Early Childhood Development: Department briefing

Basic Education

30 May 2006
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Meeting report


30 MAY 2006

Mr S Mayatula (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Presentation on the Race to Reach EFA Goal on ECD by 2015

The Department of Education briefed the Committee on its goals for the next nine years in Early Childhood Development.

Members found that the presentation was too broad and did not give them enough details to facilitate their oversight role. All agreed that a further briefing was needed to deal with the detail of the presentation.

Department of Education presentation

Mr F Patel, Deputy Director-General: Systems Monitoring and Planning, Department of Education) gave an overview of the Department’s goals for the next nine years in Early Childhood Development (ECD), drawn from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Education for All (EFA) objectives agreed to in Senegal in 2000. The Dakar Framework made a commitment to EFA and set six targets for all countries:

- Expanding early childhood care and education (ECCE), known in South Africa as ECD, especially to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. There was no indicator for this goal but Mr Patel said that the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) and expenditure could be used.
- Providing free and compulsory primary education of good quality for all children, especially girls, children in difficult circumstances and from ethnic minorities. Again, no indicator had been developed and the net enrolment rate (NER) in primary education could be used.
- Meeting the learning needs of all young people and adults through appropriate learning and life-skills programmes. In the absence of an indicator, the curriculum structure and availability could be used
- A 50% improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults. The indicator is the literacy rate for people over 15.
- Eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2015. The indicator is the gender-specific EFA Index
- Ensuring recognised and measurable learning outcomes for all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills. The indicator is the survival rate to Grade 5.

The Department had made progress in basic education. Mr Patel specified:
- 95% NER in primary education
- pro-poor targeting of resources
- provision of water, sanitation and classrooms
- fee exemptions
- the school nutrition programme
- a relevant and modern curriculum
- an increase in secondary education participation from 70% in 1992 to approximately 85% in 2003
- halving of out-of-school youth from 1996 to 2003, when 945 000 were enrolled.

In skills development, Mr Patel listed the following achievements:
- Further Education and Training (FET) curriculum reform
- The National Qualifications Framework (NQF)
- A Mathematics, Science and Technology (MST) strategy launched in 2001 (the Dinaledi schools project)
- FET recapitalisation

In adult basic education, the following were mentioned:
- An improvement in the literacy rate for 15-24-year olds from 83% in 1996 to 98% in 2004
- An improvement in the average level of education in the general population between 1996 and 2001

In gender, the following were mentioned:
- More girls than boys were enrolled in school
- Girls’ participation in scarce skills is improving
- Girls in Grade 12 acquired more merits and distinction
- Girls’ participation in higher education increased from 44% in 1993 to 54% in 2001
- Safety had improved
- Race and values interventions had been implemented

The following were listed as indicators of quality improvement:
- Qualified teacher proportion improved by 25% from 64% in 1994
- 71% of learners enrolled in matric passed in 2004, compared with 49% in 1999
- Investment in, and procurement of, learning and teacher support materials (LTSM) had improved
- The learner:classroom ration had declined
- Learners under trees had been dealt with
- Religion and language education policy had been developed and implemented
- The survival rate had increased and learners were no longer dropping out of primary school

In ECD (defined as children aged 0-9), the following progress was made:
- Access for children aged 0-6 had improved from 9% in 1992 to 13% in 2000
- Grade Reception (GR) had improved by 12% a year to 356 000 in 2004
- Funding had increased from R12m in 1995 to R538m in 2004/5
- Materials for ECD programmes had been developed and provided
- 4500 practitioners had been trained

ECD was important because these years were key in the development of personality, intelligence and behaviour and programmes have a greater effect on children from disadvantaged backgrounds. 17% of all children in the age group 0-6 were enrolled in pre-primary education in 1990 and 35% in 2001. This compared favourably with developing countries (30% in 2001) but not with developed countries where the gross enrolment ration (GER) was 82%.

South Africa’s ECD goals for 2010 are:
- All G1 learners to have been through an accredited ECD programme
- To reach 1 million children
- All schools should be offering GR
- 75% of GR programmes to be subsidised
- Participation of 0-4 year olds to increase from current levels of 13% to 30%

So far the following had been attained:
- 63% of the GR cohort were enrolled in 2003
- the number increased from 356 000 in 2004 to 405 000 in 2005 (14% increase)
- the number of pre-GR learners increased from about 30 000 in 2004 to 34 000 in 2005
- Per capita expenditure for GR was R1212 in 2003

Sites catering for children from two to four are registered with the Department of Social Development which  subsidies them for between R2 and R8 per child per day. The Department of Health provided free health care.

