Early Childhood Development Expenditure: National & Provincial Education; Social Development Departments & National Treasury briefings

NCOP Finance

29 August 2008
Chairperson: Mr T Ralane (ANC, Free State)
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Meeting Summary

Delegates from the national and provincial Departments of Social Development and Education briefed the Committee on challenges faced in the implementation of Early Childhood Development (ECD) programs.  ECD was considered to be a top priority by Government.  All departments listed inadequate funding as the major stumbling block and raised concerns of the method of funding for ECD.  There was a great need to provide infrastructure and adequate facilities for ECD centres.  Parents receiving the child support grant were expected to contribute towards the cost of ECD care for their children but this was not always the case.  Other concerns included the lack of norms and standards applicable to ECD centre construction, ECD practitioner training, ECD centre administration, governance and management, databases and record-keeping, furniture, equipment and teaching aids and the monitoring and evaluation of ECD centre performance.  The proliferation of unregistered crèches was a major concern and provinces attempted to assist unregistered facilities to meet the onerous requirements for formal registration.  The development of skills for ECD practitioners, care-givers and support staff and the regular payment of salaries to personnel was a major issue.  Implementation of ECD programs required cooperation and integration between various Government departments as well as the involvement of NGO’s and the private sector.  Concerns were raised about transformation, cultural differences, the involvement of communities and traditional leaders and the support provided by the national Departments to the provinces.  The responsibilities of the various Departments were not clearly defined.

The Senior Budget Analyst from National Treasury briefed the Committee on the provincial budgets and expenditure on ECD programs.  The programs were included in child care protection and social welfare services budgets and it was not possible to provide exact information on ECD expenditure.  Expenditure increased by an average of 19% per annum but there were considerable variances in expenditure patterns between provinces.  Divergent views were expressed on whether ECD should be funded by means of conditional grants or formed part of the equitable share distribution of revenue to provinces.  The matter required further discussion with the Financial and Fiscal Commission.

The Chairperson and Members made suggestions on ways to address the challenges.  Further discussions between the Departments of Education, Social Development, Provincial and Local Government and National Treasury needed to take place to address the challenges and issues raised.  Representatives of the corresponding provincial Departments needed to be involved in the discussions as well.

Meeting report

Introductory remarks by Chairperson
The Chairperson requested that representatives from the Departments of Education, Social Development, National Treasury and the various provincial departments engage in a broad discussion of early childhood development (ECD) rather than presenting presentations on the performance in this area.

The Chairperson said that ECD (ages 0 to 4) was considered to be a key priority.  A presentation by National Treasury on ECD expenditure and budget was circulated to Members.  The Department of Social Development considered the expansion of ECD to be a priority.  The Minister of Finance mentioned ECD as a number one priority in his Budget speech.  The discussion was to determine the extent of priority enjoyed by ECD at the provincial level.

The Chairperson reported that Members observed heartbreaking conditions during unannounced visits to ECD centres earlier in the year.  Some centres had no ceilings and toddlers were on cold cement floors.  Members found that there were many needs and were concerned over the under-spending on ECD.  School nutrition programs applied to primary schools but nutrition at ECD level appeared to be absent.

The Chairperson said that the discussion would include whether there was sufficient focus on ECD, issues of funding, the registration and accreditation of ECD facilities, the approach taken in rural areas, the responsibility for ECD, the integration of ECD and making provision in budgets for the upcoming division of revenue.  Although ECD was considered a priority by the Department of Education, the Department provided no funding for ECD.  He expected the various departments to consider ways of doing justice to this critical area after the discussion.

Ms J Rault-Smith (Chief Director, Department of Education) agreed that ECD was a priority.  She said that the Department of Education took responsibility for the stimulation and development of children up to Grade R.

The Chairperson suggested that the discussion focused on the challenges faced by the MEC’s of the provincial Departments rather than on the responsibilities of the various departments.

