s deadlines. She reiterated Minister Motshekga’s comment that the migration was a journey. It was not something that could be done overnight. It would be a journey, but this journey needed to be properly monitored so that the final product could be universal access and high quality of services, as well as high standards of life. It was about improving after 27 years of democracy. It was all about improving the lives of children. The Acting DG was "a new father, who had just had his first child, a girl." By the time this child would go to an ECD, it would be a very different ECD than what existed over the last few years.
In these programmes, it was about keeping the children at the centre of the ECD, although it was also about taking the parents along as well, because in many instances, parents did not take responsibility. They left their children at the ECDs, and did not take much interest in what the child received at the ECD. The ECD was essentially the beginning of the child’s future, and it would determine how they would cope in primary school, high school, universities or technikons. Thus, the ECD needed to make a difference during this early stage of the child’s life.
The Acting Chairperson thanked both Ministers for their leadership. He appreciated the working progress from the DSD and the DBE. Both Ministers had indicated that this migration would be a journey, requiring everyone’s involvement and some monitoring.
At the last Joint Portfolio Committee meeting, there had been an agreement that a workshop should be hosted to deal with substantive issues of ECD migration. COVID-19 had actually disturbed this, so it could not happen. The DSD was currently quite busy with the Children’s Amendment Bill, so some work had been delayed. However, he proposed that the workshop happen as soon as possible, so that everyone could get on board with budget issues, timelines etc. Until the workshop could take place, Members were encouraged to keep asking questions and following up with the processes. T
He thanked everyone in attendance for their contributions, and finally congratulated Mr Mchunu on the birth of his first child!
The meeting was adjourned.
Mbinqo-Gigaba, Ms BP
Stock, Mr D
Abrahams, Ms ALA
Adoons, Ms NG
Arries, Ms LH
Bilankulu, Ms NK
Manganye, Ms J
Masango, Ms B
Mashabela, Ms N
Moroatshehla, Mr PR
Motaung, Ms A
Motshekga, Ms MA
Mvana, Ms NQ
Nodada, Mr BB
Opperman, Ms G
Siwela, Mr EK
Thembekwayo, Dr S
Zulu, Ms LD
van der Merwe, Ms LL
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