Of the R4.2bn allocated to provinces for the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), R2, 2bn was allocated to ECD. This funding was aimed at training teachers and paying their stipends. The Department of Social Development aimed to increase the subsidy to R9 per child per day. Data was difficult to obtain because ECD was often home-based and unregistered. A five-fold increase in real terms would be needed to meet targets by 2010. ECD was the fastest growing programme in the country; GR targets for 2010 were within reach but provision of programmes for children aged 0-4 would be more difficult.


Mr G Boinamo (DA) noted that enrolment in private and independent pre-schools was dropping and asked why.

Mr Patel said that the decrease of enrolment in private schools was because of the increase in public provisioning.

Ms C Dudley (ACDP) suggested that the EPWP depended on communities taking initiatives. Was the education system training and recruiting people for ECD?

Ms V Mokgatle, Chief Education Specialist, ECD said that the stipends would increase the number of learners at community sites where some carers got only R500 a month. They would be allocated more through the EPWP.

Mr R van den Heever (ANC) asked what distinction was made between ECD and day-care and whether subsidies differed according to parents’ income.

Ms Makgatle said that funding was for the poor and channelled through local municipalities. Irrespective of whether a child was at day-care or an ECD institution, the aim was to give children at both kinds of centres a year of ECD, therefore day-care givers were also trained.

Mr Mfundisi (ACDP) asked what NQF level carers were trained at.

Mr B Mthembu (ANC) questioned whether the GER was the correct indicator to use. Secondly, 35% of children in the age group 0-6 were enrolled in pre-primary education in 2001, what was the current percentage? If the EFA goal was to address the most vulnerable, were there special measures in squatter camps and rural areas?

Mr Patel said that the Department would like another opportunity to address the Committee on the National Integrated Plan (NIP) to address ECD. Regarding the GER and the EFA goals, the latter encompassed “expansion” and South Africa’s plan was to achieve 100% enrolment in GR by 2010.

Ms Makgetla said that the GR curriculum was part of General Education and Training (GET) and the curriculum would be standardised within it. The Department of Social Development had responsibility for children 0-4 and their uptake was 13%. The EFA and South Africa had no targets but funding was aimed at the poorest.

Ms P Mashangoane (ANC) asked whether crèches situated next to a school with a nutrition programme could benefit from it.

Mr R Ntuli (ANC) wanted more details of the Department of Education training of community-based organisations.

Mr A Gaum (ANC) asked if there was a structure similar to the NIP at provincial level and if the Department of Social Development would play a major role in implementation.

The Chair said that the figure of 34 000 pre-GR in 2005 sounded incorrect. He also asked where the R538m would be allocated. He found the presentation confusing because it was difficult to tell whether figures were for children aged 0-4, in GR in 0-6 or were aggregated. What exactly was the R4.2bn allocated to provinces for ECD in the EPWP for?

Mr Patel said that the funding for children below GR had increased from R12m in 1995 to R538m in 2004/5. This excluded an additional R710m for an integrated programme for ECD for children from 0-4.

Regarding nutrition, the crèche next to a school would not benefit from the school’s nutrition programme because the need was not ‘institution-based’, but from birth.

Provinces did have structures similar to the NIP. There was no major or central player, the funds were allocated to the Departments of Health, Education and Social Development and the three Departments would have to synchronise.

Ms Makgatle said that the Department of Education did not have sufficient capacity to train and NGOs would be involved in it. The NIP was looking at monitoring in an integrating way.

Mr B Ntuli (ANC) said that monitoring was essential. For instance, when visiting a school which was said to have 3 teachers or care-givers, in reality there were only two because one was engaged in meeting parents, and other business of the school.

Mr Mfundisi asked for details on the training of the 4500 ECD practitioners - who had trained them and where were they deployed?

The Chair advised that it would be better to say the number of learners aged 0-4 in ECD was unknown, rather than give it as 34 000. He also wanted to know about training and, in general, for the goals to be translated into time frames and responsible entities, to enable the Committee to play its oversight role properly.

Mr Patel said that the agenda for the meeting had indicated that they should provide a briefing on EFA but agreed that the Committee needed details for the NIP. This was still in process – although the funds had been requested repeatedly over a period of years, their allocation had come as a surprise.

The low figure of 34 000 was a symptom of the ‘data-gathering situation’ and comprised only those centres catering for children aged 0-4 who had approached the Department of Social Development for funding.

Mr Mthembu said that a better information management system was essential – the Committee would need a briefing on that alone. He also wanted to view the operational plan for 2006.

The meeting was adjourned.


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