North West Provincial Department presentation
Ms N Mangqo-Num (MEC, North-West Department of Social Development) said that the educational budgets were earmarked for grades 9 to 12.  The consequence of the lack of funding for ECD was that the money spent on educating the higher grades was wasted because the foundation for learning was absent.  Where funds were made available, it was assumed that the infrastructure for ECD centres existed and was up to the required norms and standards.  She was unaware of any blueprint or norms and standards for ECD centres.  No cognisance was taken of population requirements.  No provision was made for children with special needs, who were either neglected or treated as a normal child.  No provision was made for the equipment or requirements for children with special needs.  It was necessary to include ECD centres in the development plans for communities and to address the needs of the children in those communities.

Ms Mangqo-Num said that the roles of personnel in ECD centres were not clearly defined and the funding for personnel was inadequate.  She suggested that funding for the ECD centres were linked to the child support grants paid to mothers.  Mothers receiving the grants do not send their children to the ECD centres and do not contribute to the centres.  She said that it must be made clear that the grant was for the benefit of the child and not for the mother.

Ms Mangqo-Num suggested that the responsibilities and roles of the administrative, teaching and support staff were clearly defined.  ECD practitioners may then be regarded as professionals and this will assist to attract funding from Government and the private sector.  I was important to set standards and norms for administration and governance of ECD centres and to hold someone accountable for the centre.

Ms Mangqo-Num suggested a link between ECD centres and the toy libraries established by the Department of Arts and Culture.  In many cases, parents were unable to afford the toys that assisted with a child’s development.  Where a centre can not be linked to a toy library, provision must be made to equip the ECD centre with the necessary toys in addition to playgrounds, furniture and equipment.

Ms Mangqo-Num believed that ECD centres must provide planned, balanced meals to address the problem of hunger among children.  Dietary requirements must be standardised across all centres in the province.  The capacity of teachers to provide quality education needed to be developed.  Computers and software in each ECD centre were necessary for record-keeping and to allow for monitoring.

Ms Mangqo-Num said that unregistered crèches were not funded and the registration requirements were too onerous.  Many crèches were denied access to funding but her Department assisted as far as possible to help the crèche concerned to comply with requirements and to access the funding available.  She noted that the Act made provision for the funding of small facilities but these were avoided because of the danger of misappropriation of funds.  Although there were institutions in the province with the necessary skills and experience to set up and run ECD centres, these were in the historically white areas.  The Department made R10 million available to these institutions for the purpose of enlisting their assistance to develop ECD centres in the black areas.  However, the funds were returned after three months as the institutions were unable to carry out the objective.  She said that there was a need to encourage the transfer of skills to the black areas.

Ms Mangqo-Num said that there was resistance to enrolling children in ECD centres because of traditional values in the black culture.  There was a need to educate black mothers to encourage them to send their children to ECD centres.  She believed that ECD centres were instrumental in addressing issues of poverty, access and the development of the food security program.  Many crèches bought food at supermarkets but it was possible to establish secondary suppliers and to purchase products from small-scale farmers and other suppliers of goods and services.

In conclusion, Ms Mangqo-Num said that funding for infrastructure was essential and there was a need to standardise the infrastructure for ECD centres.  Funds needed to be ring-fenced and she supported the allocation of a conditional grant for ECD.

The Chairperson said that further discussions with the Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC) were to be held to determine whether a conditional grant or an equitable share was the best way to provide funding.

Free State Provincial Departments presentation
Ms O Tsopo (MEC, Free State Department of Social Development) said that research had shown that good health, proper nutrition and early learning was critical for the mental, emotional and social development of a child.  ECD formed part of the poverty alleviation program.  There were 300000 children between the ages of 0 and 5 in the Free State province, of which 162000 were living in poverty.  191000 children benefited from child support grants.  There were 82000 children in ECD centres in the province.  36000 children were in 683 registered ECD centres and receive financial support from the Department.  The Department paid R9.00 per child per day for children in registered ECD centres.  The budget for ECD for the 2008/09 financial year was R85,8 million, increased from 39,3 million in the previous year.  The Free State was committed to expand the program to reach more children and the target was to enroll 100000 children in ECD centres by 2010.

