No political will to reopen ECD sector, says prof
The Department of Social Development (DSD) has been slammed for not providing any concrete plan on when ECD centres will reopen.
Professor Eric Atmore, the director of the Centre for Early Childhood Development (CECD), says the DSD has shown zero political will to meet the needs of at-risk children across the country.
Atmore says child safety and malnutrition are among some of the major concerns while young kids are homebound, in addition to the negative impact on educational outcomes.
According to Atmore, there are up to 2.5 million children in the ECD system across South Africa. The sector employs roughly 180,000 ECD workers, most of whom are women.
Various organisations, activist groups, and academics have written to the DSD requesting a date on which ECD centres will reopen.
The CECD has also created a petition, with thousands of signatures, calling for ECD centres to get back to work.
However, prof Atmore says the Social Development Department has not responded to their pleas.
We want to work with the department, but the department has not got the political will to meet the needs of young children. That's an indictment on our country.Eric Atmore, Executive Director - Centre for Early Childhood Development
Social Development has done absolutely nothing. We have not heard a single announcement.Eric Atmore, Executive Director - Centre for Early Childhood Development
The impact is not just on the child who's forgoing the early learning opportunities that are so critical.Eric Atmore, Executive Director - Centre for Early Childhood Development
A huge portion of these 2.5 million children get their main meal of the day at the ECD centres. There's a nutrition loss.Eric Atmore, Executive Director - Centre for Early Childhood Development
Children are left in communities that are dangerous, where they are unsafe.Eric Atmore, Executive Director - Centre for Early Childhood Development
Parents can't go to work because they have nowhere for their children to stay.Eric Atmore, Executive Director - Centre for Early Childhood Development
Many ECD centres facing permanent closure and need support
At the same time, CECD's programme manager, Bridget Kahts, says as many as 8,000 ECD centres nationwide may be forced to close due to the impact of the lockdown.
The CECD has launched a campaign to prepare centres for the eventual return of children to their facilities.
The campaign, titled #PPEforECD, aims to raise funds to purchase protective gear for around 600 struggling ECD centres for when they reopen.
Kahts says the cost of PPE is a prohibitive cost for many ECD centres facing financial constraints.
We estimate that about 10% to 15% of the 32,000 centres nationally will be forced to close due to this lockdown period, the implications of parents not paying fees, receiving no income and the forced payment of rental.Bridget Kahts, Programme Manager - Centre for Early Childhood Development
We launched this campaign to help raise funds for the required PPE that all centers will have to have in order to reopen.Bridget Kahts, Programme Manager - Centre for Early Childhood Development
Listen to Eric Atmore in conversation with Pippa Hudson:
Listen to Bridget Kahts in conversation with Pippa Hudson:
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