The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) briefed the Committee on implementation of the National Curriculum Framework for the foundation phase focusing on early childhood education (ECD).
The Committee was told that responsibility for ECD had been shifted from the Department of Social Development to the WCED on 1 April 2022. The Department was mandated to provide training on the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) foundation phase which took care of children from birth to four years old.
The Committee was briefed on various programmes to provide training to ECD practitioners and Grade R teachers. Members were told that the Department's six TVET colleges had trained 8 357 practitioners, using an NCF manual developed by the WCED.
The Committee was also briefed on the Grade R programmes. In the current year, there were 90 671 Grade R learners. Most of the Department's schools offered Grade R, but it was not yet compulsory. Once it was formalised, teachers would have to improve their qualifications. They were being encouraged to do so and had responded well
The Department pointed out that a lack of Grade R subject advisors in the districts to monitor the implementation of Grade R had had an impact on teaching and learning. The subject advisors were not specifically trained in Grade R.
Members asked about the number of ECD centres which were not registered. They wanted to know what programmes were in place to support the centres to become compliant. They asked what was being done to deliver quality education to every child in the ECD centres and to deal with the lack of subject advisers. They asked what steps the province needed to take to formalise Grade R and ECD.
National Curriculum Framework
Ms Ruth Leukes, Director: Early Childhood Development, Western Cape Education Department (WCED), reported that on 1 April 2022, the function of ECD for children aged 0-4 years shifted from the Department of Social Development to the WCED. The Department took over 48 permanent staff and four social workers on contract. The Department was mandated to provide training on the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) for children from birth to four years, and to monitor and support the implementation of the NCF. The NCF was influenced by, amongst other things, the importance of family, the importance of play, the importance of ECD practitioners, the rights of children, and mother tongue language education and multilingualism.
The WCED promoted the NCF as an overarching curriculum to inform and support learning programme development and implementation. Learning programme assessments in ECD were done by the Department of Social Development with panels consisting of education officials. Recognised learning programmes were accepted by the WCED. All learning programmes were evaluated against standard criteria.
Blocks4Growth and Step Up were the two programmes supporting the curriculum. The Learning Initiative and Knysna Education Trust were the two social sector organisations that were funded to run programmes in identified facilities to support children within the ECD age group to achieve their developmental milestones. The programmes afforded at-risk four-to-five-year-olds and five- to- six year-olds an opportunity to better meet the demands of their learning environment. The programmes helped parents and practitioners to enhance their skills to support the development of at-risk children.
For the 2022/23 financial year, there were 95 approved ECD sites across the province. The Learning Initiative budget allocation for 2021/22 was R7.6 million, while that of the Knysna Education Trust was R1.9 million.
With regard to ECD practitioner training, since 2017 the WCED had embarked on an extensive training drive on the NCF. The Department’s six Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges in the Western Cape had trained 8 357 practitioners, using an NCF manual developed by the WCED. Initially, the training was face-to-face. Due to COVID 19, the model of training changed to a blended online training course.
All participants were certificated and the implementation of the NCF is monitored by fieldworkers of the TVET colleges. Learning programme evaluations were linked to the Early Learning Developmental Areas (ELDAs). Participants received the NCF overview document, NCF training manual flyers for parents and posters. All NCF training was monitored by the head office and district officials.
Ms Leukes said that the WCED used the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) conditional grant and equitable share funds to provide learnerships at the six TVET colleges for levels 1, 4 and 5 training. All courses at the six TVET colleges were accredited courses. ECD practitioners on learnerships received a monthly stipend of R2 274. A total of 1640 practitioners were enrolled at TVET colleges to complete ECD levels 1, 4 or 5 courses offered. The funding enabled the employment of 32 unemployed matriculants as support programme assistants at TVET colleges and the head and district offices. Eighteen classroom assistants were employed between September 2020 and March 2021 to assist TVET colleges in adherence to the Disaster Risk Management Act during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Grade R curriculum
Ms Almaret du Toit, Chief Director for Grade R Curriculum, WCED, told the Committee that for the current year, there were 90 671 Grade R learners. She outlined the interventions to provide training and support for implementing the curriculum.
(See slides 23-25.)
Ms du Toit pointed out that due to the lack of Grade R subject advisors in the districts to monitor the implementation of the National Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS), the quality of teaching and learning had been impacted. The subject advisors were not specifically trained in Grade R. Material for training was provided to the districts from the head office budget.
(Tables were shown to illustrate statistics for Grade R, the Step Up Programme and Blocks4growth.)
Mr F Christians (ACDP) asked if the Department knew the number of learners outside the ECD programmes, because most ECD centres were privately owned. He asked about the number of ECD centres not registered, and what the department was doing to ensure that ECD practitioners applied for the available stipends.
Ms Leukes said most ECD centres were privately owned. The Department was embarking on helping unregistered sites to be registered. Pilot sites were already in place. The Department guided the unregistered ones with registration because it was a rigorous process. More money was being invested to improve the life chances of learners.
Mr Archie Lewis, Deputy Director-General: Institution Development and Coordination, said at this stage Grade R was not compulsory. There was a Bill in place to look at the migration of learners in ECD sites to the formal schools.