The Department assisted children to gain access to funding, for example by helping them to obtain birth certificates so that they can qualify to receive child support grants.  Other stakeholders were being brought on board and the range of services under the ECD program was expanded.  There was a total of 1348 ECD centres, of which 274 were in shacks and 1074 were in brick buildings.  71% of the structures were in a good and acceptable condition but the rest needed urgent attention.  There were 3241 caregivers or ECD practitioners.

Ms Tsopo said it was essential to ensure that funding reached the children.  The Free State was mainly rural and many children lived in poverty-stricken areas where parents were unable to contribute to ECD costs.  The Department allocated 25% of available funds to administrative costs, 21% were spent on salaries and 59% was spent on food.  An amount of R700 per month was contributed to the salaries of caregivers.  S standard menu was developed in consultation with the Department of Health and a pilot program to introduce the menu was underway.  Currently, the Department reached 22% of the population.

Ms Tsopo said that children were the main priority and the budgetary constraint was the biggest challenge faced by the Department.  Without adequate funding, the Department was unable to meet its goals.  At the end of the first quarter of the current financial year, the Department had transferred 35% of available funds.  Funds were deposited monthly by electronic transfer into the accounts of ECD centres.  However, it was necessary to ensure that funds were properly spent and funds were not transferred unless the Department was assured that all problems were resolved by the centre.  Currently, 665 centres were not funded.  Parents receiving child support grants were required to pay R50 per month but not all parents paid the fees.  There was a need to educate communities and briefing sessions were held to communicate the fact that the grants were intended for the children and not for the parents.  The Department engaged with the private sector and received donations of equipment, furniture, mattresses, toys and food.

Ms Tsopo said that many ECD centres lacked the necessary facilities and did not have the funds for infrastructure.  Memoranda of understanding (MOU) detailed performance criteria and the application of funds.  Not all ECD centres adhered to the MOU and monitoring by the Department was essential to prevent mismanagement of funds.  The majority of children in ECD centres came from areas where there was a high school drop-out rate.  The Department collaborated with other departments and the Education, Training and Development Practices Sector Education and Training Authority (ETDPSETA) to capacitate ECD practitioners.  In 2007, 150 caregivers started an 18 month long training course and a further 280 were enrolled in 2008.

The Chairperson said that overspending by Departments was a problem even if the overspending was as a result of trying to do the right thing.

Mr E Sogoni (ANC, Gauteng) said that it was clear that provinces were doing something about ECD and suggested that representatives limited their presentations to the challenges in order to save time.

Ms D Robinson (DA, Western Cape) was gratified to hear the actions that were being taken.  She said that there were many individuals and organisations that wanted to assist but were prevented from doing so by the red tape and lack of information from departments.

Mr M Mokitlane (MEC, Free State Department of Education) agreed with the challenges that were identified by his colleagues.  The challenge for the Department of Education was the creation of the necessary infrastructure to cater for the children emerging from the ECD program.  Without an adequate budget, the Department was unable to implement ECD programs for children older than age 4.  He was concerned that the inadequacy of the infrastructure for grade R would result in the children falling through the cracks.

The Chairperson said that the issue of the structuring of funding for infrastructure and social development could be considered with the Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC).  The facilities needed to form part if the integrated development plans (IGP) of municipalities and the maintenance of facilities needed to be provided for as well.

Mpumalanga Provincial Departments presentation
Mr F Mahlalela (MEC, Mpumalanga Department of Social Development) advised that the province had developed an integrated ECD strategy framework that was cluster-driven.  The lack of a dedicated unit to deal with ECD was identified as a weakness.  The organisational structure was revised two weeks ago and an ECD unit was created.  Funds were made available and a monitoring system was put in place to ensure that the unit was effective and delivered the required services.

