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A new paradigm in Early Childcare Education on the South African landscape.

A News24 article published on 03 September 2020 had as headline “The silence where ECD centres are concerned is very loud.”

In fact, it would probably have been closer to the truth to have stated “the silence is deafening!” The lack of direction from the Department of Social Development, and general silence around ECD (Early Childhood Development) centres from the start of the pandemic, is concerning.

The authors of the article go on to say that more than 30, 000 ECDs face permanent closure due to the Covid-19 lockdown. The closure of these centres (ECDs) does not only affect its owners but the whole community at large.

“About 176, 000 jobs are at risk of being lost due to lack of PPEs, and a lack of funds to pay teachers, housekeepers or security personnel, as well as normal running costs such as rented space, water, gym equipment, printers, and many other related expenses.

Many parents rely on these ECD centres for their children’s safety, as they work daily to support their families. Due to the closure of ECDs, thousands of children are at a high risk of starvation, crime and abuse.”

Apart from that, the impact on parents’ own jobs is tremendous. If 30, 000 ECD’s should indeed close, and each of those accommodates very conservatively speaking only ten children each, it means that 300, 000 children are about to be “school-less.”

This will impact between 300, 000, and 600, 000 parents.

This is dramatic. Can parents really make the necessary adjustments to accommodate their children? Will employers be sensitive to these needs?

These are all knock-on effects which begs the question of whether the COVID-19 regulations were all that well thought through. And speaking of knock-on effects – these same 300, 0000 to 600, 000 parents must earn money which they again have to spend on consumer goods – the so-called multiplier effect of money. Their non-earning of salaries will in turn impact retailers and their income, and as their margins get even more squeezed, they will in turn be forced to let people go, which further exacerbates the problem (of unemployment).

And as far as the so-called financial aid package is concerned for ECDs – one really has to question that. As the authors of the article argue, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu announced that the President’s economic stimulus package will be allocating R1.3 billion towards the employment of 36, 000 youth as compliance monitors in ECDs and partial care facilities.

“This announcement was not well received by ECD owners, who feel that the  money should be redirected to help ECDs that are at risk of shutting down, and those who have no money to be operational yet due to the impact of the lockdown.”

One can only question the veracity of this strategy. How will the work of these people be controlled? Their training? Would it not have been far better to directly feed these funds into the most deserving ECD cases who in most cases have already got health and safety protocols in place? The use of these funds could also be far better monitored.

The authors of the article conclude by saying: “There is still a long way to go for the ECD centres, and many have closed with some practitioners leaving the sector to look for jobs elsewhere.

This means that thousands of children are without adequate child care, and the knock-on effect of this could be devastating for many children, and families.”

These are difficult times for the ECD sector, and everyone involved. At Play, Learn, Win, we do not profess to have the answers to these vexing questions. What we do have a is a sympathetic ear, and an ability to assist you with some of your challenges, specifically where it comes to curricula, staff training, and automating your child care management system.

Give us a call – only if just for a virtual cup of coffee! Investing in your staff’s capabilities, keeping your operation as lean and mean as possible, and thinking innovatively is now a greater requirement than ever before when it comes to looking after our children.

*Based on a News24 article of 03 September 2020, written by Athenkosi Mndende and Elizabeth Mamacos

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