Mr K Sayed (ANC) commented that this was the first time the committee was getting information from the Department about ECD centres. He wanted to know what programmes were in place to support ECD centres with registration and becoming compliant.|What process was in place to ensure a level of compliance? There were more than 3 000 unregistered ECD centres.
Ms Leukes explained most centres preferred to be non-registered. Registered ECD centres received funding from the Department and they had to follow compliance procedures such as the preparation of financial statements. The funding was the carrot for registration. When registration lapsed, the centres were given six months to start the registration process again. Of the 104 sites with lapsed registrations, 54 were helped with re-registration. There were interventions to provide information via WhatsApp.
Ms Du Toit said formalisation of Grade R had started in 2014. Most of the Department's schools offered Grade R but it was not yet compulsory. The infrastructure was there in most cases. Teachers were encouraged to qualify themselves for Grade R and they had responded well.
Mr Lewis said the stumbling block in registration of ECD centres was the documentation they had to obtain from the municipality regarding the condition of the site, facilities, structure of the building, parking space, etc.
The Chairperson asked whether practitioners were attending the virtual training sessions meant for them.
Ms Leukes data analytics had been done on virtual training and people had been forced to participate in these meetings by having to type in their names, questions and comments. Some virtual training sessions had not been successful, but when blended training was done, it worked well. Participants attended both virtual and face-to-face interactions.
Mr Sayed asked what the department was doing, beyond monetary assistance, to empower the unregistered institutions to register.
Ms Leukes said applications were done online through the City of Cape Town and through the social sector. There were workshops for unregistered centres to get them registered because the process was daunting.
Mr M Kama (ANC) wanted to understand what the department was doing beyond the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill to ensure it was able to deliver quality education to every child in the ECD centres, because there was a lack of subject advisers.
Ms Leukes said the NCF was simplified for parents and practitioners. Interactive posters provided all the links and protocols for restructuring the centres. The Department aimed to improve teaching and learning.
Ms Du Toit added that efforts were being made to upskill subject advisers on the foundation phase and Grade R. The challenge was that subject advisers were not full-time teachers.
Mr Christians remarked that when Grade R was formalised, people would not have to pay because there were no-fee schools. If the ECD centres were not registered, parents would pay more money. The burden would be lessened for parents if Grade R was formalised. He asked what the Department was doing to help parents in vulnerable communities who could not afford to pay.
Ms Leukes said it would be in the best interests of the child if all sites were registered. Sometimes it was beyond the control of the Department to get them to register, and the department wanted to showcase the benefits of having a registered site. She said the Department used a means test to determine who got funding.
The Chairperson asked about the timeline for procurement for the Department's Emergent Literacy (ELIT) project and what steps the province should take to formalise Grade R and ECD.
Ms Du Toit said the formalisation of Grade R had been discussed since 2014. Most schools offered Grade R but it was not compulsory. Once it was compulsory, teachers would have to improve their qualifications, and the Department was working on that. Procurement was done by the Department. Every classroom received resources and a top-up was done when they ran out.
Dr Sigamoney Naicker, Chief Director for Inclusive Education and Special Programmes, WCED, told the Committee there were challenges in the whole process, but the Department was organised in trying to understand and address them. It was understandable why the ECD centres had been put under the Education Department, because the Department wanted to improve Grades 3, 6 and 9, and create better chances for employability. The Department had visited sites in Nyanga, Ocean View, Delft and many other areas. Many of these sites were performing well. The ECD component would play a major role in the education system in future.
Input from the public
Ms Daniel, a member of the public and ECD community worker, remarked that it was good to hear what the Department was doing. There had been fears about the migration of the ECD centres from the Department of Social Development to the Department of Education. Without ECD centres, people would find it difficult to access work. It was encouraging to hear of the interventions to get unregistered sites registered. To start a site, you needed plus minus R80 000. It was not that people in informal settlements did not want to register. The problem was the red tape. The migration to the WCED was welcomed and it was on the right track. Currently, the gap was widening between those who had and those who had nothing. She stated that there were not enough classes for Grade 1 learners, and if Grade R classes were opened, then there would be a need to talk about quality education. Children learned through playing. She wanted to know if there would be 30 or 60 Grade R learners in one class.
The Chairperson remarked it was opinions like these that kept efforts to ensure operating ECD centres on the right track.
Dr Naicker said the Department had quarterly meetings with other service organisations working with the department on ECD centres. The Department had visited grassroots organisations and material had been developed over the years. The Department would analyse what it could develop in collaboration with other organisations that supported ECD centres. It would work with the City of Cape Town and grassroots organisations to clear blockages. It was important to remain optimistic about resolving the challenges, because most of these centres were in poor communities. The ECD centres were a business opportunity, because in future the products of these centres would be propelling the economy.
The chairperson said people who would like to contact the Department for the registration of ECDs and curriculum development and funding should contact the following officials:
Ruth.Leukes@westerncape.gov.za and Singamoney.Naicker@westerncape.gov.za
The Committee resolved that the Department should forward to it all the documents, links and dashboards on ECD centres. The documents should be hard copies to assist the constituencies. It was further suggested it should start thinking about oversight visits to ECD centres and get the list of all registered and non-registered centres so that it could register the concerns of the non-registered ones.
The meeting was adjourned.
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