Mr Mahlalela said that the shortage of social workers was a challenge.  The ratio of social workers in the province was one to 8000 people.  The Department provided bursaries for the four-year training course and was also training social auxiliary workers to assist the social workers.  The Department had no database and lacked accurate data on the number of children between the ages of 0 to 4 and the number of unregistered ECD centres that operated in the province.  The problem was being addressed by the Department but he was unable to provide any data.

A further concern was the low salaries paid to ECD practitioners.  Most depended on the payment of fees and some received no salary if the centre did not have sufficient funds.  Most rural areas were too poor to afford the payment of fees.  The Department spent 50% of available funds on salaries and administration and 50% on the children.  There were 3.6 million people in Mpumalanga and the budget available for ECD was insignificant.  He doubted whether any serious impact was made on the mainly rural society in the province.  He compared the budget available to the Free State with that of Mpumalanga and said that there were no norms and standards applicable to funding of ECD across provinces.

There was no training program for ECD practitioners in place and the Department depended on the Department of Education to provide training.  The Department of Education had its own problems and most ECD centres were being managed by people who were not properly trained.  The Department of Social Development suffered from a shortage of personnel and there was no monitoring system in place to assess the impact of the funds applied.  A quarterly system was in place but he was doubtful of its effectiveness.

Mr R Tywakadi (HOD, Mpumalanga Department of Education) said that gaps were identified between the ECD policy (dating from 1996) and the current scenario.  It was necessary to determine what ages of children fell under ECD.  There were no norms and standards for ECD centres, ECD practitioner qualifications, provisioning of centres and allocation of space for the number of children at an ECD centre.

The province took a sectoral approach for the implementation of an integrated ECD strategy.  He suggested that a national framework was developed for ECD.  The provision of funding needed to be aligned to the strategy adopted.

Gauteng Provincial Departments presentation
Ms C Booyens (Acting HOD, Gauteng Department of Social Development) said that the Department experienced a mushrooming of so-called backyard crèches in the poor communities in the province.  It was necessary to identify these unregistered facilities and to incorporate them into the formalised structure.  The crèches were a means to provide an income and there was some resistance from the operators to formal registration.  It was difficult to close down unregistered crèches as there was nowhere else for the children to go.

Ms Booyens said that the challenges faced by the Department included the training of ECD practitioners, the setting up of governance structures and the monitoring and evaluation of facilities.  Monitoring teams were created but were limited to registered facilities.  ECD centres were registered for a specific number of children but it was found that the number of children was exceeded on a regular basis.  Caregivers were untrained and unable to adequately stimulate children and prepare them for later schooling.

Ms Booyens said that the Department attempted to assist unregistered facilities to qualify for registration.  Municipal bylaws were not standardised and it was difficult to obtain the necessary health certificates for conditional registration.  The Department was able to provide funds for infrastructure development if a facility was conditionally registered, thus enabling the centre to meet the criteria required for formal registration.

ECD formed part of the Gauteng province’s development strategy, which allowed for the inter-departmental and inter-sectoral development of children.  A dedicated unit was established to ensure integration.  The unit was considering ways of packaging Government services to ensure children received optimal care.

Ms Booyens said that 20 prioritised townships were identified in the province.  These townships were older and required infrastructure development.  An amount of R174 million was made available for the development of infrastructure and included infrastructure at ECD facilities.  Some norms and standards were developed for ECD centre construction and a prototype for a facility catering for 120 children was developed.  Programs for vulnerable and orphaned children and child-headed households were integrated.

The Department set annual targets for the number of registered ECD centres.  The annual target for 2008 was 210 facilities.  The target for the first quarter of 2008 was 68 and to date, 192 centres were registered and most received funding.  The province funded children at ECD centres at a rate of R11 per child per day.  There were 528 registered ECD centres in the province, caring for 36400 children.  The Department made a start-up package of approximately R50000 available to new facilities, based on needs.  The total ECD budget of the province was R49.6 million for 2008/09.

Mr M Petje (HOD, Gauteng Department of Education) considered the coordination of Government Departments, the integration of services, the quality of care, funding, nutrition and the accountability of operators of ECD facilities to be critical issues.  ECD practitioners needed to be professionally qualified and there was a need to develop norms and standards for training.  There were no curricula or guidelines for the teaching of children in ECD centres.  Some results were being seen but there was much more to be done.

Eastern Cape Department presentation
Mr D Webb (HOD, Eastern Cape Department of Social Development) said that the number of ECD centres in the province had increased.  The Department funded children at the centres at a rate of R12 per child per day.  The decision was made not to increase this amount in the following year but to increase the spread of ECD facilities in the province.

The Chairperson enquired about facilities in one particular rural area in the province and agreed to provide details to Mr Webb after the meeting.

Mr Webb acknowledged that many rural areas lacked ECD centres.  The province was hampered by a lack of funding to increase the spread of ECD facilities.  He was convinced that ECD played a role in alleviating poverty and can help to break the cycle of poverty.  He said that there were many examples of successful alternative models for quality service delivered by NGO’s in the area.  Although there were service level agreements between the Departments of Education and Social Services with Local Government, the agreements were not always adhered to by Local Governments.

Ms N Mahanjana (Superintendent-General, Eastern Cape Department of Education) said that there were many dilapidated schools in the province.

The Chairperson pointed out that an additional amount of R2.7 billion was made available for the upgrading of schools.  However, some of the provincial Departments of Education failed to take advantage of the available funding and risked having the funds re-allocated to other areas.  He suggested that Ms Mahanjana limited her comments to the challenges faced in ECD.

Ms Mahanjana advised that the budget for 2008/09 for ECD services was double the amount allocated for the previous year.  It was essential to integrate ECD within the overall learner strategy as it was not possible to improve the performance of Grade 12 if ECD was lacking.  She identified the training of ECD practitioners, the development of infrastructure for Grade R, the development of alternative sources of funding and resources and the linking of ECD curricula to prepare children for formal schooling as the major challenges faced by the Department.

Northern Cape Provincial Departments presentation
Mr H Esau (Acting HOD, Northern Cape Department of Education) said that it was necessary to develop an exit strategy for pre-Grade R practitioners and to put measures in place to retain personnel.

Ms S Follentine (Acting HOD, Western Cape Department of Social Development) said that effective ECD was not necessarily centre-based.  There were alternative models that were cheaper to implement.  Currently, there were 10000 children in the province in such alternative ECD facilities and it was found that babies do not necessarily benefit from care in an ECD centre.

Ms Follentine said that it was essential to balance the quality of service with the quantity of ECD facilities.  She acknowledged that ECD lent itself to entrepreneurship and it was essential to ensure that facilities were monitored to ensure that quality care was provided.

Ms Follentine said that the Western Cape had an integrated ECD programme in place, for which the province had won a national gold award.  She offered to share the knowledge and experience gained with the other provinces.

The Chairperson remarked that there were variances in the per capita spending between the provinces.  Departmental capacity to monitor ECD services was critical.  Issues regarding the salaries of ECD practitioners and databases needed to be resolved.  He pointed out that the Constitution made provision for the right of access to education and Government was vulnerable to litigation if children had no access to learning facilities.

National Treasury ECD provincial expenditure presentation
Ms Z Mohomed (Senior Budget Analyst, National Treasury) presented an overview of the ECD expenditure and budget by each of the provinces (see attached document).  The presentation included a summary of the context of ECD within provincial budgets for social welfare services, a breakdown of budgets and expenditure patterns for child care and protection (CCP) and pre-grade R by each of the provinces, some general observations on the 2008 budget statements, spending on ECD in the education sector (i.e. Grade R) and the challenges identified by National Treasury.

National Social Development Department presentation
Ms M Mabeton (Deputy Director-General: Welfare Services, Department of Social Development) said that the Department was responsible for coordination and the implementation of integrated ECD plans.  The program commenced three years ago.  Challenges faced by the Department included the lack of human resources to carry out monitoring, the need to standardise databases and record-keeping, identifying which Department was responsible for providing infrastructure and the salaries paid to ECD practitioners.  The Department planned to conduct and audit of infrastructure in ECD facilities to establish what the needs were.  National Treasury was approached for funding to pay the salaries of ECD practitioners.

The Chairperson said that the issue of a lack of norms and standards were raised by all the representatives but the issue did not appear to be considered a priority by the Department.

Ms Rault-Smith said that the Department of Education focused on Grade R but was working on the provision of services for the 0 to 5 year age group.

The Chairperson said that the gap between ECD and formal schooling was identified and it was necessary to develop solutions to the problem.

Ms Tsopo expressed frustration with the allocation of responsibility for ECD to both the Departments of Social Development and Education.  The payment of salaries to both qualified and unqualified ECD practitioners was a major issue.  Poor communities were unable to afford paying the salaries.  The provinces needed leadership and direction from the national Departments but the Departments lacked understanding of the situation on the ground.  Provinces were not visited by officials from the national Departments.  The national Departments formulated policy but the provincial Departments were responsible for implementation.  There was an imbalance in the resources available to the national and provincial Departments but the provinces were blamed if anything went wrong.  There was no clarity on the responsibility of all the parties involved in ECD.  The provinces were severely constrained by a lack of funding.  Non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) were not always cooperative.  She felt that the policy on ECD was not properly thought-out and predicted that provinces will continue to face the same problems in future.

Ms Robinson gave an example of an ECD practitioner who had completed a three-year training course but was still paid the salary of an unqualified practitioner.  The matter was bandied about between the two Departments for a number of years and remained unresolved.

Mr Sogoni remarked that the policy on ECD was not clearly formulated by the national Departments and as a result, ECD was not adequately funded.  Disparities existed between the provinces, urban and rural areas, townships and suburbs.  Work was being done but efforts were not coherent.  He suggested that the Departments submitted an annual report to the Committee on ECD.  He was concerned that the strategy to expand ECD centres would create expectations that could not be fulfilled.  The FFC had suggested that the funding for ECD formed part of the distribution of the equitable share.  He felt that funding should be in the form of a conditional grant, which can be monitored and which needed to provide for the provision of infrastructure at the ECD centres.  He stressed that ECD was a considered to be a high priority and all parties involved were responsible for the implementation of the program.

Ms Mangqo-Num suggested that a cost centre was established by National Treasury to monitor expenditure on ECD and to issue guidelines on a uniform reporting mechanism.  It was important that the Departments of Social Development and Education clarified the respective areas of responsibility.  She considered that ECD should be led by the Department of Social Development.  She pointed out that Grade R was intended to be an interim measure and was not supposed to be a permanent level.  The organisational structure and responsibilities within the Department of Social Development needed to be clarified.  Funding for infrastructure must be made available and she suggested that alternative sources of funding, such as the National Lottery, were approached.

Concluding remarks by Chairperson
In conclusion, the Chairperson suggested that the issues raised were discussed further and addressed by the parties involved.  He requested that the matter of the gaps in the policy on ECD was resolved by the Department of Social Development.  He requested that the Departments of Education, Social Development, Provincial and Local Government and National Treasury met urgently to discuss the infrastructure requirements and the issue of funding for ECD.  Further matters requiring attention included the unregistered ECD centres, the provision of food and supplies to ECD facilities, the nutrition of children at ECD facilities, the issue of transformation and cultural differences, the development of standards for learner support, toys, etc. so that benchmarks could be developed, children with special needs, the role of the community, the involvement of traditional leaders and the proper application of funds that were made available.  He suggested that the meetings were not held in isolation and that the provinces were involved in discussions held at the national level.  ECD was a government priority and all parties were responsible for implementing the program.

The meeting was adjourned.

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